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.