Saskatchewan soldier became tragic part of history 2 minutes before First World War ended
George Lawrence Price was the only Canadian casualty on Nov. 11, 1918
This story was originally published Nov. 10, 2018.
The last Canadian soldier to die in battle in the First World War was a 25-year-old man who had been living in Moose Jaw, Sask.
George Lawrence Price was fatally shot by a German sniper at 10:58 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice was official.
Many soldiers would die in the days after the armistice was declared, some succumbed to their wounds, others to an outbreak of the Spanish flu.
Price was the last Canadian soldier to die in action.
The Canadians literally had the Germans on the run.- Bill Waiser
Price was born in Falmouth, N.S., but at some point moved to Moose Jaw to get married, and was working as a farm labourer.
He was conscripted into service by the 1917 Military Service Act. According to Bill Waiser, University of Saskatchewan professor emeritus of history, this represented a broken promise by the government of the day.
"In the election of 1917, Robert Borden vowed to keep farmers and farm labourers out of the war," said Waiser. "He went back on his word soon after he was elected."
Price did his basic training in England and saw his first action in late May of 1918. Waiser says Price was part of the 100 Days Campaign in Arras and Amien in northern France. He was wounded in September in a gas attack, but was back with the 28th Northwest Battallion by mid-October.
"On the day he was killed, they had advanced seven kilometres," says Waiser. "The Canadians literally had the Germans on the run."
But with only two minutes left in the war, Price paid the ultimate price.
"He was the only Canadian casualty on that final day of World War I."
Honoured in Belgium
In Canada, Private Price is remembered along with thousands of other soldiers on Remembrance Day. But it's a different story in Belgium.
His life and sacrifice is commemorated in special ceremonies in the communities of Mons and LeReoulx. And this year, as it is the 100th anniversary of Great War, there will be special ceremonies to remember his life and service.
Benoit Friart is the mayor of LeReoulx.
"Our community's connection to George Price really began in 1968. We had the first commemoration of the house right where George Price was shot by a German sniper," says Friart.
That house and some neighbouring homes were slated for demolition to build a channel within a few years.
"So we moved the little commemoration plaque from the house, to a wall near a footbridge, and eventually we renamed the bridge for George Price."
There is also a school named for Price in the area. In the past few months a new variety of rose was named the George Price Rose.
This memorial is an expression of gratitude for what Canada did for our liberation, restoring democracy in our country.- LeReoulx Mayor Benoit Friart
The people of LeReoulx had decided years ago to commission a new memorial to honour Price for 2018 for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice.
In an unexpected way, Private Price has helped to create new connections.
Every year people from the village and military personnel from the nearby NATO group called SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Power Europe) gather to remember Price. That means Belgians and Canadians have the opportunity to create bonds and friendships.
That's how Saskatchewanian Tammy Schneider first learned about Price.
Schneider is in Belgium with her husband, who works for NATO's SHAPE organization.
"I grew up in Regina, and lived in Moose Jaw, but didn't know a lot about George Price before coming to Belgium."
She has attended the ceremonies in LeReoulx annually for the past couple of years.
She's also been to the ceremony in Mons, Belgium, where Price is also honoured. She thinks it's important to remember Price and the sacrifice he represents, even 100 years later.
"For us, he brought values of courage and solidarity. We want to transmit those values to our younger generation. For us, this memorial is an expression of gratitude for what Canada did for our liberation, restoring democracy in our country."