Watch keeps mem­ory alive

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - RYCH MILLS rych­mills@golden.net

The tele­gram ar­rived at 96 St. Ge­orge St. in Kitch­ener on Fri­day morn­ing, Nov. 23, 1917, and it was Ge­orge Pe­queg­nat’s third gut­punch in two-and-a-half years.

Just seven weeks ear­lier, his mother Françoise had passed away; in March 1915, his wife Al­farata had died.

Even be­fore open­ing the tele­gram, he knew one of his three serv­ing sons would not be re­turn­ing.

Which was it? Arthur, Tro­chon or Emanuel? All three were serv­ing in the France/Bel­gium bor­der area where fight­ing in the Third Bat­tle of Ypres was most vi­cious. The Cana­dian Corps had been or­dered in to clear the Ger­mans from Pass­chen­daele Ridge and the de­ci­sive push be­gan on Nov. 6. Next day, through­out France and Bel­gium, 746 Al­lied sol­diers died: most of them at Pass­chen­daele, many of them Cana­dian and one of them, Man­nie Pe­queg­nat.

Emanuel G. Pe­queg­nat, known as “Man­nie,” was a grand­son of the larger-than-life Ulysses Pe­queg­nat who brought his Swiss­born fam­ily — wife Françoise, eight sons and six daugh­ters, plus as­sorted rel­a­tives — to Ber­lin, Ont., in 1874. Jewelry and clock­mak­ing were in the fam­ily DNA and soon the Pe­queg­nat name had spread, be­com­ing equally prom­i­nent in Water­loo, Strat­ford, Neustadt, Brant­ford, Guelph, Tav­i­s­tock and New Ham­burg. The clock fac­tory in Ber­lin pro­duced some of Canada’s most fa­mous time­pieces and later branched out into man­u­fac­tur­ing bi­cy­cles: Pe­queg­nat Ra­cy­cles.

Ge­orge, born in 1857, had been a jew­eller and watch­maker but by 1917 was help­ing to run the bi­cy­cle fac­tory. He mar­ried Al­farata W. Gaukel, a grand­daugh­ter of Ber­lin’s prom­i­nent founder, Fred­er­ick Gaukel. Their eight chil­dren in­cluded Man­nie, born in 1890. By age 21, Man­nie had strayed from the fam­ily oc­cu­pa­tions, be­com­ing a pi­ano tuner for the Ber­lin Pi­ano & Or­gan Com­pany at King West and Bre­i­thaupt streets. Man­nie en­listed with the 71st Bat­tal­ion on Sept. 18, 1915. Two months later he sailed for Eng­land with the Sec­ond Cana­dian Con­tin­gent on SS Cal­i­for­nia. Be­fore Man­nie left Ber­lin, Ge­orge pre­sented his son with a Pe­queg­nat watch in­scribed “From fa­ther to Man­nie Pe­queg­nat.”

By mid-July 1916, he is in the field with 6th Cana­dian Ma­chine Gun Com­pany. The fol­low­ing 16 months com­bined war­fare, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, leave and a dis­ci­plinary term. On Nov. 7, 1917, just as Cana­dian troops were be­gin­ning to drive the fi­nal Ger­mans from Pass­chen­daele Ridge, life ended for 603227 Man­nie Pe­queg­nat.

A let­ter to the fam­ily from Lieu­tenant Wil­liam Tucker of Man­nie’s com­pany ex­pressed his unit’s re­grets and sym­pa­thies. It went on, as th­ese let­ters usu­ally did, to as­sure the fam­ily that “... he died with­out pain, life be­ing ex­tinct im­me­di­ately af­ter the ex­plo­sion of shell oc­curred.” Although Lieu­tenant Tucker noted that “... a white cross was lo­cated where he died bear­ing the name of your son,” that site was soon oblit­er­ated.

The names of more than 54,000 sol­diers from the Com­mon­wealth who have no known grave are en­graved on the Menin Gate in Ypres — one of those listed is “Pe­queg­nat, E.G.” His name also ap­pears on his par­ents’ grave marker in Kitch­ener’s Mount Hope Ceme­tery.

Man­nie was re­mem­bered for many years by his fam­ily — and by Richard Charles Spindlove of Ed­mon­ton. As a mem­ber of the same 6th Cana­dian Ma­chine Gun Com­pany, Spindlove was one of the last peo­ple to talk with Man­nie Pe­queg­nat. Act­ing on a pre­mo­ni­tion, Man­nie gave the goin­g­away watch to his pal. If death was to be his fate, Man­nie wanted Spindlove to re­turn the watch to his fa­ther. Spindlove sur­vived the war and re­turned to Al­berta.

The Aug. 27, 1930 Kitch­ener Daily Record front-paged a let­ter which had ar­rived at the Pe­queg­nat Clock Com­pany in­quir­ing if “the fa­ther of Man­nie Pe­queg­nat” was con­nected with the firm. Ge­orge was trav­el­ling at the time so it took a few days for the two men to con­nect. On Sept. 10, 1930, the watch ar­rived in Kitch­ener. The works had not sur­vived the war and a dif­fer­ent move­ment was in­side but the en­grav­ing on the case, “From fa­ther to Man­nie Pe­queg­nat,” was still leg­i­ble. Grate­ful, Ge­orge en­graved a new case for the Ed­mon­ton man’s watch move­ment, with “In mem­ory of Man­nie,” and sent the new one back to Spindlove. Un­til his own death in 1937, Ge­orge kept the 1914 case as a me­mento of his son. Pre­sum­ably, and hope­fully, it re­mains in the fam­ily — a re­minder of the many young peo­ple of Ber­lin/ Kitch­ener who gave their lives in the iron­i­cally-named Great War.

•••

Spindlove’s let­ter and the news­pa­per ar­ti­cles talk about a 16-year gap be­tween Manny’s death un­til the watch was re­turned in 1930. With­out doubt, he died on Nov. 7, 1917, so the gap was only 13 years. Man­nie’s broth­ers all sur­vived the war.

•••

On Wed­nes­day, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Vic­to­ria Park pav­il­ion, the post card col­lec­tors club meets. Guest speaker Tom Reitz presents se­lec­tions from his ex­ten­sive real photo Christ­mas post­card col­lec­tion. All wel­come, no ad­mis­sion charge.

WATER­LOO RE­GION MU­SEUM

Paul Pe­queg­nat was Man­nie’s un­cle and one of Ber­lin, On­tario’s pre­mier jew­el­ers and watch­mak­ers. In all like­li­hood, Paul’s brother Ge­orge pur­chased a pocket watch sim­i­lar to this when son Man­nie en­listed in 1915 and en­graved it “From fa­ther to Man­nie Pe­queg­nat.”

KITCH­ENER DAILY TELE­GRAPH, PEACE SOU­VENIR

Look­ing ex­actly like the pi­ano tuner he was be­fore en­list­ment, Emanuel “Man­nie” Pe­queg­nat be­came one of al­most 4,000 Cana­di­ans killed in the three weeks it took Cana­dian sol­diers to cap­ture Pass­chen­daele Ridge.

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