Manitoba family honoured by French town's celebration of 100-year-old battle

The Winnipeg family of a First World War veteran is preparing to fly to France on Tuesday to celebrate a century-old victory.

George Hambley fought in battle at Iwuy, France on Oct. 11, 1918

George Hambley was 21 when he fought in the battle at Iwuy, France on Oct. 11, 1918. (CBC)

The Winnipeg family of a First World War veteran is preparing to fly to France on Tuesday to celebrate a century-old victory.

Ruth Breckman's father, George Hambley, fought in battle in the town of Iwuy in northeastern France on Oct. 11, 1918. Not yet 22, he charged into battle on his horse as part of the Canadian Light Horse regiment, which he had been a member of for three years.

"My dad was in that last charge, and he rode into battle on his horse, Nix," Breckman said. "The horse was killed almost immediately, and his neighbour on his horse he was killed. And my dad was left lying by his horse, and there were German machine guns who were mowing them down, but they went in with swords."

Breckman, 85, and her husband Kris Breckman, 88, along with their son, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild, will join several other Canadian families in the French town to remember the sacrifice of those who fought there.

"Being there, on the site of the trenches, of the trappings of war, and of all the stories. And to think of the death, the young people. It was a dreadful, dreadful thing," said Breckman.

Ruth Breckman, 85, will fly to France to join the celebration in Iwuy. (CBC)

Hambley, a farm boy from Swan Lake, Man., kept a diary throughout his time in the war, which Breckman donated to the Archives of Manitoba. Unlike many other veterans, Breckman's father was always keen to talk about the war.

"If you had a little time he'd tell you everything he knew. It was such a big thing in his life," she said.

The town of Iwuy has planned a big celebration, including music and a parade, for the centenary. Breckman's husband, Kris, finds the gesture deeply moving.

"I feel overwhelmed with it. I just think it's such a mark of gratitude, concern, honouring, celebrating," he said.

The town isn't simply focusing on the victory of the battle, he said.

"On the committee, they had one person in a German uniform and one person in a French uniform. So they're trying to give it a picture that shows the horror and the sacrifices people involved and this kind of thing, as opposed to celebrating a victory."

Kris Breckman, 88, says the celebration is an 'overwhelming' gesture. (CBC)

After the war, Breckman's father returned to Canada. His only physical injuries came from gas exposure, which disrupted his sleep.

He ended up studying in Toronto and later became a United Church minister in in several Manitoba communities.

He passed away in 1983 at the age of 86.

Family of Manitoba WW1 soldier flies to France for 100th anniversary of battle

4 years ago
Duration 2:35
Ruth Breckman is on her way to France to celebrate her father, who was a World War 1 vet.

With files from Laura Glowacki


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