Soldier Spotlight: Fred Darnton

Image: Fred Darnton sits with a small boy on a front step, possibly of a store, 1935 (SPRA 116.09.01.02.022). Cropped.

Regiment: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Englishman Fred Darnton once camped out on the property of David and Margaret Dana near the junction of the Simonette and Smoky Rivers. It was the fall of 1930, and he was only passing through the area. He had nothing but the clothes he was wearing, and stayed overnight by his campfire. After investigation by the family and neighbors, Fred, “the crazy young guy”, soon came to be a close friend of the Danas and was like a son and brother to them. Fred filed on a homestead for $10 (SW2-72-2-W6) on December 23, 1930 and lived in the Goodwin area for the next twenty years. During the Second World War, he enlisted with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and was posted overseas. Fred was severely wounded during the D-Day landings in June 1944 and returned to Canada after the war. Eventually he found a job with the Department of Highways where he worked for 25 years.

Source: Across the Smoky p. 347 – name in Roll of Honour; p. 24; p. 140-141

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: Clarence & Mercy Flint

Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: 56th Battalion; 49th Battalion

Clarence was born in Claremont, Ontario on November 1, 1881. In 1907 he moved to Edmonton and served as a supervisor of physical instruction in local schools. In 1909 Clarence filed on a homestead near Beaverlodge (NW 31-71-9-W6). In 1910 he married Mercy Elizabeth Grant. When Clarence joined the Canadian army in May of 1915, Mercy went with him to serve in England as a nurse. However, she returned to Canada when Clarence was sent to the front lines in France. Clarence was awarded the Military Cross while serving overseas. According to the Circumstances of Death Register, Clarence was hit in the stomach by an enemy machine gun bullet and killed instantly during an advance in the vicinity of Cambrai on September 29, 1918 .

In 1929, Mercy married Arnold Christie of Grande Prairie. She died in 1960.

Note: Follow the “War Diaries” link below. Clarence is mentioned on the following pages on 28 and 29 September, 1918:

p. 18: Commander of “A” Company
p. 20: Reported “A” and “B” Companies at 11:50 PM
p. 21: Company Commanders of both the “A” and “B” Companies were killed in action at 8:00 AM.

Source: Pioneers of the Peace p. 40

Lieutenant Clarence Flint (SPRA 002.01.03.193)

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 Frederick Stanley Albright

Regimental Number: 895173
Rank: Private
Branch: 50th Battalion

Fred was born in Township Dunn, Ontario on March 23, 1883. Before World War I, he was a partner in a law firm in Calgary, together with John Brownlee. He and his wife, Elnora Evelyn Kelly, were living in Calgary at the time of his enlistment in June of 1916. Fred shared his brother’s (W.D. Albright) confidence in the Peace country and filed on a homestead at 8-72-9-W6. However, he was killed in action at Passchendaele on October 26, 1917 without having had the opportunity to develop his land. His grave marker in Larch Wood Cemetery is inscribed with “Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him Heb. 3.2”

Sources: Beaverlodge to the Rockies p. 193

A poem written by W.D. Albright in memory of his brother.

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: Father Alexandre Josse

Image: Father Josse appears at far left in this photograph from the 1934 Historical Edition of the Grande Prairie Herald

Rank: Secretary of Staff
Branch: French Army Reserve, 11th Legion

Father Josse was born in St. Herblain, France around 1877. After completing his training for the priesthood, he was sent to Canada and arrived at Dunvegan on October 11, 1902. For a number of years Father Josse traveled around the Peace country on horseback to minister to the Catholics throughout the region. In July of 1917 he was called up to join the French Army for the duration of World War I. He served as Secretary of Staff of the 11th Legion initially, and later as an interpreter. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive at the end of the war, Father Josse was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery while assisting the wounded under heavy artillery fire. After the war, he returned to Grande Prairie, where he remained until 1931 – at this time he was called to a professorship at the Seminary of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan. Father Josse died on February 13, 1964 in St. Norbert, Manitoba, at the age of 87.

Sources: Pioneers of the Peace p. 86-88; Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 4; check our newspaper database for many more newspaper references

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.

Rev. Father Josse served as an interpreter during World War I. Photograph taken ca. 1920 (SPRA 350.08.02.001a)

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Paul Smashnuk

Image: The Herald-Tribune, December 2, 1943

Rank: Sergeant
Died: November 24, 1943
Commemorated at: Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy

Paul Smashnuk, born on July 14, 1919 at Andrew, Alberta, moved with his family to a homestead in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay. Paul completed his education at the one-room Lindsay School following which, he worked on the family farm and trapped during the winter months. Paul decided to branch out on his own and found employment as an equipment operator and mechanic in Nanton, Alberta. On September 13, 1939, Paul answered the call of duty to Country and enlisted in Edmonton with the 92nd Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was subsequently transferred to the 3rd Field Regiment where he served as a Sergeant during the Second World War. Paul arrived in England on December 11, 1939 where he remained until June 15, 1943 at which time he was sent to Italy. After the success of the Sicilian Campaign, the invasion of the Italian mainland was the next operation. The 1st Canadian Division, along with the 8th British Army, led the way across the Strait of Messina to the toe of Italy and then advanced towards the Gustav Line which was a series of concrete bunkers and artillery positions on the rocky slopes of mountains fronted by a no-man’s-land of barbed wire and land mines. The Canadians found themselves in the central mountain range where they met fierce German resistance along the Sangro River. Two batteries of the 3rd Canadian Field Regiment pushed forward with mules that pulled the battalion’s three-inch mortars and machine-guns down the muddy slopes. On November 24th, the thunder of guns of nine artillery regiments rolled through the valleys; however, by mid-afternoon, the progress was delayed by heavy enemy shelling. Sergeant Paul Smashnuk died on November 24, 1943 and is commemorated at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy.

Son of Peter Smashnuk and Elena (nee Frunchak) Smashnuk of Bezanson, Alberta; brother of Nick Smashnuk, William Smashnuk, Eli Smashnuk, Dorothy (nee Smashnuk) Hotte, George Smashnuk, Mary (nee Smashnuk) Norton, Donald Smashnuk, Leon Smashnuk and Doreen (nee Smashnuk) Somotonk, predeceased by brother Harry Smashnuk; common-law husband of Rose (nee Kokotailo) Danyluk, father of Paul Smashnuk-Danyluk, both of Andrew, Alberta; he was 24 years old.

Citations: 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp.

Written by Wanda Zenner
January 2019

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: 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