Lt. Col. Leonard

Lieutenant Colonel Ibb Leonard, D.S.O.
7th Canadian Mounted Rifles & Canadian Light Horse


Talking about spring, I was much struck on Monday when up in front to see the buds and grass started in little pieces here & there that had not been touched by shell fire even trees that were half shot away seemed to be make an effort to abide the summons of spring and sprout a few little buds.

 It was almost pathetic and made you want to curse and crush the ruthless hands that are responsible for all this destruction and sadness in the face of beautiful and wonderful nature. One almost wonders why God allows it but wonderful are his ways and we must try and understand them and have faith that He is working out a great problem for our good. I can hear the steady rumble of the guns as well as the singing bird.

(Lt-Col. Leonard to sister, 2 May 1917)

Born in London, Ontario, on 30 July 1882, Elton Ibbotson (Ibb) Leonard was a graduate of the Royal Military College and McGill University. On the outbreak of the Great War, as a militia officer with eleven years in the 1st Hussars, he applied several times for an appointment with the Cavalry Brigade without success. Discouraged by the few opportunities for a cavalryman in a modern war, he was appointed to command the 7th Canadian Mounted Rifles in February 1915.

Leonard went to England in summer 1915, joined by his wife Sarah, who he had married a year earlier. With the 7th CMR divided into three squadrons, he went to France in September in command of the 2nd Divisional Cavalry, 1st Hussars. Serving behind the frontline lines, he described the scenes to his father: “It is hard to realize we are at war sometimes everything seems so peaceful until you hear a gun go off or a shell burst.” The cavalry units were reorganized in January 1916, and Leonard was assigned to the Canadian Light Horse. He assumed command in June 1916.

His younger brother, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Woodman (Woody) Leonard of the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, was killed on 9 April 1917 during the battle of Vimy Ridge. Ibb reassured their mother that Woody had not suffered, adding, “It seems hard indeed that he did not live to see the victory we have just gained of which you will know by this time. The Canadians have taken the ridge.”

Earning the Distinguished Service Order, Leonard commanded the Canadian Light Horse until just before the armistice when he was granted compassionate leave to Canada.

He died in London, Ontario in 1974 at the age of ninety-two.

The Leonard brothers’ wartime correspondence and family fonds has been digitized by Western Libraries, Archives and Special Collections:


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