Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Sachimaro Morooka.
Sachimaro Morooka was born in Tokyo on November 3, 1883. In 1906, he arrived in Canada settling in British Columbia where he worked as a fisherman along the Skeena River. In 1916 he enlisted with the 175th Battalion (Medicine Hat) in Calgary, Alberta in an effort to avoid the racial prejudice prevalent against the Japanese in British Columbia. The 175th arrived in France in 1916 and its men were absorbed into other Battalions as reinforcements.
Morooka fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge with the 50th Battalion (Calgary), attacking Hill 145. During the attack he was hit by shrapnel from a rifle grenade through the right thigh, fracturing his femur, and was sent to hospital in England. While there, King George V and Queen Mary visited the hospital where Morooka was staying. A chance meeting, King George V was fascinated by Morooka and asked many questions of him: “Are you Japanese? Can you speak English? How is your wound? When did you join the Canadian Army?” Morooka was sent back to Canada due to the severity of his wounds and later wrote a memoir of his role in the war, titled “At the Battle of Arras” (Japanese Title: Arasu Sensen E).
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:
General Andrew George Latta McNaughton, CH CB CMG DSO CD PC
Andrew McNaughton of Moosimin, Northwest Territories (present-day Saskatchewan), was a professor of engineering at McGill University. In 1914, he took command of the 4th Battery of Canadian Field Artillery and arrived in France in February 1915. McNaughton’s engineering background enabled him to have a profound impact on the development of gunnery during the war. In preparation for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, McNaughton improved the concepts of “spot-flashing” and “sound-ranging”. These methods used the flash of firing guns and their explosive report to mathematically triangulate their location on the battlefield, providing targets for counter-battery. This enabled the Allied artillery to effectively neutralize nearly all German artillery positions prior to the launch of attack on 9 April 1917. By the end of the war, McNaughton held the command of all the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery and Counter-Battery units. McNaughton’s work in counter-battery led to his invention of the cathode ray direction finder, an early form of RADAR. He sold the rights of the invention to the Government of Canada for just $1. McNaughton remained in the Permanent Force after the war, achieved numerous commands again during the Second World War, and fulfilled roles as a diplomat and public figure for two decades until his death in 1966.
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour: Francis Pegahmagabow.
Francis Pegahmagabow, MM & Two Bars, was an Ojibwa of the Parry Island Band in Ontario. Orphaned at a young age, at 12 years old he worked at lumber camps and fishing stations. Pegahmagabow enlisted on August 14, 1914 with the 23rd Battalion (Northern Pioneers). Transferred to the 1st Battalion (Western Ontario), he arrived in France in February of 1915. At the front, “Peggy”, as his fellow soldiers called him, displayed exceptional skill as a sniper and scout. By war’s end, “Peggy” was credited with 378 kills and the capture of over 300 enemy soldiers.
Surviving the war, he had served at nearly every major battle of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His exploits on the battlefield became legendary, and Pegahmagabow was one of only 39 Canadians to receive a second bar to the Military Medal. Returning home, “Peggy” became heavily involved in First Nations politics, alternatively serving as Chief and Band Councillor of the Parry Island Band. In 1943 he became the Supreme Chief of the Native Independent Government, an early First Nations institution.
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Brigadier-General Alexander Ross.
Ross was six years old when his family immigrated from Scotland to Silton, Saskatchewan. A pre-war militia member, he served as a recruiting officer in 1914. Once in France, Ross commanded the 28th Battalion (Northwest) from 1916 – 1918. After the war, Ross returned to the law profession, being appointed District Judge of Yorkton. He was also a prominent figure in the Royal Canadian Legion, serving as Dominion President for four years and heading the Vimy Pilgrimage of 1936.
Ross is perhaps best known for his statement concerning the Battle of Vimy Ridge, made in 1967 on the 50th Anniversary of the battle: “It was Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific on parade. I thought then, and I think today, that in those few minutes I witnessed the birth of a nation.”
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Brigadier-Magistrate Oliver Milton Martin.
Oliver Milton Martin was a Mohawk of the Six Nations Grand River Reserve. Taking a leave from his job as a school teacher, Martin enlisted in 1916 with his two brothers. Martin was first an officer in the 114th Battalion (Haldimand), also known as “Brock’s Rangers” due to its high concentration of First Nations volunteers. In 1917, he was trained as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps and the following year qualified as a pilot.
After the war, Martin returned to teaching, while remaining in the Militia and taking command of the Haldimand Rifles in 1930. During the early years of the Second World War, Colonel Martin oversaw the training of new recruits at Niagara-on-the-Lake. Martin retired from service in 1944 with the rank of Brigadier. After the Second World War he was appointed the Provincial Magistrate in Ontario for the counties of York, Halton and Peel. As a Brigadier, Martin held the highest rank ever attained by a First Nations man in the Canadian Forces. In his honour, the East York branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is named the Brigadier O. Martin Branch.
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Joseph Kaeble.
Joseph Kaeble, VC, MM, was born on May 5, 1892 in St. Moïse, Matane County Quebec. A mechanic in civilian life, Kaeble enlisted with the 22e Battalion (the “Van Doos” of Quebec) in 1916 and was made a machine gunner. During fighting near Mercatel, France (near Arras) on June 8, 1918, Kaeble single-handedly held off the advance of 50 Germans with his Lewis gun. Fatally wounded during this action his last words were “Keep it up boys; do not let them get through! We must stop them!” For his actions that day, Kaeble was phosthumously awarded both the Military Medal and the Victoria Cross (VC). Joseph Kaeble, VC, MM, was the first French Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest medal for gallantry.
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour George McLean, DCM.
George McLean, DCM, was a member of the Head of the Lake Band from the Okanagan district in British Columbia, where he lived as a rancher. George’s father, Allan McLean, was one of the four members of the Kamloops Outlaws, hanged for murder in 1881. Ironically, George listed himself as a “cowboy” on his attestation papers for service in the Second South African War of 1899 – 1902, with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. At the age of 44, McLean re-enlisted in October 1916 with the 54th Battalion (Kootenay), and had arrived in France by December.
During the battle of Vimy Ridge, McLean went forward with Mills bombs and single-handedly captured 19 prisoners, while disposing of numerous machine-gun posts. For his actions George McLean was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Raymond Brutinel.
Raymond Brutinel was born in Alet, Aude, France on March 6, 1872 and immigrated to Canada in 1904. In his civilian life, he had many occupations, including geologist, journalist and entrepreneur. He surveyed the Grand Trunk railway route and he was the editor of Le Courrier de L’Ouest in Edmonton, which was the first French Newspaper west of Winnipeg.
When war broke out in 1914, Brutinel financed the formation of what was to become the 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade, the first fully mechanized unit of the British Empire. The Motor Machine Gun Brigade (also known as Brutinel’s Brigade) played a significant role in many battles, including Vimy, Canal de Nord, and Somme. He was a pioneer of the idea of using mobility and concentration of fire power and developed the idea of indirect machine gun fire.
After the war, he returned to Europe in 1920 as a sale representative of Creuset in the Balkans. In June 1940, he was of significant assistance in evacuating Canadian embassy staff in Paris.
Learn more about Raymond Brutinel’s role in the First World War in this article from Cameron Pulsifer:
Pulsifer, Cameron (2001) “Canada’s First Armoured Unit: Raymond Brutinel and the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigades of the First World War,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1 , Article 5. (Link)
Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour Henry Norwest.
Henry “Ducky” Norwest, Lance Corporal – Born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Henry was a Metis with French-Cree background. In his civilian life, he was a rancher, trapper and rodeo performer. He volunteered his service with the 50th Battalion during the First World War and was a praised sniper with 115 kills. He received the Military Medal with a bar during the Battle of Vimy Ridge for his service for the assault on the “Pimple”, one of only 838 Canadians to receive this honour. He was killed on August 18, 1918 during the Battle of Amiens by an enemy sniper.