John Babcock, Canada’s last WWI veteran died last week at 109. Babcock signed up at the age of 16 and, although he never saw combat, he served and he was the last surviving Canadian WWI veteran. He didn’t want a national ceremony at his death. Instead, there is to be a national ceremony April 9th to commemorate all those Canadians and Newfoundlanders* who served, were wounded, or died during that horrific conflict.
Lest we forget…
On that note, a few whose service I honour….
This is my grandfather. He served as a stretcher-bearer with the British Army. At one point, his unit went into No Man’s Land and a shell hit near where they were standing. He was presumed dead and my grandmother was sent a telegram telling her he was dead. Three days later, he and his companions were able to find their way to the British lines and he was horrified to learn that he had been declared dead. As there was a “push” on, he was unable to get a message to his mother for a few more days.
One favourite story was how the British were being sent out of Vimy Ridge when the Canadians were going in. As the long line of soldiers passed each other, he could hear a voice calling out “Does anyone know a McIntosh from Newcastle!? Does anyone know a McIntosh from Newcastle!?”.
He called out “I’m a McIntosh from Newcastle!”.
It tuned out to be his cousin from Winnipeg! They couldn’t stop but were able to call to each other news from the family until they were out of earshot. Both his cousin and he survived the war but I don’t believe they ever met in person, again. My mother has always wanted to find the family and meet them.
“Andy” was my ex-husband’s grandmother who served in the American Expeditionary Forces as a nurse in France. She was an Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve in Southern Ontario. No nursing school in Canada would train “an Indian” so she applied and was accepted at the New Rochelle (New York) School of Nursing. When the Americans entered the war, she enlisted and was sent overseas. She served in Vitelles, France at the Buffalo Base Hospital 23. She died just 6 days short of her 106th birthday, the last of her unit. It was an honour and a privilege to know her.
James David Moses was my ex-husband’s great uncle. He was a Delaware Indian, also from the Six Nations Reserve. He joined the Canadian Army, trained as an officer, and eventually joined the RAF, training as an observer. He was lost in action on April 1, 1918, the day that the RCAF came into being. He is considered the first flyer killed in the RCAF.
*Newfoundland was not a part of Canada at that time.