Tales of heroism and sacrifice
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the National Post tells some of the incredible soldiers’ stories in collaboration with the Vimy Foundation and drawing on the resources of Ancestry, which has extensive military and historical records.
Francis Pegahmagabow was an Ojibwa of the Parry Island Band in Ontario. Orphaned at 12, he worked at lumber camps and fishing stations. Pegahmagabow enlisted Aug. 14, 1914 with the 23rd Battalion ( Northern Pioneers). Transferred to the 1st Battalion ( Western Ontario), he arrived in France in February of 1915. At the front, “Peggy,” as his fellow soldiers called him, displayed exceptional skill as a sniper and scout. By war’s end, he was credited with 378 kills and the capture of over 300 enemy soldiers. Surviving the war, he had served at nearly every major battle of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
His exploits on the battlefield became legendary, and Pegahmagabow was one of only 39 Canadians to receive a second bar to the Military Medal. Returning home, “Peggy” became involved in First Nations politics, alternatively serving as Chief and Band Councillor of the Parry Island Band. In 1943 he became the Supreme Chief of the Native Independent Government, an early First Nations institution. In 2016, a life- sized statue of Pegahmagabow was erected in Parry Sound in tribute to the most highly decorated First Nations soldier and the deadliest sniper of the First World War.
Andrew McNaughton of Moosimin, Northwest Territories ( present- day Saskatchewan), was a professor of engineering at McGill University. In 1914, he took command of the 4th Battery of Canadian Field Artillery and arrived in France in February, 1915. McNaughton’s engineering background enabled him to have a profound impact on the development of gunnery during the war. In preparation for the battle of Vimy, McNaughton improved the concepts of “spot- flashing” and “sound- ranging.” These methods used the flash of firing guns and their explosive report to mathematically triangulate their location on the battlefield, providing targets for counter-battery fire. This enabled the Allied artillery to effectively neutralize German artillery positions prior to the launch of attack on 9 April 1917.
By the end of the war, McNaughton held the command of all the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery and Counter-Battery units. McNaughton’s work in counter- battery led to his invention of the cathode ray direction finder, an early form of radar. He sold the rights of the invention to the Government of Canada for just $1.
Sachimaro Morooka was born in Tokyo on Nov. 3, 1883. In 1906, he arrived in Canada settling in British Columbia, where he worked as a fisherman along the Skeena River. In 1916 he enlisted with the 175 th Battalion ( Medicine Hat) in Calgary in an effort to avoid the racial prejudice against the Japanese. The 175th arrived in France in 1916 and its men were absorbed into other Battalions. Morooka fought at the battle of Vimy Ridge with the 50th Battalion (Calgary), attacking Hill 145. During the attack he was hit by shrapnel from a rifle grenade through the right thigh, fracturing his femur, and was sent to hospital in England.
While there, King George V and Queen Mary visited the hospital where Morooka was staying. A chance meeting, King George V was fascinated by Morooka and asked many questions of him: “Can you speak English? How is your wound? When did you join the Canadian Army?” Morooka was sent back to Canada due to the severity of his wounds and later wrote a memoir of his role in the war, titled At the Battle of Arras.
JAMES THOMAS SUTHERLAND
James Thomas Sutherland of Kingston is perhaps best known as the “Father of Hockey.” What is probably less well- known is that Sutherland left hockey to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. While overseas, serving as a captain in his battalion, and still as President of the Ontario Hockey Association, Sutherland proposed the creation of a trophy that would honour Canada’s fallen hockey players. Sutherland was inspired by the deaths of two Kingston hockey greats who had enlisted — Alan Scotty Davidson ( 1915) and Capt. George T. Richardson (1916). Thus, the Ontario Hockey Association’s Memorial Cup was established.
JEREMIAH “JERRY” JONES
Jeremiah “Jerry” Jones was born in East Mountain, N. S., on March 30, 1858. He enlisted in the First World War in June, 1916, at Truro, N.S. He joined the 106th Battalion ( Nova Scotia Rifles) and interestingly lied about his age to join because he was more than 50 years old. He later transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment. He took part at the battle of Vimy Ridge, where he volunteered to attack an enemy position that had pinned down his unit with machine gun fire. Jones was able to take out the machine gun position with a grenade. The Germans surrendered and Jones told the surviving Germans to bring the machine gun to his commanding officer. He was injured during Vimy and was injured again at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Jones was discharged in early 1918 due to his injuries. He was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but he never received it. In 2010, he was officially awarded the Distinguished Service Medallion by the Canadian Forces with for his heroic actions during the battle of Vimy Ridge.