Featured Pioneer Profile

Colonel James Walker
(14 April 14, 1864 - 31 March, 1936). At the age of 70, during World War I, the indomitable Walker was made a captain in the 238th Forestry Battalion and went overseas. As well as inspecting and making recommendations on forest resources in England and Scotland, for the supply of wood to the forces, he commanded a company in Cumberland. In one hectic week his men cut an unprecedented 36,400 feet of lumber per day. He was promoted major in 1917 and stayed in Britain until 1919.

Excerpt from Max Foran, "WALKER, JAMES," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003-, accessed November 8, 2016, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/walker_james_16E.html.

Lest We Forget

by John F. Rauchert

The stated objective of The Southern Alberta Pioneers and Their Descendants (SAPD) is to rescue from oblivion the memory of the early pioneers of Southern Alberta and to obtain and preserve narratives of their exploits, perils and adventures.

My own personal interest in the First World War was first sparked when I found an Army Class A Badge marked with "FOR SERVICE AT THE FRONT" in a jar of buttons my mother had bought at a flea market. I was later to find out that it was awarded to members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) who served honourably at the front and that the number on the back might make it possible to track down to whom it belonged.

My next encounter with the war was while scanning my wife's family photographs and I came across a mysterious one, it showed a horse-drawn ambulance at the Calgary Stampede grounds, but there was no indication of who might be pictured in the photograph.

These two fleeting windows into the First World War made me want to find out more. It led me to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group online and eventually I helped with an article about a veteran who lived in the Beltline area near the Connaught School.

When updating the SAPD website and merging the short profiles into a single resource, I ran across references to military service.

While the descendants of Southern Alberta Pioneers would have joined in great numbers, the original Pioneers who would have been over the age of 41 at the time of the outbreak of the "Great" war were far rarer. Destined, in many cases, to the same hardships of the frontlines that often consumed much younger men.

Although probably not a complete list, here are the Pioneer Veterans of the WWI which can be found in the SAPD Pioneer Short Profiles (see our featured profile for contributions by Colonel James Walker overseas).

Sergeant Andrew Anderson (service record)

Andrew served as a Sergeant with the 50th Battalion in the First World War. In 1916, at the Front in France, he contracted Trench Fever and while convalescing in England he also underwent an appendectomy. As a result, he spent the rest of his time overseas serving in the Canadian Postal Corps.

Francis (Frank) Norton Bedingfeld

When WWI started, Frank sold many horses to the Canadian Army and tried to enlist for service himself. Eventually, he was accepted as an ambulance driver and served overseas for two years.

Major Oswald Asheton Critchley (service record)

Oswald joined Lord Strathcona's Horse as a machine gun officer along with his sons, Alfred and John, and served in France. John was twice wounded and received the Military Cross. John later died of wounds received while leading his squadron in a mounted action in 1917. Alfred was wounded twice and awarded the DSO in 1916. Oswald's other son, Walter, was in the Calgary Highlanders and received the DSO at Vimy Ridge. Some of these events would be published in Alfred's memoirs "Critch! The Memoirs of Brigadier-General A.C. Critchley", in 1961.

Major Frank William Walter Fane (service record)

Major Fane was one of the original members of the NWMP stationed at Fort Walsh and then Calgary in 1882. He also served at Battleford, Lethbridge, Fort Steele and finally Fort Macleod where he was discharged in 1890. During WWI, he was a Major, commanding 'C' Squadron, 19th Alberta Dragoons, 3rd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles.

Woman presenting colours to Major Frank Fane, Edmonton, Alberta, 1915

In 1915, his trench was hit by a shell and he was blown out the trench, fracturing his left leg for which his medical report states he "required a long rest". An account by a Lieutenant Campbell, in the December 30, 1915 Lethbridge Daily Herald reported that "Major Fane was a brick, and as brave and cheerful as could be. He was made as comfortable as possible in the bottom of the trench, and he laughed and kept the boys in good spirits. When it was over, and night came on, our stretcher-bearers started taking out the wounded, but the Major would not let himself be moved until all were out. I then let six of my big men from First Troop carry him. He has now been sent to England, and will not be back for some months. We will miss the Major so much. He was like a dad to us, and the place seems lost without him."

Major Fane's Fracture with plates put in place

Charles William Gordon (pseud. Ralph Connor) (service record)

In 1915, Charles became chaplain of the 43rd Cameron Highlanders Battalion. In 1916, he was made senior chaplain of Canadian Forces in England with the rank of Major and proceeded to France as senior chaplain, 9th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force. He was recalled to Canada and appointed by both the British and Canadian governments to represent the Allied cause to the United States in a speaking tour.

Private James Hastie Johnston (service record)

In 1885, James Johnston joined up when the North West Rebellion broke out. He was discharged in the east, but boarded a cattle car and came west again. He served as a driver in the 11th Field Company, Canadian Engineers, 4th Canadian Division in France for twenty two months during WWI.

In 1918, he was returned from France due to his "Advanced Age" of 52, suffering from muscular pains in the arms and back. His medical report says that "this man appears fairly well preserved for his age".

Peter Gorrie Johnston

His profile states he served in WWI. He passed away on July 6, 1948 in Didsbury, Alberta, Aged 78. Nothing more is currently known of his military service.

Captain James (Jim) Smith Lambert (service record)

Jim Lambert served with the NWMP at Fort Macleod from 1889 to 1898. When the South African War broke out he returned to Winnipeg, Manitoba where he enlisted. Jim returned to Fort Macleod after the war in 1901 and in 1902 was a member of the Lord Strathcona's Horse unit that attended the Coronation of Edward VII. He was back in uniform when WWI broke out, serving with the 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles, ending the war as a Captain.

Captain James Smith Lambert meeting the Prince of Wales at Fort Macleod, Alberta, 1919

Major Horace Meeres

Horace who had previous experience with the 35th Central Alberta Horse, went overseas as a Lieutenant with the 187th Battalion and served with the 50th Battalion. He was wounded at Vimy Ridge on April 10, 1917 receiving a bullet wound to the right thigh.

He was sent back to England to recover and eventually returned to France in March 1918 to serve with the Canadian Railway Troops. He later became a Major.

After demobilization, he worked for the Soldiers Settlement until 1919. A brother, Private Edgar S. Meeres, PPCLI was killed during the war and two sons Edwin Leonard Meeres and Horace Meeres also served (the younger Horace was wounded in 1916).

Captain Harold William Riley

He served with the Canadian Mounted Rifles 1909-1910, as Paymaster 101st Regiment, Edmonton Fusiliers. Enlisted with the 137th Battalion in the First World War. After the war he helped found the Southern Alberta Pioneers' and Old Timers' Association, and he served as secretary from 1921 to 1943.

Harold's service record, and a letter to his wife Maude from overseas can be found in the Glenbow Archives. Maude Riley herself was active in the Great War Veterans Association, the Canadian War Contingent Association, and the Belgian Relief Fund.

Captain Harold William Riley at Sarcee Army Camp, Calgary, Alberta, Summer 1916

With the passing of the last known surviving WWI veteran of the Canadian military in 2010, the Great War has now passed out of Living Memory. So, it now belongs to us to preserve and to rescue from oblivion the memory of these men and women who served and are serving to protect the country we call home. Lest we forget.

As a footnote, the Library and Archives of Canada have been digitizing many of the First World War personnel records and making them available through this online resource: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/search.aspx