Sus­sex man seeks plaque for war hero’s birth­place

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

A res­i­dent of the birth­place of Glen­garry’s only Vic­to­ria Cross win­ner con­tin­ues to seek recog­ni­tion for the First World War hero.

Peter Silk, of St. Leonards on Sea, Hast­ings, Sus­sex – the town where for­mer North Lan­cas­ter res­i­dent Claude Nun­ney was born in July 1892 – told The News via email re­cently that he is “pre­sent­ing a paper” to Hast­ings Bor­ough Coun­cil this month ask­ing for its sup­port in plac­ing an English Her­itage Blue Plaque on the house where Mr. Nun­ney en­tered the world al­most a cen­tury-and-a-quar­ter ago.

“As 2017 will be the 125th an­niver­sary of his birth, my aim is to have it ready for next sum­mer,” said Mr. Silk. “I have been talk­ing with the (cur­rent) own­ers of the house, and they are on-side (with the plaque erec­tion).”

Mr. Silk has an avid in­ter­est in Claude Nun­ney’s life and mil­i­tary ca­reer, hav­ing writ­ten ex­ten­sively about him over the past two decades. He has even been to Alexan­dria and Ot­tawa to con­duct re­search on the lo­cal hero. “His was a re­mark­able life in many ways,” Mr. Silk told The News in April 2014, point­ing out how Mr. Nun­ney’s sta­tus as “a highly-dec­o­rated soldier,” as well as the fact that he was a ‘Home Child,’ were cer­tainly wor­thy of spe­cial recog­ni­tion.

Claude Nun­ney came to Canada as a 13-year-old or­phan, along with a brother, ar­riv­ing in Ot­tawa in 1905.

A third brother, Ge­orge, had ar­rived here a few years ear­lier, but drowned in a swim­ming ac­ci­dent in July 1908.

Ac­cord­ing to an Au­gust 1962 ar­ti­cle in The News – pub­lished to com­mem­o­rate the erec­tion of an On­tario Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal and His­toric Sites Board plaque near the site of his North Lan­cas­ter res­i­dence ear­lier that month – “Dr. D.D. McDon­ald of Alexan­dria took an in­ter­est” in young Claude af­ter vis­it­ing him at St. Ge­orge’s Home (an or­phan­age) in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, and sub­se­quently sent the boy to live with his mother at her farm in Pine Hill (North Lan­cas­ter).

He at­tended the lo­cal Sep­a­rate School No. 9 in Lan­cas­ter Town­ship and worked on neigh­bour­hood farms to earn pocket money.

Fol­low­ing Mrs. McDon­ald’s death in 1912, Claude con­tin­ued work­ing on farms in the area be­fore leav­ing Glen­garry to travel across the coun­try.

He led the life of an itin­er­ant labourer be­fore heed­ing the call of ‘King and Coun­try’ and en­list­ing with the Cana­dian army in 1915.

Mr. Nun­ney was awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross, posthu­mously, in De­cem­ber 1918, just over a month af­ter the ar­mistice was signed be­tween the Al­lies and Ger­many mark­ing the end of World War I.

He re­ceived the VC – the Bri­tish Em­pire’s high­est mil­i­tary hon­our – for his ac­tions dur­ing the fight­ing near Vis-en-Ar­tois, France, on Sept. 1 and 2, 1918.

The only Cana­dian ser­vice­man of the First World War to re­ceive the Vic­to­ria Cross, the Dis­tin­guished Con­duct Medal (DCM) and the Mil­i­tary Medal (MM), Pte. Nun­ney suf­fered two fa­tal wounds in the Vis-en-Ar­tois bat­tle and died in hos­pi­tal two weeks later at the age of 25.

The Bri­tish ‘Blue Plaque’ pro­gram – sim­i­lar to the one ad­min­is­tered by the On­tario Her­itage Trust to hon­our sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal fig­ures and events in the province – is over­seen by English Her­itage to, ac­cord­ing to their web­site, com­mem­o­rate “the link be­tween no­table fig­ures of the past and build­ings in which they lived and worked.” Plaque cre­ations and ded­i­ca­tion ini­tia­tives are led by vol­un­teer groups. Mr. Silk has al­ready pro­cured the sup­port of a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion in Hast­ings to help cover the as­so­ci­ated costs ( £1,000 or about $1,700 CDN) of the project.

The ini­tia­tive also has the back­ing of South Glen­garry coun­cil, which sent a let­ter of sup­port to Mr. Silk in the sum­mer of 2014.

The text on the plaque – which will likely be cir­cu­lar or ovate in shape – would read as fol­lows: ‘VC Badge, Pri­vate Claude Nun­ney, VC DCM MM, 19th July 1892 – 18th Septem­ber 1918, 38th Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force & Home Child, was born here; Hast­ings Bor­ough Coun­cil.’

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