Regimental Number: 101077
Branch: 66th Battalion; 7th Canadian Area Employment Company
During the First World War, it wasn’t uncommon for young men to add a year or two to their age in order to get into the army. Quite a number of eager Grande Prairie boys lied about the year of their birth so that they could enlist, in spite of being under 18. Fred Blanchard lied about his age too – except that he made himself out to be younger so that he could join up in July of 1915.
Fred was born in Hampshire, England on March 6, 1862. He joined the British navy in 1878, only 16 years old, and served for nine years. His first military service was in Egypt; in 1882 he was presented a bronze medal for distinguished service by the Khedive of Egypt. From 1885 until 1887 Fred served with the navy in Burma, where he once again won a medal for distinguished service. Later in his career Fred was engaged in chasing slave traders along the east coast of Africa on board the HMS Turquoise. He left the navy with an honorable discharge around 1871 and, for a change of career, joined the Metropolitan Fire Brigade of London.
In 1909 Fred came to the Peace country. His wife Emily and their children joined him in 1910, and a year later he filed on a homestead at SE 17-72-7-W6, on the east side of Lake Saskatoon.
When fifty Grande Prairie boys left for Edmonton in July of 1915 to enlist in the 66th Battalion, Fred Blanchard was among them. He was 53 years old. On his attestation paper, he gave 1870 as the year of his birth and passed himself off as a 45-year-old. At some point his deception must have been discovered as the March 6, 1917 Grand Prairie Herald printed an article wishing Fred a happy 55th birthday as he celebrated in the trenches. According to two letters to the Herald from Frank Longair, Fred remained in high spirits and good humor during his military service. Upon returning to Lake Saskatoon after his discharge in January of 1918, Fred said that “he had helped Old England in every battle for the past decade and he must help her through this one.”
His loyal service was still remembered at the end of his life. Fred died on March 15, 1930 and was buried with full military honors in the Soldiers’ Plot at Hope, British Columbia.
Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 33, 34; Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 101-103