‘I was made to feel like a celebrity’

Nephew of last com­mon­wealth solider killed in First World War vis­its Bel­gium for mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - COVER STORY - BY SYLVIA JACQUARD SPE­CIAL TO KINGSCOUN­TYNEWS.CA

An in­vi­ta­tion to re­turn to Villesur-Haine in 2018, made four years ago dur­ing a three-day visit to Bel­gium to mark the start of the First World War, came to pass re­cently when Ge­orge and June Bark­house and their grand­daugh­ter, Sylvia Des­lo­ges, re­turned to at­tend the un­veil­ing of a new mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to Ge­orge Lawrence Price, Ge­orge’s un­cle and name­sake.

Price was killed at two min­utes be­fore the Ar­mistice end­ing the war took ef­fect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

This mon­u­ment is yet an­other way in which Ville-sur-Haine has hon­oured Price’s mem­ory.

It be­gan 50 years ear­lier when a plaque with a pho­to­graph ded­i­cated to Price’s mem­ory was placed on the front of the house he was ex­it­ing when he was fa­tally shot.

When that house, and oth­ers, were de­mol­ished to al­low for a canal to be widened, the plaque was af­fixed to a new me­mo­rial near a pedes­trian bridge. The Bark­houses were in­vited to the vil­lage in 1991 for the ded­i­ca­tion of the “Passerelle Ge­orge Price” lo­cated near the build­ing where Price was killed by a Ger­man sniper. Vil­lage res­i­dents also named their ele­men­tary school Ecole Ge­orge Price in 1995.

In 2014, the mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil of Roeulx, lo­cal his­to­ri­ans and Cana­dian sol­diers based at the nearby Supreme Head­quar­ters Al­lied Pow­ers Europe (SHAPE) re­ceived the sup­port of the Am­bas­sador of Canada and the Cana­dian Min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs to con­struct a new, much larger me­mo­rial. The Bark­houses were in­vited to re­turn to Ville-sur-Haine for the un­veil­ing of this mon­u­ment.

This was just one of three days of cer­e­monies and events in Bel­gium that the Bark­houses, as part of a 41-mem­ber Govern­ment of Canada del­e­ga­tion, at­tended in hon­our of the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War.

Canada’s part in the lib­er­a­tion of Bel­gium was the fo­cus of their stop at an ele­men­tary school in Hyon, where they viewed stu­dent pro­jects about events. The chil­dren waved Cana­dian flags and re­leased red and white bal­loons dur­ing the visit. They were quite taken, as were the Bark­houses, with the hoop dance per­formed by a First Na­tions dancer who started with one hoop, pro­gressed to eight in all and gave the im­pres­sion of a wreath.

“It was won­der­ful to be a Cana­dian in Bel­gium,” said Bark­house.

He was taken aback at the shocked re­ac­tion of the cu­ra­tor at the Musee des Pro­ces­sions in Hyon when he was in­tro­duced as Ge­orge Price’s nephew.

“I was made to feel like a celebrity.”

A visit to the Mons Mu­seum was fol­lowed by a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at the St. Julien Cana­dian Me­mo­rial and the Rail­way Dugouts Burial Ground Ceme­tery. Small wooden crosses with a poppy at­tached were made by the youth del­e­gates and placed on the graves of Cana­dian sol­diers at the Rail­way Dugouts Ceme­tery.

Dur­ing their visit to the Menin Gate Me­mo­rial to the Miss­ing, June Bark­house was greatly af­fected by the field of pa­per pop­pies on both sides of the walk­way at back of the me­mo­rial. “There were just so many,” she re­called.

Nov. 10 be­gan with a trip to the St. Sym­phorien Mil­i­tary Cemetary in Mons, on land do­nated on the con­di­tion that sol­diers from both sides of the con­flict be buried there. It is here that Price is buried, and that Ge­orge Bark­house and Gover­nor Gen­eral Julie Payette jointly laid a wreath on his grave.

Michael Sears, a piper, and Kevin MacDon­ald, a drum­mer in the RCMP Pipe and Drum Band who had at­tended the Re­mem­brance Day Ob­ser­vance in Port Wil­liams, Price’s home­town, left the pro­gram and their pop­pies from that event on Price’s grave.

In the af­ter­noon it was time for the event that they had trav­elled more than 5,000 kilo­me­tres to at­tend: the in­au­gu­ra­tion and re­mem­brance cer­e­mony at the Price Mon­u­ment in Ville-sur-Haine, which was at­tended by Princess Astrid of Bel­gium, Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel, Gover­nor Gen­eral Payette, Min­is­ter of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Sea­mus O’Re­gan, lo­cal dig­ni­taries and staff and stu­dents from Ecole Ge­orge Price.

“It was very, very mov­ing for me,” said Ge­orge Bark­house, who was asked to read The Act of Re­mem­brance dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

The new me­mo­rial is made up of a small land­scaped area with four in­for­ma­tion pan­els and the sculp­ture in the mid­dle. The ap­prox­i­mately three-me­tre high sculp­ture is in the shape of a large drop, which, ac­cord­ing to the sculp­tor, Sylvain Patte, sym­bol­ized blood, sac­ri­fice and the tears of those who lost loved ones.

Dur­ing his visit in 2014, Bark­house saw a wo­man in the crowd hold­ing up a framed pho­to­graph of Price. He learned af­ter­wards that the photo had been miss­ing since 1991, when the 1968 mon­u­ment, which in­cluded a plaque and photo, was moved. The wo­man’s hus­band, who worked for the lo­cal govern­ment, had told her to keep it safe.

The Re­mem­brance Day Ob­ser­vance, a wreath lay­ing, took place in the Grand Place in Mons. “There were Cana­dian flags ev­ery­where,” said Bark­house, adding that “so many peo­ple turned out to say thank you, no mat­ter where we went.”

At a re­cep­tion hosted by the Mayor of Mons, the Bark­houses spoke with Princess Astrid and Ge­orge Bark­house re­ceived a very spe­cial gift: the 22nd of 1918 lim­ited edi­tion Ge­orge Price watches. The eleven on the dial is re­placed by a poppy and it is flanked by the ini­tials G.P. and 11-11-1918. The red 5 has be­side it “No. 2419,” the name of the rail­road car in which the Ar­mistice was signed at 5 p.m. the day be­fore it was to take ef­fect at 11 a.m. On the back of the watch is en­graved Lest We For­get Mons 11.11.2018 and 0022/1918.

They also heard of a rose, bred in Bel­gium, that was named for Ge­orge Price.

“I hope some­day to ob­tain one for my gar­den,” said June Bark­house.

“To be hon­oured that way by so many peo­ple that you don’t even know, it is so hum­bling,” added Ge­orge Bark­house.

SYLVIA JACQUARD

Ge­orge Bark­house holds No. 22 of the 1,918 Ge­orge Price Me­mo­rial watches. It was pre­sented to him by the mayor of Mons. He and his wife, June Bark­house, were in­vited to Ville-sur-Haine, Bel­gium to at­tend the un­veil­ing of a mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to his un­cle, Ge­orge Price, who was the last Com­mon­wealth sol­dier killed in the First World War. They also at­tended other cer­e­monies held in hon­our of the 100th an­niver­sary of the war’s end.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CEN­TE­NARY NEWS

This new me­mo­rial to Ge­orge Price, un­veiled in Ville-sur-Haine where he was killed, is made up of a small land­scaped area with four in­for­ma­tion pan­els and the sculp­ture in the mid­dle. The ap­prox­i­mately three-me­tre high sculp­ture is in the shape of a large drop, which ac­cord­ing to the sculp­tor, Sylvain Patte, sym­bol­ized blood and sac­ri­fice and the tears of those who lost loved ones

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CEN­TE­NARY NEWS

This photo shows the new me­mo­rial to Ge­orge Price but also, to the far right, the Passerelle Ge­orge Price, the pedes­trian bridge named in his hon­our. Ge­orge and June Bark­house at­tended the in­au­gu­ra­tion of the bridge in 1991.

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