Kelowna soldier a hero but no saint
War records help fill in some of blanks in story of man who helped capture 80 Germans in France
Kelowna’s forgotten war hero wasn’t always a model soldier. Pte. Charles Creighton Graham, who was among six Canadians to capture 80 Germans in the First World War, was also once reported AWL.
He was absent without leave for two days at the end of November 1918, says Keith Boehmer of the Okanagan Military Museum, who has reviewed Creighton’s war records.
From the 65 pages in Creighton’s wartime file maintained by Library and Archives Canada, some other basic information about him is revealed.
Creighton was three months shy of his 20th birthday when he enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1916. But the attestation officer said he appeared to be younger, and gave Creighton’s “apparent age” as 17 years 10 months.
Creighton may have had the appearance of youth because of his height — only five feet four inches — and thin chest.
Once overseas, Creighton was wounded twice while fighting in France, the first time being shot in the right knee in November 1917.
Creighton’s second injury, getting shot in the hand, came as he participated in a remarkable act of bravery and courage. He and five other Canadians crawled along a drainage ditch to sneak into the German- held French town of Blecourt.
Incredibly, the small party managed to capture 150 German prisoners, largely by telling them a larger group of Canadians was about to arrive in the town.
While being marched back to Canadian lines, the Germans realized they vastly outnumbered their captors and that no reinforcements were in fact coming. Dozens ran off, but Creighton and his mates still returned with 80 German PoWs.
For his heroism, Creighton received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second highest to the Victoria Cross.
Creighton sailed back to Canada on June 6, 1919. But little is known about his life after the war.
“Since we have been compiling data on WW 1 veterans only recently, based on names from the Kelowna Record newspaper, we know nothing more about him,” Boehmer says.
Creighton died in Vancouver on Oct. 23, 1966, age 67. He had been married to a woman named Hilda Teal, but they were divorced, and it’s not clear if the couple had children.
Creighton did have two sisters, Elizabeth and Hazel, and a younger brother named Clifford, according to 1911 census information for Kelowna. So it’s likely there are people living today, possibly in the city, who would be related to him.
An Ottawa historian and author is currently writing a book about the Canadians’ unlikely liberation of Blecourt.
Michel Gravel is appealing for anyone with information about Charles Creighton Graham to contact him so he can provide a fuller picture of the war hero in the forthcoming book. Gravel’s phone number is 613-796-5882.