Soldier Spotlight: Private Alfred Cox

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 1039075
Rank: Private
Branch: 239th Battalion, Canadian Railway Construction Corps; 6th Canadian Railway Troops

Alfred was born on May 30, 1882 in London, England. He filed on a homestead at 23-76-3-W6. When he enlisted on July 7, 1916, Alfred wrote in his will that he bequeathed all his real estate to “some wounded returned soldier, who wishes to file on a homestead.” Towards the end of the war, he suffered severely from flat feet. Alfred died in Edmonton on August 26, 1963.

Soldier Spotlight: George Hawke Hiffernan

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 101471
Rank: Private
Branch: 8th Battalion

George was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 1, 1887. He came to the Peace country in 1914 to help put up telegraph line. George enlisted in Lake Saskatoon in October of 1915. He was wounded twice during the war; a gunshot wound to his left thigh in September of 1916 at the Somme, and once again to his left leg in May of 1917. George’s leg was fractured when he was shot the second time, and after it had healed, his left leg was about 2.5 inches shorter than the right. In his discharge papers, George stated: “I may say I have never received reparation for my mother, whom I can honestly say needs the money. Otherwise I am quite satisfied with everything. I am my mother’s sole support.” George married an Englishwoman from Bristol, who came to Canada on the first ship carrying civilians to North America after the Armistice. He died on August 10, 1973 in Victoria.

Soldier Spotlight: Clement “Jim” Mead

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Rank: Captain
Branch: 49th Battalion

Clement “Jim” Mead was born in Balcombe, Sussex, England on July 25, 1880. He came to the South Peace in 1905; his filed on the following homesteads: 32-72-7-W6; 7-72-7-W6; 16-71-2-W6; 21-71-2-W6; 12-72-8-W6; 7-72-7-W6. In 1913, Jim married Kate Thompson. They had a daughter named Kathleen, born on March 14, 1915. Prior to serving in World War I, Jim had served in the Boer War. He secured a commission as a lieutenant in the 66th Battalion and was placed in command of the Grande Prairie contingent. In September of 1916 Jim was wounded in the foot. In August of 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross:

“Awarded the MILITARY CROSS for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when on command of a raiding company. He led his men with greatest courage and aggressiveness, reorganizing them in spite of severe casualties, and very largely contributes to the success of the raid.”

Jim was wounded a second time in October of 1917, this time receiving severe gunshot wounds to the face. He was killed in action in the trenches west of Lens on January 18, 1918.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 19-21; Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 147-150, 181-183; newspaper clippings (see Jim’s biography on our Soldiers Memorial for more links)

Grande Prairie Herald ~ January 31, 1918

Soldier Spotlight: James & Dorothy Eastman

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 19393
Rank: Private
Branch: 9th Battalion; 14th Battalion; 1st Division Cycle Company; Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion

James was born in Grenfell, Saskatchewan in March of 1899. He later moved to the Edmonton area with his parents. In order to enlist in the Canadian army in 1914, James lied about his age, stating that he had been born in 1896. In September of 1915 James was put in confinement to await trial for having left his post before being relieved. He was sentenced to six months of hard labor; however, this order was revoked in October.  James was engaged in the battle of the Somme, the Second Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, Mons, and Vimy Ridge, and was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. This award was noted in the London Gazette on March 11, 1919.

At some point, possibly while on leave, James met Miss Dorothy Margaret Thomas, a Red Cross volunteer, in London (see a page from her Red Cross records above).  Dorothy was an Englishwoman, born in London on September 19, 1901.  They were married in the parish church of St. Barnabas Southfields in London in March of 1919.  Following the wedding, the sailed for Canada and eventually made their way to the South Peace.  In 1923, James filed on a homestead at SE34-70-11-W6, near Halcourt.  They remained on the farm for many years and raised seven children.

When World War II was declared in 1939, James once again volunteered to serve.  This time he served as a sergeant of the detention barracks in England.

James died in Halcourt on October 4, 1964.  After his death, Dorothy moved to Victoria.  She died there on July 7, 1990.

Source: Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 340

A page from James’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada). The note at the bottom reads: “Man says feet do not bother him except on standing on hard pavement any length of time.  Feet flattened but no disability on marching 8 or 10 miles.  After that they tired and ache.”

Soldier Spotlight: Philias Durand

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 736927
Rank: Private
Branch: 43rd Battalion

Philias was born on June 17, 1888 in Wotton, Wolfe County, Quebec. It is unknown when he first came out west.  In 1913, there was an explosion in the mine where Philias was working in Fernie, British Columbia. His skull was fractured and he suffered from headaches as a result; not surprisingly, the headaches worsened after joining the army. Philias was wounded at Vimy Ridge in January of 1917; he fractured the middle finger of his right hand and there was shrapnel in his right elbow and left leg. He was also struck in the head and was unconscious for four hours after being wounded and had two fits on the way to England. Philias was sent to a convalescent home in Edmonton, and discharged on November 30, 1917. Numerous disabilities were listed on his discharge paper: loss of function in his right hand, dizziness, pains in his head, poor memory, fits, nervousness, and weakness in his left leg. In the board’s opinion, Philias was mentally deficient. After discharge, in 1918, he settled in the Elmworth area (3-70-11-W6) with his Irish wife. Philias died on February 26, 1962 at the Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver.

Philias’s entire military service file has been digitized by Library & Archives Canada.

A page from Philias’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight: Private John Kneafsey

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental Number: 155105
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion; Canadian Forestry Corps

John was born in Glendale, Minnesota on May 5, 1878. In 1913, he filed on a homestead at NW4-74-8-W6.  A newspaper headline from October 5, 1915 reads that “For the Third Time this Pioneer Country Has Responded to the Call for Volunteers;” John was listed among these volunteers, having enlisted at Lake Saskatoon on September 20, 1915. On June 14, 1916, John received shrapnel wounds to his right side while in the trenches at Ypres. He notes in a letter sent to a friend back home that “I was lucky as I was able to walk as my wound did not bleed much.”  John was much impressed with the care he received while in hospital.  He also had several weeks’ leave in Ireland; John did not feel he needed so much leave, but “the officer said it would do me good, so I went.” Some time after this injury, John was transferred to the Canadian Forestry Corps. In February of 1918, John was thrown off a truck and suffered from a concussion and a fractured clavicle. After this injury, he became forgetful;. the medical notes in John’s service file note that he appeared and acted more like a man of 70 than of 40. John was later diagnosed with dementia and arteriosclerosis, and in October he was sent back to Canada on a hospital ship. He died “by apoplexy at Cobourg Military Hospital” in Ontario on May 15, 1919, and was buried in Credit River (St. Peter’s Cemetery), Minnesota.

John’s entire military service file has been digitized by Library & Archives Canada.

Read a letter John wrote to a friend back home just months before he was injured the second time.

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Notes from John’s service file (Library & Archives Canada)

After the War

The aftermath of the Great War was not nearly as well-documented as the war itself. Men gave up the practice of writing letters and keeping diaries, which have now become such a significant part of keeping their stories alive. But records were still kept, detailing medical issues, applications for pensions and land grants, and the like. And when returned soldiers were ready to open up about their war experiences, stories were told once again.

Some men had gone to serve in Siberia after the war, or stayed in France and Belgium to give their deceased comrades proper burials. Others waited to be repatriated from prison camps, or remained in England for an extended period of time before being well enough to travel home.

Sadly, as the soldiers came home, disease came with them. Up to 50,000 Canadians died of the Spanish Flu in the year following the war. The men who lived through this second wave of tragedy struggled to find their place in the regular world, which they did not find quite so normal after all. Physical and mental injuries plagued and debilitated them, and finding work and maintaining a steady income was an ongoing trial.

In his memoirs, Edward Heller (a South Peace soldier), stated that the memories remained “as though burned in so deeply as with a hot iron”, and that many wounds “though diminished in severity by the passing of years, never heal over, and most of the pain remains.”

We in the coming generations can take it upon ourselves to learn from these memories – which were indestructible to those who lived through them – and guard against such horrors taking hold of the world once again.

New: visit this map, showing where South Peace soldiers died and were buried during World War I

For more information on the final hundred days of the war, visit Veterans Affairs Canada: The Last Hundred Days

The Liberation of Mons

Canadian troops reached the outskirts of Mons, Belgium on November 10. It was common knowledge that an armistice was imminent, but there was no backing down until official word had come.

And so, the Canadian Corps fought their way into the city of Mons on November 11, where they were treated to a hero’s welcome by the civilians who had lived under German occupation since 1914. Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 at 11:00am.

The Battle of Valenciennes

Valenciennes was one of the last remaining cities the Germans had to hold on to. In the first two days of November, the Canadian Corps were able to capture approximately 1,800 enemy soldiers in the area. By nightfall on the 2nd, Canadian troops had left Valenciennes and were headed for Mons. The following day (November 3), Germany’s ally, Austria, signed an armistice to end their involvement in the war.

The Battle of Cambrai

The victories at the Canal du Nord and Bourlon Wood cleared the way to Cambrai. Between October 8th and 10th, Canadian, British, and New Zealand troops fought in and around the city. Compared to the resistance they had experienced at the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts of Cambrai in the previous days, taking the city itself proved to be an easy task for the liberators, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions.