Soldier Spotlight: Captain William Claxton

Image: Grande Prairie Herald, May 20, 1919

Rank: Captain
Branch: No. 41 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

William was born in Gladstone, Manitoba on June 1, 1899. He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps on his eighteenth birthday. William received the Distinguished Flying Cross in the summer of 1918. The citation read as follows:

“This officer at all times shows fine courage and disregard of danger. He has accounted for six enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, three of the aeroplanes being destroyed and three driven down out of control. On a recent occasion, having destroyed a hostile balloon, he pursued an enemy scout ten miles and eventually drove it down; he was then attacked by five enemy triplanes and other scouts, but managed to return to our lines, though his machine was riddled with bullets.”

In September he received a Distinguished Flying Cross bar:

“This officer is conspicuous for his courage in attack. Recently in one day he destroyed six enemy aeroplanes—four in the morning and two in the evening. In thirteen days he accounted for fourteen machines. His utter disregard of danger inspires all who serve with him.”

He also was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:

“Between 4 July and 12 August this officer destroyed ten enemy aeroplanes and one kite balloon, making in all thirty machines and one “kite balloon to his credit. Untiring in attack in the air or on the ground, this officer has rendered brilliant service.”

On August 17, 1918, William was shot down and taken prisoner. He suffered a serious head wound, but his life was saved by a German surgeon and he was repatriated on December 1, 1918. William had the sixth most victories of all Canadian fighter pilots in the First World War. After the war, he came to the South Peace and filed on SW 4-72-1-W6 and SW 9-72-1-W6 in 1919. William died on September 28, 1967.

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Gordon Moyer

Image: The Moyer family on their way to the celebrations in honour of Gordon’s crop successes held in Beaverlodge. Gordon is at far right. 1951 (SPRA Fonds 422, 2008.068.07)

Regimental Number: 3210631
Rank: Private
Branch: 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment

Gordon was born in Breslau, Ontario on September 25, 1894. He came to the Elmworth area in 1915 and filed on NE 15-70-11-W6 and 14-70-11-W6. In September of that year, he and two of his neighbors, Hubert and Harry Black, walked to Grande Prairie to enlist. Harry was accepted, but Hubert was turned down for being too slender and Gordon for having flat feet; this was ironic, as he had just walked forty miles to enlist. He was later drafted in May of 1918, then struck off strength on September 14, 1918. On August 31, 1929, Gordon married Edna Small. He died of a heart attack in Elmworth on May 23, 1953.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 324, 325; Edson to Grande Prairie Trail p. 187; Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 330; HT May 28, 1953

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Matthew Chrenek

Image: Male members of the Sexsmith Legion. One photograph identified as Edgar Henning, Stanley Kulicki, Jock Thomson, Adam Grotkowski, ?, George “Knobby” Clark, Joe Shannon (seated), Fred Bohn, Charlie Stojan, Andy Innes, Danny Rycroft, Gordon Mates, Matt Chrenek. C. 1960. (SPRA 644.01.13)

Matthew F. Chrenek (Jr.) born in 1922 in Bankhead AB, was the son of Matthew and Mary Chrenek (who originally came from Czechoslovakia). For the first 4 years the family lived in nearby Luscar, and in 1926 moved to Lulu Island, BC. In 1927, they moved to the Sexsmith area where Matthew Sr. had purchased a farm. Matthew and his sister Cecile attended the Mount Star School. At the age of 20, Matthew enlisted in the army, taking his basic training in Edmonton. From there he went to Camp Borden ON for advanced training. In 1943 he was posted overseas, and after taking further training in England, he served in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. He was discharged in Calgary in 1946. Matthew married Josephine Rombs in 1951 in Fairview. They had one son, Charles. Starting in 1956, they raised purebred Herefords, and have won many first and second place prizes. One of their bulls won Grand Champion in the Fairview Show in 1975. In 1977, Josephine and Matthew traveled to Europe for the unveiling of the Cairn at Buron, France where Matthew’s regiment was on “D” Day (June 6, 1944). They also attended a ceremony at an all-Canadian cemetery. Over the years, Matthew was an active member of the Legion, being president for several years, while Josephine was active in the Ladies Auxiliary to the Royal Canadian Legion. Matthew died at age 89 in Grande Prairie AB in 2011.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 1149 (Name in Roll of Honour), p. 1155 (photo), pp. 163-167

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Lieutenant John Pringle

Image: Grande Prairie Herald, October 10, 1916

Regimental Number: 18461
Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: 2nd Battalion

John was born in Kildonan Parish, Manitoba on December 10, 1880. In 1912, he filed on SW 28-78-6-W6. John traveled to Valcartier to enlist in September of 1914. He wrote a series of fascinating letters to the Grande Prairie Herald detailing his experiences at the front. On April 26, 1916, John received gunshot wounds to the neck. On September 9, 1916, John was killed in action southwest of Courcelette. He charged a German machine gun single-handed and killed the crew with his revolver. John was killed as he reached the parapet. In December of 1916, John was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery. His grave marker is inscribed with “The work of righteousness shall be peace.”

Books: Canada’s Dream Shall Be of Them; Valour Road, by John Nadler (view on Google Books)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Soldier Spotlight: Private Elmer Eisenman

Image: One the x-rays in Elmer’s military service file showing the shrapnel in his neck (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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: 2492
Rank: Private
Branch: Lord Strathcona’s Horse

Elmer was born in Hoisington, Kansas on April 7, 1888. He was living in the South Peace at the time of his enlistment in September of 1914. Elmer’s homestead was at SE6-71-7-W6. In April of 1916, Elmer received shrapnel wounds to the base of his neck and right shoulder at Rollencourt, France. Pieces of metal were left deep in his neck (view x-rays on pages 83, 95, and 97 of his service file) because they caused no symptoms at first; later he complained of dull pains in neck and shoulder. He also had impaired vision in right eye after this. A shell explosion wounded Elmer’s left leg in December of 1917 at Cambrai. He was discharged on August 12, 1918, having been deemed medically unfit, due to his leg wound. Elmer was very hard of hearing in his left ear, which had started before the war, but was aggravated during service. He brought his war bride, Winnifred, back to his homestead, where they lived until 1923. At this time, the family moved to Everett, Washington. Elmer and Winnifred had six children. Elmer died in Washington on July 31, 1970.

Sources: Along the Wapiti, p. 88, 411

Soldier Spotlight: Gerard Brochu

Image: A photograph from the Army Training Center, Grande Prairie showing troops standing in formation in front of the row of “H” huts, ca. 1941 (SPRA 2011.44.43, Fond 478, Turner family fonds)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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 No.: M 605068
Rank: Private
Force: Army

Gerard Brochu, the son of David Brochu and Alice Ruel, was born on February 13, 1920 in St. Fabien de Panet, Quebec. With his mother and siblings he moved to Girouxville AB in September 1927, because his father had come a year earlier, and had obtained a homestead. At age 19 Gerard enlisted with the Canadian Army. After two months of training in Grande Prairie, and a short period in Calgary, he went to Valcartier QC before being stationed overseas. In England Gerard was first at the military base Cochran Crossroads, then he was transferred to the La Chuadiere regiment. After that he was sent to Normandy, France as part of the Canadian Infantry. Being wounded on D-Day, June 6, 1944, he was sent back to England for recuperation. Thereafter he served in Belgium, Holland, and Germany, and fought until the end of WW II. In 1946 he married Donalda Chabot from Codesa AB, and eventually they had 4 children: Armand, Annette, Helene, and Ronald. Through the VLA, the Brochus had a homestead on western half of 11-78-235. Renting out the land in 1955, the family moved to Girouxville where Gerard was the village foreman until 1974 when he retired. In 1984, he sold his house and moved to Golden Age Manor in Girouxville. Gerard passed away at age 75 on October 24, 1995 in McLennan AB.

Source: Reflexions Vol. II pp. 392-393
AGS Obituary Index

Soldier Spotlight: Harry & Laura Harper

Image: a photograph from Laura’s military service file

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Harry:
Regimental Number: 898247
Rank: Sergeant
Branch: 49th Battalion

Laura:
Rank: Nursing Sister

Branch: Canadian Army Medical Corps

Harry was born in Brantford, Ontario on December 12, 1887. He was living in Pincher Creek, Alberta at the time of his enlistment in March of 1916. Harry was sent to Sarcee Camp near Pincher Creek for treatment in the army hospital, as he had gotten an infection from one of his vaccinations. Here he met nurse Laura Jean Hanham. Laura was born in Welland, Ontario on August 3, 1889 and came to western Canada before World War I began. She was working at Sarcee Camp at the beginning of the war. Later, both Harry and Laura were sent overseas, Harry to the front lines in France and Laura to the No. 12 Canadian General Hospital at Bramshott.

Harry and Laura were married in Bramshott, England ca. November 1918, while they were both serving overseas. After the war, the couple came to the South Peace. Harry filed on SW 28-79-13-W6 and SE 29-79-13-W6, and Laura on NE 29-79-13-W6; despite Harry’s best efforts, however, he found he was not a farmer and canceled both homesteads. Instead, the family moved into Spirit River, where Harry worked as a carpenter. Harry died on April 22, 1939 and was buried in the Spirit River cemetery. Laura decided to go back east after his death and died in Toronto in 1978. She was buried alongside Harry in the Spirit River cemetery.

Soldier Spotlight: Robert Card

Image: Grande Prairie Legion Hockey Team which played for the 1950-51 season included, back row, W. Hiekkila, G. Bond, D. Swanston, H. Ayre, D. Crough, R. Card, C. Turner, E. Nelson, R. Wright, J. Listhaege, R. Neufeld, R. Rigler, J. MacMillan, F. Anderson, L. Giroux, J. Moore, K. Schielke. Also on the photograph is J. Lynn (Manager). (SPRA 2010.14.10)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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: Flying Officer; Sergeant
Force: Royal Canadian Air Force

Robert “Bob” Card was the son of Mr and Mrs Ira Card, and he was raised and educated in Grande Prairie AB. He was a well known hockey player. In 1942 he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Graduating from the Macleod Service Flying Training School (SFTS), he first became a bomber pilot over Germany, and later he became an instructor. He married Audrey Janet Goodsir on June 11, 1943 in Lethbridge AB. In December 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal. Bob was president of the Canadian Legion. His brothers Gerald and Bill also served in the RCAF in WW II.

Source: Trails and Rails North Vol. 2 p. 99
Grande Prairie Capitol of the Peace p. 112
Herald Tribune – July 15, 1943 p. 4 c. 4 (marries)
– Oct. 5, 1944 p.1 c.2 (pilot)
– Dec. 14, 1944 p.3 c.5 (DFC medal)

Soldier Spotlight: Driver William James Kellett

Image: Casualty card from William’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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: 101379
Rank: Driver
Branch: Canadian Engineers

William was born on December 25, 1872 in Settle, Yorkshire, England. He married Hilda Blanche Cheney of Van Kleek Hill, Ontario in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The couple moved their way west, living first in Manitoba, then in Saskatchewan, and finally in 1912 settled on a homestead at 26-72-5-W6, east of Clairmont. By this time they had six children. Hilda was the first teacher of the Kleskun Lake school, which opened in 1913. William enlisted in the Canadian army in October of 1915 and served in England. On July 31, 1917, he was accidentally killed near Sherrington Crossing, Codford, Wiltshire. According to the 14th Field Company War Diary entry for that day, “#101379 Driver Kellett, W.J. found killed by train at Railway Crossing near Codford.”

Sources: Smoky River to Grande Prairie, p. 295

Soldier Spotlight: Nick Nasedkin

Image: Dedication of the Cenotaph in the new village park at Eaglesham, Alberta on September 11, 1978. Left to right: Jack Campbell, Past Zone Commander; Nick Nasedkin, District Commander of District #1; Andy Innis, Vice President of the Alberta/North West Territories Command; Frank Produzny, Zone Commander of Zone #2. Photograph taken by Gary Lachance, Eaglesham, Alberta. (SPRA 328.02.01)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this 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.

Nick was born in China (probably Manchuria) to Russian parents in 1911. He had some early lessons in English at the YMCA in Harbin. The family immigrated to Canada to take up land from the CPR in 1924 and settled originally in the Ponoka area. Nick apprenticed to a butcher and learned English from the butcher’s wife.

The family moved to Spirit River and Nick followed in 1928, finding work with a butcher. He moved to Peace River in 1930 to manage a meat market. There he met Elda Searle, a teacher, and they were married in August, 1932. This was followed by a move to Beaverlodge where Nick opened a butcher shop. Their son, Jack was born in 1936. In 1939, Elda became sick and passed away. This eventually led to Nick selling the business, taking his son to his sister-in-law in Trail, and then enlisting in the Air Force in Calgary (1940 or 1941).

Nick was posted overseas in England, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany and Denmark. He was commissioned overseas and worked as an interpreter for the Russian Air Force, the RAF and the RCAF. Nick claims to have spoken seven languages including Cree. He was discharged when he returned to Canada in 1946.

Nick returned to Beaverlodge where he again opened a butcher shop. He married Eleanor Jarvis in 1947 and had four more children.

Source: Beaverlodge to the Rockies, p.221