Tag Archives: George Price

The last man

 

George Price is the last man.

It is Price’s sad place in history to be the last British soldier killed in World War One.

Private George Lawrence Price (#256265) has a further distinction of being the 60,661stCanadian killed in WWI.

The Armistice was signed in a railcar in the Forest de Compiegne at 5 am on the morning of November 11, 1918. Under the terms of the Armistice fighting would cease six hours later at 11 am. The time delay was needed to relay the message to the various military headquarters then down through the divisions, brigades, battalions to the front-line ranks as well as those smaller units and individuals hidden behind enemy lines and in rural and remote fronts.

Private Price was with a small advance unit trying to secure the village of Havre in Belgium. To accomplish their mission, they crossed the Canal du Centre into Ville-sur-Haine, where they knew a German machinegun unit was located. After taking cover in a local home, Price and one of his comrades stepped outside and into the sights of a German sniper 400 yards away. There is some variation about the exact minute, but between 10:50 and 10:54 am, Price was shot. Price was carried back inside by his fellow Canadian.

A young Belgian nurse, Alice Grotte, witnessed the shooting and risked her life to run to his aid. As Price lay dying he pulled a small crocheted flower that his fiancé in Saskatchewan had given him from his tunic and handed it to Grotte. Private Price died at 10:58 am, November 11, 1918, two minutes before war’s end. He was 25.

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The dark, heart-shaped flower stained with George Price’s blood was preserved by a Belgian nurse who held him as he died. This is the last blood a British soldier shed in World War One. (Allan Lynch Photo)

 

Seventy-three years later, Price’s nephew, George Barkhouse of Kingsport, Nova Scotia, was in Ville-sur-Haine for the commemoration of the George Price footbridge over the Canal du Centre. Alice Grotte’s daughter returned the preserved flower, brown with Price’s blood, to Barkhouse.

The flower had been placed in a small frame, with a maple leaf and this inscription:

“On the 11 Nov 1918

On the final instant

Where [when] the peace is signed

You fell for us

The last victim of the sad conflict.

 

Thank you George Price!

A drop of your blood tarnishes this simple

Flower that you concealed on your breast.”

While news of the armistice moved swiftly around the world, Barkhouse says the runner carrying news of war’s end hadn’t reached Price’s unit when the shooting happened. So, as Price lay dying in a foreign land his mother and sisters were in the village of Church Street, now Port Williams, celebrating. They sang patriotic songs, danced, and like their friends and neighbours were happy and relieved that the killing had stopped. Unfortunately, they then returned home to the devastating news of George’s death. Barkhouse doesn’t know how the news was delivered to the family. Telephones were scarce and the Annapolis Valley was too far from Halifax for the military to send a team to deliver the message in person.

 

Barkhouse, who was named for his uncle and born 11 years after his uncle’s death, says his family didn’t speak much of George. Price’s death was too painful for his grandmother, mother and family. George had been the favoured son and brother. He was one of two boys and seven girls born to James E. and Annie R. Price. He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, (outside of Windsor) and raised in Port Williams (between Wolfville and Kentville). As an adult he worked at a logging camp in Falmouth and later as a farmer labourer in Stoney Beach, Saskatchewan.

For those who believe in fate coming in threes, the sniper was Price’s third and final

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June and George Barkhouse in Kingsport stand by the Minas Basin with the blood-stained flower his uncle gave to a Belgian nurse. (Allan Lynch Photo)

 

brush with death. Barkhouse says that when Price worked in logging, he was late returning to the camp one evening. He called for a man he saw standing down the lane to wait up. Just as Price reached him, the ‘man’ dropped to his four paws and went off into the woods. That night the bear wasn’t interested in Price. Price’s second temp with fate was September 8th, 1918 when he was gassed in an attack at the Canal-du-Nord.

George Price is buried in the St. Symphoriem Military Cemetery. Originally, he was buried near John Parr, 4thBattalion Middlesex Regiment, who was the first British soldier killed in WWI. Parr’s remains were later moved to a British war cemetery. In addition to the George Price bridge, there is a school named for him and on the 50thanniversary of his death and the Armistice, his comrades erected a monument near the spot where he was shot. It reads:

“In Memory of 256265 Private George Lawrence Price 28thNorth West Battalion 6thCanadian Infrantry Brigade 2ndCanadian Division killed in action near this spot at 10.58 hours November 11th1918 The last Canadian soldier to die on the Western Front in the First World War erected by his comrades November 11th1968.”

While many Canadians don’t know of Price’s story, June Barkhouse, George’s wife of 65 years, says that on one of their visits to St. Symphoriem, they met a woman placing flowers on war graves. That woman told Barkhouse, “all these years later, we don’t forget.”

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In Remembrance

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we remember.

Some returned, many didn’t.

My travels have taken me from the poppy-strewn former battlefields of Flanders to the poppy-filed moat at the Tower of London, the Canada Memorial in Green Park which points to Halifax, the Imperial War Museum to Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel in Northern France. In Normandy our sites range from a garden where the SS committed a war crime against Canadians to one of our many war cemeteries. Then Dieppe. And The Netherlands. And back to French Flanders and an empty grave of a WWI Canadian repatriated home to lie in Ottawa in the Tomb of the Unknown. Then there is the magnitude of the Ring of Remembrance which lists the names of the 579,606 soldiers who died fighting in French Flanders in WWI. Finally, the Annapolis Valley memorial to the last Imperial soldier killed in WWI.

I understand from Atout France that six million people a year visit their battlegrounds, invasion beaches and war cemeteries. Half of those who visit have travelled from Canada, the United States and Australia.

For those who haven’t done it, a pilgrimage to these sites is worth it. They provide context and a real appreciation for what is important in life.

My father, far right above the '4', and his comrades with a captured Nazi naval flag in Northern Holland.

My father, far right above the ‘4’, and his comrades with a captured Nazi naval flag in Northern Holland.

In a Flanders Field the poppies grow ... they grew when Col. John McCrae wrote the poem. They continue to grow.

In a Flanders Field the poppies grow … they grew when Col. John McCrae wrote the poem. They continue to grow.

To commemorate WWI, 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies were added to the moat of The Tower of London. One poppy for every British and Commonwealth soldier killed in WWI.

To commemorate the start of WWI, 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies were added to the moat of The Tower of London. One poppy for every British and Commonwealth soldier killed in WWI.

The Canada Memorial is in Green Park, within view of The Queen's office. It has a Compass Rose pointing to Halifax, which was the departure port for the convoys which kept Britain supplied during both world wars. Halifax and Sydney were the lifeblood of the Allied war efforts.

The Canada Memorial is in Green Park, within view of The Queen’s office. It has a Compass Rose pointing to Halifax, which was the departure port for the convoys which kept Britain supplied during both world wars. Halifax and Sydney were the lifeblood of the Allied war efforts.

A display at the Imperial War Museum in London. The IWM was created after WWI so that people never forgot the madness and cost of war.

A display at the Imperial War Museum in London. The IWM was created after WWI so that people never forgot the madness and cost of war.

The Vimy Ridge Memorial commemorates the heroic battle where Canadian troops fought for the first time as Canadian troops. Historians credit this act and this place as the formation of Canadian identity. It is a site so beautiful, so serene and so moving that when Hitler visited it, he decided not to destroy it.

The Vimy Ridge Memorial commemorates the heroic battle where Canadian troops fought for the first time as Canadian troops. Historians credit this act and this place as the formation of Canadian identity. It is a site so beautiful, so serene and so moving that when Hitler visited it, he decided not to destroy it.

The Mother Canada statue at Vimy Ridge weeps for her lost generations.

The Mother Canada statue at Vimy Ridge weeps for her lost generations.

The base of the Vimy Ridge memorial is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians killed in France. Visitors leave signs of remembrance.

The base of the Vimy Ridge memorial is inscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians killed in France. Visitors leave signs of remembrance.

The caribou at Beaumont Hamel seems to cry for the lost generation of Newfoundlanders who perished at this place on the launch of the Battle of the Somme. The fighting was so hellish that the Royal Newfoundland Regiment suffered at 80% casualty rate in 30 minutes!

The caribou at Beaumont Hamel seems to cry for the lost generation of Newfoundlanders who perished at this place on the launch of the Battle of the Somme. The fighting was so hellish that the Royal Newfoundland Regiment suffered an 80% casualty rate in 30 minutes!

Juno Beach in Normandy was where the Canadians landed on D-Day. They were the only Allied force to meet their objective for D-Day.

Juno Beach in Normandy was where the Canadians landed on D-Day. They were the only Allied force to meet their objective for D-Day.

The Juno Beach Centre is Canada's museum to WWII. It overlooks the landing beach.

The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s museum to WWII. It overlooks the landing beach.

The Canadian war cemetery at Benys sur Mer near Juno Beach has 2,048 graves. This is only one of the Canadian war cemeteries in Normandy.

The Canadian war cemetery at Benys sur Mer near Juno Beach has 2,048 graves. This is only one of the Canadian war cemeteries in Normandy.

This memorial in the Canada Garden at the L'Abbey d'Ardenne remembers the war crime committed by the Nazi SS on 20 Canadian soldiers.

This memorial in the Canada Garden at the L’Abbey d’Ardenne remembers the war crime committed by the Nazi SS on 20 Canadian soldiers.

Acts of constant remembrance at the L'Abbey d'Ardenne's Canada Garden.

Acts of constant remembrance at the L’Abbey d’Ardenne’s Canada Garden.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise remembers liberation by remembering US Paratrooper John Steele whose parachute got entangled in the church tower. It is an event used in the movie, The Longest Day.

Sainte-Mere-Eglise remembers liberation by remembering US Airborne  Paratrooper John Steele whose parachute got entangled in the church tower. It is an event used in the movie, The Longest Day.

The American cemetery at Omaha Beach holds the remains of 9,387 soldiers killed in D-Day.

The American cemetery at Omaha Beach holds the remains of 9,387 soldiers killed in D-Day.

Residents of Normandy, The Netherlands and Northern France adopt graves. In on-going acts of remembrance they bring fresh flowers in thanks for their liberation.

Residents of Normandy, The Netherlands and Northern France adopt graves. In on-going acts of remembrance they bring fresh flowers in thanks for their liberation.

In preparation for D-Day, Canadians attacked Dieppe. This is part of one of the war cemeteries there.

In preparation for D-Day, Canadians attacked Dieppe. This is part of one of the war cemeteries there.

One of the smaller Canadian war cemeteries in The Netherlands, the Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery holds the remains of 1,169 Canadians. This one has six kilometres of edgings around the graves.

One of the smaller Canadian war cemeteries in The Netherlands, the Bergen-op-Zoom War Cemetery holds the remains of 1,169 Canadians. This one has six kilometres of edgings around the graves.

Northern France has numerous war cemeteries, memorials and battlefields. Bodies and bombs from WWI are still being found. In 90 minutes I visited four cemeteries holding the remains of over 100,000 soldiers.

Northern France has numerous war cemeteries, memorials and battlefields. Bodies and bombs from WWI are still being found. In 90 minutes I visited four cemeteries holding the remains of over 100,000 soldiers.

This stone is for a now empty grave. This soldier was repatriated to Canada to lay in the National War Memorial in Ottawa. His name still known only to God.

This stone is for a now empty grave. This soldier was repatriated to Canada to lay in the National War Memorial in Ottawa. His name still known only to God.

The Ring of Remembrance in Notre Dame de Lorette in Northern France lists the names of the 579,606 soldiers on all sides who died here in WWI.

The Ring of Remembrance in Notre Dame de Lorette in Northern France lists the names of the 579,606 soldiers on all sides who died here in WWI.

Charlottetown, the birthplace of Canada, remembers.

Charlottetown, the birthplace of Canada, remembers.

In a far edge of a tiny churchyard in the Annapolis Valley is this memorial to George Price. The last Canadian and last Imperial solider killed in WWI. He was shot by a sniper at 10:53 am and died at 10:58 am on November 11, 1918. Two minutes shy of peace. What might have been...

In a far edge of a tiny churchyard in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley is this memorial to George Price. The last Canadian and last Imperial solider killed in WWI. He was shot by a sniper at 10:53 am and died at 10:58 am on November 11, 1918. Two minutes shy of peace. What might have been…

 

 

The last man

A plaque to George Price in the Anglican Church yard in Port Williams.

A plaque to George Price in the Anglican Church yard in Port Williams.

The small crocheted flower, dark with the blood of George Price, was preserved and framed by a young Belgian woman that he gave it to as he lay dying. 70 years later her daughter returned it to his nephew.

The small crocheted flower, dark with the blood of George Price, was preserved and framed by a young Belgian woman that he gave it to as he lay dying. 70 years later her daughter returned it to his nephew.

The last Imperial soldier killed in World War One was George Price from Port Williams, Nova Scotia. Under the terms of the Armistice hostilities would cease at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. According to Margrete Kristianson, a curator at the Prescott House Museum in Starr’s Point, near Port Williams, Price was shot by a sniper at 10:54 and died at 10:58 am, two minutes before war’s end.

In the last four minutes of his life Price gave the crocheted flower his girlfriend in Saskatchewan had given him to a young Belgian woman who had run to his aid. At a 1991 dedication of a bridge in Belgium near the spot where Price was shot that girl’s daughter gave the framed, blood soaked flower to Price’s nephew, George Barkhouse of Kingsport. Barkhouse, who was born after the war, says his mother and grandmother had been in Port Williams with other family members and community residents celebrating war’s end, then came home to the crushing news of Price’s death.