10 Sto­ries We Must

The Daily Courier - - THE OKANAGAN WEEKEND - By Okana­gan Satur­day Staff

On this — the most solemn oc­ca­sion of the year — we pause to pay spe­cial tribute to 10 sol­diers from through­out the Okana­gan. Some made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice 100 years ago, while oth­ers re­turned here af­ter the First World War and did the best they could to re­turn to nor­malcy.

Each Satur­day, The Okana­gan Week­end pub­lishes a spe­cial fea­ture called the Top 10, but to­day we re­move that ban­ner in re­spect to the hun­dreds who died or served and their fam­i­lies.

In­stead, this is sim­ply 10 sto­ries we want you to re­mem­ber as you pre­pare to hon­our Canada’s vet­er­ans on Sun­day, Re­mem­brance Day.

Each of th­ese sol­diers served Canada over­seas in the First World War as — no doubt you are well aware — ended 100 years ago Sun­day.

In clos­ing, we say “thank you” to all of our na­tion’s ser­vice­men and women, from all con­flicts and all branches of our Armed Forces, who served at war and dur­ing peace­time.

JOHN MacGRE­GOR he most highly dec­o­rated sol­dier in the Cana­dian Army dur­ing the First World War was from an Okana­gan reg­i­ment

But he lived so anony­mously af­ter the war that the pro­vin­cial govern­ment had to take out news­pa­per ads to try to find him.

John MacGre­gor was a 25-year-old im­mi­grant from Scot­land work­ing as a trap­per in north­ern B.C. when the war started in 1914. He snow­shoed sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres to join the army at Prince Rupert.

MacGre­gor was even­tu­ally as­signed to the Okana­gan-based 2nd Cana­dian Mounted Ri­fles, the pre­de­ces­sor of the BC Dra­goons.

He won the Distin­guished Ser­vice Medal at the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge, and the Mil­i­tary Cross for a trench raid in Jan­uary 1918. Later that year, at a bat­tle near the French town of Cam­brai, he sin­gle­hand­edly took out a Ger­man ma­chine gun nest.

“He ran for­ward in broad day­light, in the face of heavy fire from all di­rec­tions, and—with ri­fle and bay­o­net sin­gle­handed—put the en­emy crews out of ac­tion, killing four and taking eight pris­on­ers. His prompt ac­tion saved many ca­su­al­ties and en­abled the ad­vance to con­tinue,” read MacGre­gor’s ci­ta­tion for the Vic­to­ria Cross, the high­est medal for brav­ery awarded to sol­diers from Bri­tain or Com­mon­wealth coun­tries.

MacGre­gor sur­vived the war and re­turned to B.C. In 1929, the Prince of Wales an­nounced a gala din­ner for all sur­viv­ing Vic­to­ria Cross re­cip­i­ents in Lon­don.

By then, MacGre­gor’s where­abouts were un­known to the Bri­tish Columbia govern­ment, so it took out ads ask­ing if

Tany­one knew where he was.

Some­one who knew MacGre­gor told Vic­to­ria he was liv­ing in Lumby. Ini­tially re­luc­tant to at­tend the din­ner in Lon­don, he was even­tu­ally per­suaded to do as a tribute to his fallen com­rades.

A decade later, MacGre­gor tried to en­list in the Sec­ond World War as a pri­vate so he could get into com­bat. But his sta­tus as a war hero pre­vented that, and he was as­signed to com­mand train­ing camps in­stead.

His last mil­i­tary role was to over­see the Ver­non Army Camp.

CHARLES GRA­HAM sol­dier from Kelowna, along with four of his com­rades, man­aged to cap­ture 80 Ger­man pris­on­ers dur­ing the First World War.

For his brav­ery and hero­ism, Pri­vate Charles Creighton Gra­ham re­ceived the Distin­guished Con­duct Medal, sec­ond high­est to the Vic­to­ria Cross.

In France, Gra­ham was wounded twice. The first time he was shot in the right knee, the sec­ond he was shot in the hand.

That sec­ond wound came in Septem­ber 1918, af­ter Gra­ham and five oth­ers crawled along a drainage ditch to sneak into the Ger­man-held town of Ble­court.

In­cred­i­bly, the Cana­di­ans tricked 150 Ger­mans into sur­ren­der­ing sim­ply by telling them a larger group of Cana­di­ans was about to ar­rive in the town.

While be­ing marched back to Cana­dian lines, many of the Ger­mans re­al­ized they vastly out­num­bered their cap­tors, and that no re­in­force­ments were in fact com­ing.

“The pris­on­ers, who out­num­bered their cap­tors about 25 to one, see­ing the weak­ness of the at­tack­ing force, be­gan to dribble away,” Michel Gravel wrote in ar­ti­cle on the dar­ing episode pub­lished last month in Canada His­tory.

Al­though dozens of Ger­mans ran off, Gra­ham and his mates still re­turned with 80 Ger­man PoWs.

Gra­ham died in a vet­eran’s hospi­tal in Van­cou­ver on Oct. 23, 1966, at the age of 67.

AJOSEPH FITZ­PATRICK Kelowna sol­dier who kept fight­ing af­ter be­ing badly wounded won the mil­i­tary’s sec­ond high­est dis­tinc­tion.

But Joseph Howard Fitz­patrick did not live long af­ter the war ended, dy­ing in 1925 be­fore his 30th birth­day.

Fitz­patrick was one of the few men with an Okana­gan con­nec­tion ever awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross, the sec­ond high­est dis­tinc­tion that can be given a sol­dier, af­ter the Vic­to­ria Cross.

Fitz­patrick, whose fam­ily ar­rived in Kelowna in 1913 from On­tario, won the Mil­i­tary Cross in the fall of 1918 dur­ing the Bat­tle of Cam­brai in France.

“He led his pla­toon to the at­tack and formed a de­fen­sive flank, en­coun­ter­ing a heavy en­emy counter-at­tack in so do­ing,” his ci­ta­tion reads.

A“In the at­tack on Sept. 30, 1918, af­ter be­ing badly wounded, he kept on and led his pla­toon to the at­tack, only go­ing out when or­dered by his su­pe­rior of­fi­cer.”

Fitz­patrick sur­vived three years of trench fight­ing and re­turned to Kelowna in 1919, the year af­ter the war ended. He never mar­ried and never had chil­dren.

FRED­ER­ICK HEATHER n one ter­ri­ble day in 1917, seven men from Kelowna were killed in the First World War.

All died at the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge, along with 3,684 other Cana­dian sol­diers.

Like many of those men, Fred­er­ick Am­blec Heather was ac­tu­ally born in Eng­land but had been liv­ing for many years in Canada. When the war started, they felt an im­me­di­ate need to re­turn to the Mother Coun­try and join the bat­tle.

Heather was a 26-year-old mar­ried man, work­ing as a con­trac­tor in Kelowna. Since he had pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence, he went into the 2nd Cana­dian Mounted Ri­fles as an of­fi­cer.

He stood five-foot-seven, had a chest that could ex­pand to 37 inches, and was a parish­ioner of the Church of Eng­land, ac­cord­ing to his en­list­ment records.

In the first few hours of the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge, the 2nd CMR, a 687-strong unit made up pri­mar­ily of men from the Okana­gan, suf­fered 47 fa­tal­i­ties.

Heather died shortly af­ter he scram­bled out of the trenches, ac­cord­ing to his official death no­tice: “Killed in Ac­tion. He was in­stantly killed by a high ex­plo­sive shell im­me­di­ately af­ter leav­ing the trenches prepara­tory to the at­tack on Vimy Ridge.”

Heather was awarded both the Mil­i­tary Cross and the Mil­i­tary Medal.

OLEON GILLARD orn in France, Leon Isodore Gillard re­turned there in 1916, at age 41, to fight in the First World War.

He wasn’t awarded any medals for his wartime ser­vice. But his life still mer­its recog­ni­tion for both its ex­traor­di­nar­i­ness of ad­ven­ture, and or­di­nar­i­ness in that re­flected a sim­ple can-do at­ti­tude among men of his gen­er­a­tion.

Gillard’s fam­ily was among the first set­tlers in Kelowna. They had left France when he was just 10, sail­ing around the tip of South Amer­ica to get to Cal­i­for­nia.

Ar­riv­ing at Hope four days af­ter the fa­bled Le­quime pack train had left for the Okana­gan, the Gil­lards walked through the moun­tains to catch up.

In Kelowna, Gillard learned English, and worked as a rancher and sawmiller.

In 1916, he was 42 years old, with three daugh­ters and one son. He nev­er­the­less vol­un­teered for ser­vice and sailed back to France — the first time he’d re­turned to the coun­try of his birth — that fall.

He sur­vived the trenches and af­ter his dis­charge in 1919, his doc­tor re­marked on Gillard’s good health.


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