Soldier Spotlight: Private Samuel “Dean” Hodgins

Image: The Lake Saskatoon Baseball Team in 1912. Standing: Leonard Eisenmann, Charlie Richardson, George Stoll, Charlie Stoll, Sel McAusland, and Max English. Seated: Roy Stokes, Dean Hodgins, Percy Perraton, Ulia Douglass, Walter Eaton, Hermann Reidrick, and Jimmy Loudfoot, bat-boy. (SPRA 032.08.08.0749)

Regimental Number: 101240
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 8th Battalion

Dean Hodgins was born in Port Rowan, Ontario on February 15, 1888. At the time of his enlistment in September of 1915, he was living in Grande Prairie (his homesteads were located at 36-71-7-W6 and 31-71-6-W6). A letter from the front written by Private Keith in July of 1916 suggested that Dean had had “cold feet.” Articles were published soon afterward to give the true story (see the attached news clippings) and suggested that the previous accusation was made out of spite. Shortly afterward, in September of 1916, Dean went missing in action, though this was not reported until March of 1917. It was later discovered that Dean had been killed during an attack on enemy trenches near Courcelette on September 26, 1916, just three months after arriving in France.

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 John “Chip” Kerr

Image: Newspaper clipping about Chip’s Victoria Cross in the 1 November 1916 Grande Prairie Herald

Regimental Number: 101465
Rank: Private
Branch: 49th Battalion

Chip was born in Fox River, Nova Scotia on January 11, 1887. He came to Spirit River in 1912 and filed on homesteads at 27-78-6-W6 and 7-79-6-W6; his brother Charles filed on a neighboring quarter. Both brothers enlisted in the Canadian army in the autumn of 1915. On September 16, 1916, Chip was awarded the Victoria Cross by George V for his actions at Courcelette. His citation notes that “Kerr and small group of men charged enemy trench after prolonged grenade exchange. Captured 62 enemy soldiers.” According to the London Gazette (October 26, 1916):

“For most conspicuous bravery. During a bombing attack he was acting as bayonet man, and, knowing that bombs were running short, he ran along the parados under heavy fire until he was in close contact with the enemy, when he opened fire on them at point-blank range, and inflicted heavy loss. The enemy, thinking they were surrounded, surrendered. Sixty-two prisoners were taken and 250 yards of enemy trench captured. Before carrying out this very plucky act one of Private Kerr’s fingers had been blown off by a bomb. Later, with two other men, he escorted back the prisoners under fire, and then returned to report himself for duty before having his wound dressed.”

Chip married Gertrude Clarissa Bridger in London in 1917. In April of 1918, he was discharged, having been found medically unfit because of a deformity of his left foot and right hand (the deformity of his hand would have been the injury he sustained at Courcelette). Chip and Gertrude returned to Spirit River in April of 1918 and raised five children. In World War II, Chip served with the RCAF. He moved to British Columbia after World War II and died in Port Moody on February 19, 1963.

Sources: Chepi Sepe p. 559; Pioneers of the Peace p. 244

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: Corporal Emile Desilets

Image: excerpt from Emile’s military service file, including a note about his Distinguished Conduct Medal (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 628057
Rank: Corporal
Branch: 47th Battalion; 16th Battalion

Emile was born in Ste. Camille, Wolfe County, Quebec on February 3, 1888. He enlisted in Vernon, BC on June 18, 1915, and had previously served with the 11th Regiment, Irish Fusiliers of Canada. While serving overseas, Emile sustained a shrapnel wound to his left arm in June of 1916, and a gunshot wound to his right thigh and buttocks. On September 2, 1918, Emile was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 2nd September, 1918, in the second battle of Arras. During the fighting he with his section engaged large numbers of the enemy on three occasions as they emerged from dug-outs, bombing the occupants and taking the survivors prisoners. He was slightly wounded when steadying his men under enfilade fire.” Emile filed on a homestead at 35-76-21-W5. He died in Vancouver on December 12, 1955.

Sources: Guy p. 287

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: Beatrice Veitch

Image: Part of Beatrice’s Application for Entry for a Soldier Grant.

Beatrice was born ca. 1863 in Odiham, Hampshire, England. Her husband, Alfred Harry Veitch, was killed in the Battle of Coronel on November 1, 1914, while serving as fleet paymaster on the HMS Good Hope. They had been married 24 years at that time, and had two grown daughters, Nesta and Hyacinth. Beatrice volunteered with the Red Cross, making surgical dressings. In 1928, she came to the South Peace with her daughter Nesta and her family, and filed on a homestead at NW 28-70-24-W5. In 1930 she filed on SW 32-70-24-W5. However, the records indicate that she later canceled on both homesteads.

Sources: Where the Red Willow Grew p. 303; Across the Smoky p. 178

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: William Baird

Image: Golden red pheasant, July 1979 (SPRA 002.05.06.523)

Branch: Royal Field Artillery

William was born in Yorkshire, England on January 27, 1894, though spent most of his boyhood in Ireland. During the first world war, he served in the Royal Field Artillery for four years, in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. William’s brother Reginald served in the Canadian Army. In 1920 he came to Canada and homesteaded at 30-71-10-W6 and 31-71-10-W6 near Beaverlodge. William raised pheasants on his farm and over the years was able to release hundreds of pheasants about the district. In 1937 he married Sadie Martin. The couple had three sons. On July 20, 1969 William and Sadie’s son Sydney was coming back from Texas with a new helicopter and stopped to pick up William and Sadie for a visit to Watson Lake. A mechanical failure in the helicopter forced a crash landing near Fort Nelson. Sydney crawled out to the nearest highway, nearly two miles away, to get help in spite of his injured back, but William was pronounced dead before help arrived.

Sources: Beaverlodge to the Rockies Supplement p. 13; obituary notes

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: George & Stanley Agar

Image: This party heading to the Peace country from Edmonton, on February 3, 1911, 3 pm, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cochrane; Mr. and Mrs. James Moore, Maimee and David; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Moore, Margaret and David; Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Bradford, Cameron and Marjorie; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Shortreed; Stanley Agar (brother of Jennie Cochrane) and Joe Mc Laughlin. They travelled via Athabasca, Lesser Slave Lake, Grouard, Sturgeon Lake and arrived in the Grande Prairie area on March 17, 1911. (SPRA 268.02.01)

Private George Agar

Regimental Number: 204089
Rank: Private
Branch: Canadian Infantry, Central Ontario Regiment; 96th Battalion; 15th Battalion

George was born in Goderich, Ontario on January 3, 1896. He shipped overseas with brother Stanley and started training in England, then went to France. The brothers arrived in England on Oct. 6, 1916 aboard SS Laconia. George was wounded on July 20, 1917 while defending Hill 70, and his brother Stanley carried him to the rear. A few days later, on July 24, 1917, George died of many shrapnel wounds to his legs and chest. He was buried in the Lillers Communal Cemetery, near Bethune, France.

Sources: Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 280

Corporal James Stanley Agar

Regimental Number: 204071
Rank: Corporal
Branch: 96th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Highlanders; 5th Reserve Battalion; 15th Battalion

Stanley was born in Goderich, Ontario on November 12, 1896. He enlisted in December 1915 and arrived in England on Oct. 6, 1916 aboard SS Laconia. According to medical records, he was completely deaf in his left ear (“auditory nerve deafness”) as a result of being hit in the ear with a snowball as a child. Stanley took part in the march to Germany at the end of the war. He returned to Canada in 1919 and married Lelia Durnin in August of that year. They farmed in Saskatchewan until 1937, when they came to farm in Dimsdale. Stanley died in 1957.

Sources: Along the Wapiti, p. 411; Smoky River to Grande Prairie, p. 270 & 279

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 Joseph Sauve

Image: excerpt from Joseph’s report card from officer’s training school (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 447624
Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: Canadian Mounted Rifles; Canadian Machine Gun Corps

Joseph was born in St. Genevieve, Quebec on January 25, 1889. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in Calgary in September of 1915. On July 9, 1917, Joseph was awarded the Military Medal. On page 30 of his service file, you can view a typed list of his transfers and other information; there is also a report card from officer’s training school on pages 43 and 44. He was said to be “thoroughly reliable and should make a good officer.” Around 1930, Joseph and his brother Leo settled on land about one and a half miles west of Eaglesham. Joseph died on June 26, 1947, having been injured by a falling tree.

Sources: Smoky Peace Triangle p. 372

Lieutenant J.P. Sauve was the first president of the Eaglesham Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, formed in 1936. He was instrumental in re-forming the club in 1947 to include Watino, Tangent and Eaglesham, but was killed in an accident before the charter was received. Royal Canadian Legion Sauve Branch 235 is named after him. (SPRA 327.01.01)

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.

Soldier Spotlight: Lance Corporal Cyril Clarke

Image: Beth’s garden included peonies grown by C.M. Clarke from Teepee Creek, 1951-1964 (SPRA 002.01.03.120)

Regimental Number: 760897
Rank: Lance Corporal
Branch: 121st Battalion; 38th Battalion

Cyril was born August 6, 1882 on St. Vincent’s Island in the West Indies. His father was an Anglican minister and his mother West Indian. He attended Oxford University and was said to have been a classmate of Winston Churchill. About 1910 he immigrated to Canada and when war broke out he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He spoke several languages and served as an interpreter in France during World War I. Cyril was awarded the Military Medal on August 16, 1917 for bravery in the field, as well as the Distinguished Conduct Medal on February 21, 1919. He received a gunshot wound to his right arm in August of 1918.

After the war, Cyril took a Soldier’s Settlement Grant in the Teepee Creek area (SE 31-73-3-W6). He soon discovered that farming made his asthma much worse and began concentrating on growing vegetables and flowers instead. As a black, highly educated, lifelong bachelor, and non-farmer, he was not the norm at Teepee Creek.

Cyril soon began specializing in peonies, about which he was passionate. The conservative estimate is that Mr. Clarke tested about 2000 cultivars over his thirty years of collecting. He was a regular contributor to the American Peony Society bulletin and a leading authority on peony hybrids.

As he aged, Cyril began to lose his sight and his gardening friends persuaded him to move closer to Grande Prairie. They packed up his peonies and sent them to various homes. Large collections went to the Beaverlodge Research Station and the Devonian Botanic Garden near Edmonton and his records and 921 specimens were donated to the Department of Horticulture at the University of Alberta. The university grounds are still beautified with Clarke’s peonies.

Cyril himself moved to Dr. Gurth O’Brien’s land, where he had a garden spot of good, well-cultivated soil beside O’Brien Lake. Mr. Clarke passed away at his home on December 20, 1952, at the age of 70 years.

Sources: Wagon Trails Grown Over, p. 993-996, 1147

Cyril Mervyn Clarke. From Wagon Trails Grown Over, Sexsmith to the Smoky Historical Society (1980), p. 993.

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 Norman Johnston

Image: Medical notes from Norman’s military service file (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 101234
Rank: Private
Branch: 31st Battalion

Norman was born in Blake, Huron County, Ontario on February 29, 1892. He was farming in Lake Saskatoon at the time of his enlistment in September of 1915. Norman was wounded several times during his time of service in the Canadian army. In August of 1916, he contracted German measles. A month later, in September of 1916, he received a gunshot wound to his right thigh at Courcelette during the Somme offensive. At Passchendaele on November 6, 1917, Norman received shrapnel wounds. In 1918 he received gunshot wounds to his head and face; he suffered from nasal obstruction later as a result of the wound. Norman was awarded the Military Medal for his action at Rosieres (Battle of Amiens) on August 9, 1918; it is possible that this was when he was wounded the final time. His citation reads as follows:

“When man’s section were held up by a strong point in a ruined house he rushed it under the cover of rifle fire and bombed it killing or wounding the entire crew allowing the right half of the section to carry on the advance.”

According to his service file, Norman lived in Dawson Creek/Pouce Coupe between 1919 and 1923. He was married to Beulah Beatrice Vermilyea. Norman died in Vancouver on October 2, 1984.

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: Nursing Sister Norval McDonald

Image: Medical notes from Norval’s military service file. She suffered from mumps and had a tonsillectomy in 1917. (Library & Archives Canada)

Rank: Nursing Sister
Branch: Canadian Army Medical Corps

Norval was born in Perth, Ontario on March 15, 1891. She enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in 1917 and served in the following places:

-No. 11 Canadian General Hospital (Moore Barracks, Shorncliffe, England) May 1917 – July 1918
-No. 8 Canadian Stationary Hospital (Charmes, Rouen, and Dunkerque) Aug 1918 – April 1919
-Canadian Army Medical Corps Casualty Company (England) April/May 1919

In August of 1919 Norval returned to Canada. Her father and brothers had come up to Sexsmith during her time overseas, and she joined them here. Here she met and married Gordon McDonald; their land was located at 13-74-5-W6 and 21-74-4-W6. Norval died on May 2, 1988 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.

Sources: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 310

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.