Remembering the World at war: The ultimate sacrifice

Justin
Justin Crann
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Pte. George Price died minutes before the end of the First World War

George Lawrence Price was not born in Moose Jaw, but he was working as a farm labourer in the area when he joined the fight in the First World War.

On Oct. 15, 1917 in Moose Jaw, Price was conscripted into the Canadian Armed Forces and placed with the 210th Infantry Battalion.

He was transferred a number of times before being sent to the front with the 28th Canadian Infantry Battalion in May, 1918 — less than a year before the conclusion of the war.

He arrived in France on May 2, and joined his unit on the first day of June.

Price would not see significant action with the unit until Aug. 9, when the 28th Battalion took over as one half of the lead in an advance during the Battle of Amiens.

Amiens was the beginning of the Hundred Days Offensive, the final push by the Allies against the Central Powers. The campaign was the only military action Price would experience.

Shortly after, he participated as a member of the 28th Battalion in an operation to cross the dry River Cojuel, near Wancourt.

After being driven back and forced to dig in without reaching their objective, the 28th Battalion — joined by the 27th — attacked the German defenders without advance artillery barrage and caught them flat-footed, driving them out of their trenches. That mission was so successful that Brig.-Gen. Arthur Bell said it was “brilliantly carried out.”

On Sept. 8, 1918, Price participated with his Battalion in the gradual advance toward the Canal du Nord. While in that area, Price was gassed, and he would spend the majority of the rest of the month in a Canadian medical station before being discharged from the station and returned to his unit on Sept. 26.

In early October, the 28th participated in the Battle of Cambrai. The battle was primarily conducted with the use of tanks and there were fewer than 20 casualties.

At 9 a.m. on Oct. 11, the Battalion participated in some urban warfare in the assault of the Village of Iwuy. Units of the German Ersatz Division were defending the city and the fighting was vicious.

When the 31st Battalion joined the battle shortly after its onset, the Germans were outgunned and promptly defeated. The village was captured around noon of the same day.

In November, the 28th Battalion participated in the Pursuit to Mons.

Price participated in the Pursuit, even leading a small patrol in an advance on the Ville-sur-Haine to assault a German machine gunner who was guarding a crossing and harrying Price’s Battalion as they crossed the nearby river.

It was that mission, conducted on Nov. 11, that would prove fatal for Price.

After entering a home they believe the machine gunner was occupying, Price’s group was told by the house’s occupants that the Germans had gone out the back door.

His group pursued into another house, where Price was told not to pursue further or they would shoot and likely kill him. He didn’t listen, surging into the next street, where he was shot in the chest by a German sniper.

He collapsed into the arms of his friend, Pte. Arthur “Art” Goodmurphy. He was dragged into a nearby house, where his fellow soldiers and the occupants worked to save his life, but to no avail. Price died at 10:58 on Nov. 11, 1918 — less than two minutes before the Armistice was to take effect and the war was to end. He is widely regarded as the last Allied fatality in the First World War.

Price, who was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, was buried in the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium. Pte. John Parr of Britain, the first soldier killed in the war, is buried in the same cemetery.

On Nov. 11, 1968 — 50 years after Price was killed — the surviving members of his Battalion returned to Ville-sur-Haine to unveil a plaque located on the wall of a house near the place Price was killed.

The plaque is dedicated to his memory.

Justin Crann can be reached at 306-691-1265 or follow him on Twitter @J_Crann

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