George Price was from Moose Jaw, Sask. He was 25-years-old when he was killed in action.
As he was pursuing the retreating Germans, he was shot. And, one minute later, he died in the arms of a Belgian nurse.
Price died at 10:58 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918. Two minutes later, armistice came into effect. The war was over.
“Tragically, though thankfully, George was the last Canadian and Commonwealth soldier to be killed in action as part of the war to end all wars we now know as the First World War,” B.C. Dragoons Lt. Col. Mike McGinty said, without amplification due to a microphone malfunction, to a silent and nearly-full crowd at Kal Tire Place for Vernon’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
A musical prelude by the Vernon Community Band started the ceremony before sentries were ordered to fall in at 10:20 a.m. and the Parade of Veterans marched at 10:25 a.m.
McGinty, a guest speaker, was joined in his commemorative efforts by Salvation Army Lt. Tinisha Reid, who led the prayer and address; Legion president Jen Pace, who read scripture; Dennis Windsor, who read Brian J. Court’s 2014 poem War; Bev Fester of the Army Navy Airforce Veterans Unit No. 5, who read In Flanders Fields and others.
“Can you hear me now?” McGinty shouted to uproarious applause after his microphone cut out with an almost-palpable clap.
“As we gather here today, 100 years after his death and the armistice, we are here to remember him and the 68,000 of his colleagues who gave their lives in that war.”
According to Greater Vernon Museum and Archives assistant curator Jesslyn Jarvis, 1,000 men from Vernon — then a town of 3,000 — went to battle.
“We can only imagine the devastating impact that that war has had on this community, across the country and on this world as a whole,” McGinty said. “We remember them. Sadly, the armistice does not mark the end of war. World War One was known as the war to end all wars. Despite a welcome downward trend in death tolls by war, since then, a further 49,000 Canadians have given their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Under the direction of The Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 25’s colour party, Army, Navy Airforce Veterans Unit No. 5 past president and current member Fern Davis said Vernon’s two national veterans’ organizations are committed to honouring those who fought for Canada and freedom. Members of both the Legion and Army Navy Airforce donned ceremonial garb and picked up flags to march in the Parade of Veterans.
“The Army-Navy was formed in 1876 to honour veterans. It’s really important for us to remember everybody. They fought so that we could have a good Canada, a democracy,” Dupont said. “I just think it’s so important that everybody remembers them, not just the older people but the younger people too. I know a lot of the cadets are getting involved and it’s fantastic.”
Both organizations are in need of new members to carry on the veteran’s creed, they said.
As soon as the clock struck 11 a.m., silence fell upon the substantial crowd. At 11:01 a.m., a piper with the Kalamalka Highlanders rang in the Lament, followed by a bugler’s Rouse.
Laying of the Wreaths and a final chorus of God Save the Queen marked the end of Vernon’s Remembrance Day ceremony, after which all were invited to place their poppies upon the cenotaph.
“Commemoration of the armistice has become a well-established ceremony in the past 100 years, but it is not just the commemoration of bravery and sacrifice,” McGinty said. “All of these brothers and sisters in arms deserve to be remembered not just because they died, but because they lived.”