Cana­dian last to die dur­ing First War


Ge­orge Price man be­hind ‘story of in­cred­i­bly bad tim­ing’

HALIFAX — Mo­ments be­fore the ar­mistice end­ing the First World War took ef­fect on Nov. 11, 1918, a sniper’s bul­let sliced the air.

It struck a Cana­dian sol­dier in the chest as he emerged from a house in a small Bel­gian vil­lage.

Pvt. Ge­orge Lawrence Price died min­utes later at 10:58 a.m. — two min­utes be­fore hos­til­i­ties ceased.

He be­came the last Bri­tish Empire sol­dier to die in a war that claimed mil­lions of lives, in­clud­ing nearly 67,000 Cana­di­ans.

It’s un­clear whether the 25-yearold was aware the war was so close to be­ing over when he and five other mem­bers of ‘A’ Com­pany, the 28th Bat­tal­ion of the Saskatchewan North West Reg­i­ment, de­cided to search for Ger­mans in Ville-SurHaine, east of Mons.

“They had heard ru­mours for months that maybe the war was go­ing to come to an end, but if you are a sol­dier on the front lines you tend to take that stuff with a grain of salt,” said Ken Hynes, cu­ra­tor of the war mu­seum in Halifax. “Ge­orge was do­ing his job as he saw it.”

Price was posthu­mously awarded the Bri­tish War Medal and the Vic­tory Medal. He is in­terred in a ceme­tery in Bel­gium not far from the war’s first Bri­tish Empire ca­su­alty, Pvt. John Parr of the 4th Bat­tal­ion Mid­dle­sex Reg­i­ment.

Price’s story has re­mained in­grained in the lore of suc­ceed­ing generations of his sur­viv­ing fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to his niece, Bev­erly McLean, of Kentville, N.S.

“My mom was his sec­ond youngest sis­ter and from the time I was a lit­tle girl that’s all I heard was about Un­cle Ge­orge,” McLean said fol­low­ing the pre­miere of a short doc­u­men­tary film about Price. “My mom just wor­shiped him and she named her son Ge­orge af­ter Un­cle Ge­orge.”

Price, a na­tive of Fal­mouth, N.S., was work­ing as a labourer in Moose Jaw, Sask., when he was con­scripted on Oct. 15, 1917.

He fought in the Bat­tle of Amiens, Bat­tle of Cam­brai and the Pur­suit to Mons, and was gassed in the Canal-du-Nord area on Sept. 8, 1918.

Upon his dis­charge from hospi­tal, he re­turned to his unit on Sept. 26 and was on the line in Canal-duCen­tre when he took part in the fi­nal ac­tion that led to his death.

Cana­dian War Mu­seum his­to­rian Tim Cook said the Cana­dian Corps had in fact re­ceived or­ders at 6 a.m. on Nov. 11 that the war would end at 11 a.m. that day.

Most bat­tal­ions got word no later than 9:30 a.m. “and they went to ground” Cook said. “Still, there were pa­trols along the front in­clud­ing Ge­orge Price’s.”

Hynes said whether Price re­ceived the specifics of those or­ders is un­known, and the same doubt about whether all sol­diers knew how close war’s end was can likely be extended to the Ger­man sol­dier who shot him.


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