#100DaysofVimy – March 20th, 2017
Ethelbert 'Curley' Christian

Curley seated with fellow disabled veterans during the 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage.
Courtesy: Private Collection.

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian was born in the USA in the 1880’s (the recorded date and location vary by source). A man on the move, Curley traveled extensively in his early years while working. In 1915, Curley was in Selkirk, Manitoba when he enlisted with the 108th Battalion (Selkirk) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Nicknamed “Curley” by his mother for the curls in his hair, Curley even signed his Attestation Papers as such.

Once overseas, Curley was transferred to the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). During the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Curley was severely wounded, likely from artillery fire, and, according to his family’s account, was buried in mud and debris for two days. When he was finally discovered underneath the debris, gangrene had set in his wounds, prompting doctors to amputate all four of his limbs. Fortunately, Curley would survive the horrific ordeal and return to Canada as the nation’s sole quadruple amputee of the First World War.

Curley’s cheerful disposition enabled him to become a champion of war amputees.
Courtesy: Private Collection.

Forever a man on the move, Curley was not to be slowed down by the loss of his limbs. In post-war Canada, he became a sort of public figure, championing initiatives for the care of war amputees and disabled. While recovering at Euclid Hall in Toronto, he met a nursing aid, Cleopatra McPherson; the two would marry in 1920 and raise a child. In 1936, Curley boarded the S.S. Montrose and returned to Europe with the Royal Canadian Legion’s Vimy Pilgrimage. During the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial, Curley broke through the crowds and guards to introduce King Edward VIII to the blinded veterans.

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian passed away on March 15th, 1954, at approximately 70 years of age. He is buried in the Prospect Cemetery section of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

In this note from his Service File, Curley claims that “the two artificial legs forwarded me by the limb factory at the Dunnsville (sic) Military Hospital are not satisfactory, and I want the privilege of selecting the style and make of my legs.” (Editor’s Note: He may be referring to the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital, in Dunnville, Ontario est. 1920).
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.
Nicknamed “Curley” by his mother for the curls in his hair, Ethelbert “Curley” Christian even signed his Attestation Papers as such.
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.

#100DaysofVimy – April 3rd, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Sharpe, DSO

Lieutenant Colonel
Samuel Sharpe, DSO.
Credit: Veterans Affairs Canada, 2017.

A Member of Parliament since 1908, Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Sharpe used his influence in the House of Commons to raise the 116th Battalion (Ontario County) for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915. A volunteer himself, Sharpe travelled from town to town in his constituency, (now Durham Region), recruiting the men who knew. The 116th would remain together as a unit throughout the war, fighting well at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Avion. Sharpe himself would earn the Distinguished Service Order, while also being re-elected to the House of Commons whilst overseas, the only MP to ever achieve this. But the death and destruction of the war, which took its toll on the men he had personally recruited, weighed on Sharpe. In 1918, Sharpe was hospitalized and eventually returned to Canada, where he continued to received treatment for nervous shock at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. Unable to bear the thought of facing the families of those whom he had recruited and subsequently seen slain, Sharpe leapt from his hospital window on May 25th.

At the time, Samuel Sharpe’s death was hushed and largely forgotten by those in Ottawa. However, with the recent awareness and realization of mental health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sharpe’s story has now come full circle. Championed by MP Erin O’Toole, Sharpe’s modern-day successor to his Durham Region seat in the House of Commons, Ottawa has no longer forgotten Sharpe’s life and sacrifice. A bronze bust of Sharpe was created in 2016, and is to be placed in the centre block of Parliament Hill, bringing recognition to his sacrifice as an MP who died due to war injuries.

A newspaper clipping honouring Sharpe’s contribution and sacrifice.
Credit: The Globe, Toronto, Monday, 27 May 1918.

For further reading, follow this link: http://www.durhamregion.com/news-story/6382803-uxbridge-public-library-unveiling-a-sculpture-of-first-world-war-veteran-lt-col-sam-sharpe/ .

#100DaysofVimy – March 27th, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

Harold Percival “Percy” James

Harold Percival “Percy” James, 19th Battalion (Central Ontario).
Courtesy: Mrs. Willa Rivett, 2017.

Harold Percival “Percy” James was born in Montreal, Quebec on May 5th, 1891, before moving to Paris, Ontario with his parents. He enlisted on November 11th, 1914 with the 19th Battalion (Central Ontario). Harold’s unit left for overseas on May 13th, 1915 from the port of Montreal. He would remain overseas until 1919, serving after 1918 as part of the Canadian Army of Occupation in Germany.

While overseas, Percy wrote home extensively to his family, though rarely discussing the events of war, in an effort to save his parents from worry. His letter dated April 8th, 1917 makes no mention of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Percy’s service record makes for an interesting study, having been tried and convicted two weeks after the Battle of Vimy Ridge for “without reasonable excuse allowing to escape a person whom it was his duty to guard”. Considering the nature of the war at this time, there is likely more to this story but unfortunately the details are lost to history. Upon serving his punishment, Percy rejoined his unit. He was later promoted to the job of Armourer, likely making use of his pre-war occupation as a machinist. In 2007, Percy’s war letters were featured in the script of the Canadian documentary “Vimy Ridge: Heaven To Hell”.

The dried heather sent home in 1916.
Courtesy: Mrs. Willa Rivett, 2017.

On May 24th, 1919, Percy returned to Canada, married his highschool sweetheart, and eventually settled in Goderich, Ontario, working at the Purity Flour Mill. Percy and his family would attend the 1934 Canadian Corps Reunion, where Percy’s daughter, Willa, would see the massive cardboard replica of the Vimy Memorial in Riverdale Park. It stuck in her mind as something she would want to see.

In 2015, at the age of 90, Mrs. Willa Rivett finally made her pilgrimage to the Vimy Memorial. Speaking in 2017, Mrs. Willa Rivett says it felt like “hallowed ground”: “Emotionally, the Vimy experience was and still is overwhelming. Such losses for our country. I just wanted to think of the tremendous courage and pride in those soldiers. At Vimy, when it was learned that I was the daughter of a Vimy Veteran, a couple of Australians asked if they could take my picture. My 15 minutes of fame. From the winding road entrance to Vimy, lined with Maple Trees and the Memorial, it is so Canadian. I was, and am, so proud. I wish all Canadians could live the Vimy experience.”

For more of Percy’s story follow this link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/like-pressed-heather-heroic-story-of-vimy-ridge-resurrected-in-letters-home/article722150/

In a letter dated April 8th, 1917, Percy makes no mention of the coming Battle of Vimy Ridge, instead discussing money sent from home, used to buy eggs at 75 cents per dozen and the amounts of clothes he has to wear.
Courtesy: Mrs. Willa Rivett, 2017. (Editor’s Note: Read the right hand page first, then left).
Percy discusses Italy and Romania entering the war, the dried heather, and spotting Massey-Harris farm equipment in the French countryside. Courtesy: Mrs. Willa Rivett, 2017. (Editor’s Note: Read the right hand page first, then left).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 6th, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

Captain James T. Sutherland

Captain James Thomas Sutherland of Kingston, Ontario, is perhaps best known as the “Father of Hockey”. Instrumental during the Ontario Hockey League’s formative years, Sutherland’s efforts would permeate through to all levels of play, earning him the title. What is probably less well-known is that Sutherland left hockey to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

In the 1921-22 season, the Memorial Cup was won by the “Fort William War Veterans”.

While overseas, serving as a Captain in his battalion, and still as President of the Ontario Hockey Association, Sutherland proposed the creation of a trophy that would honour Canada’s fallen hockey players. Sutherland was influenced to create such a trophy following the deaths of two Kingston hockey greats who had enlisted – Alan Scotty Davidson (1915) & Capt. George T. Richardson (1916). Thus, the Ontario Hockey Association’s Memorial Cup was established in 1919, in memory of all hockey players who had made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.

Despite later becoming the “Father of Hockey”, Sutherland started out as a travelling shoe salesman, as indicated on his Attestation Papers upon enlistment in 1916  (see Line 5).
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 9435 – 24, Item Number: 259416.

#100DaysofVimy – February 27, 2017

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).

The Medical History of Morooka taken from his service file, during his invalidation out of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Note the nature of his wound suffered at Vimy Ridge and the difficulty Morooka had in regaining his ability to walk. Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6380 – 25. Item Number: 204418.

 

The Passenger List of the S.S. Tremont, documenting Morooka’s immigration to Canada from Japan in 1906 at the age of 23. Credit: Courtesy of Ancestry.ca.

#100DaysofVimy – February 20, 2017

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

A young Andrew George Latta McNaughton in 1912.
Credit: Notman and Son/Library and Archives Canada/PA-034151.

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 “flash-spotting” 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.

A 6-inch naval gun fires at night over the Canadian lines at Vimy Ridge in May 1917. Muzzle flashes such as this were used by McNaughton to develop the method of spot-flashing for locating enemy artillery.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001879.

 

See Line 221 – The McNaughton family registered in Assiniboia East, Moosomin, on the 1906 Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Credit: Courtesy of Ancestry.ca

#100DaysofVimy – February 13, 2017

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.

In 2016, a life-sized statue of Pegahmagabow was erected in Parry Sound in tribute to the most highly decorated First Nations soldier and the deadliest sniper of the First World War.

The Registration of Marriage of Francis and Eva Pegahmagabow in 1919.
Credit: Courtesy of Ancestry.ca
Francis Pegahmagabow, in uniform with his medals. On the far left can be seen his Military Medal with Two Bars.
Credit: Hayes, Adrian. Pegahmagabow: Legendary Warrior, Forgotten Hero (2003 ed.). Fox Meadow Creations.

#100DaysofVimy – February 6, 2017

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.”

 

Casualty Forms from Alexander Ross' service file serve as a record of the number of times Ross was honoured with a Mention In Dispatches, as well as his awarding of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and later, a Bar to the DSO.  Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 8466 - 1. Item Number: 609701.                                                       Photo 3 - Ross and other dignitaries descend the steps of the Vimy Memorial during its unveiling in 1936. Ross is in the second row, speaking with His Majesty, King Edward VIII. Credit:  National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada / PA-183542.
Ross and other dignitaries descend the steps of the Vimy Memorial during its unveiling in 1936. Ross is in the second row, speaking with His Majesty, King Edward VIII. Credit:  National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada / PA-183542.

 

#100DaysofVimy – January 30, 2017

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.

 

Then-Lieutenant Martin, (sitting on left) posing with fellow oficers of the 107th Battalion (Winnipeg), July 1916. Note the knee-high mud on their boots - Martin spent 7 months in France & Belgium. Photo sourced from: “Canada’s Great War Album” Project, Canada’s History.
Then-Lieutenant Martin, (sitting on left) posing with fellow oficers of the 107th Battalion (Winnipeg), July 1916. Note the knee-high mud on their boots – Martin spent 7 months in France & Belgium. Photo sourced from: “Canada’s Great War Album” Project, Canada’s History.

#100DaysofVimy – January 23, 2017

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.

View his service files here from Library and Archives Canada.

Joseph Kaeble, VC, MM. A bust of Kaeble stands at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa. Photo: Canada, Department of National Defence
Joseph Kaeble, VC, MM. A bust of Kaeble stands at the Valiants Memorial in Ottawa. Photo: Canada, Department of National Defence