Twenty Soldiers From Vimy Ridge (Part 1)

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Beginning on April 9, the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and continuing until April 12, the last day of the battle, I will be looking at people from across Canada who fought, lived, were injured and died at the iconic battle.
Each post will feature several individuals, all of whom had an impact on the battle. We will look at their lives before, during and after the battle.

Guy Foster

Guy Foster when he returned to Vimy Ridge in 1936.

Born in 1886 in Southampton, England, Guy Foster came to Canada with his father Frank and his brother Harold, at the age of 18 in 1904. Filing for a homestead next to his father in the Long Lake District, the entire family lived at the home of Frank Binnie for the first summer until they had built their house.
During thew cold winter, Guy went to work at a blacksmith shop on the railroad, which at the time was being built west through the mountains.
The family did well with farming, and in 1908 were able to purchase a Bell City steam engine to do grain chopping throughout the district. In 1911, they upgraded to a Case steam engine.
In 1910, his mother and youngest sister came from England to join the rest of the family at the new homestead. Guy’s two other sisters would not arrive until later.
In 1914, both Guy and Harold enlisted in the army to fight overseas in the First World War. While they were away, their father farmed five quarters of land, including theirs.
On April 9, 1917, Guy was wounded and left completely blind during the battle of Vimy Ridge. His brother Harold would be killed at Passchendaele that same year.
The pain of losing her two sons was too great for Georgina, and she died the following year.
Following the war, Guy would go back to England and enrol at the St. Dunstan’s School for the Blind. While there, he learned to type, read braille, do carpentry and build hammocks.
In 1920, he returned to Canada and to the farm. He began farming with help until he passed away in 1969.

Gerald Cooke

Born on Nov. 30, 1887 at Brighton, Gerald Cooke found his way to Canada in March of 1905 just a shade under 18 years of age. Working on a farm, he was able to earn a little bit of money but soon found himself stranded without money in the winter. To fix this, he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Rifles, which he served with for eight months. He then resigned in 1906 and travelled to England on a cattle boat to help his mother who had fallen ill. He was able to nurse her back to health over the course of four months.
Coming back to Canada in April of 1907, he began working on farms once again and even spent time working in real estate and as a financial agent.
While working as a financial agent in Blairmore, he wed Jeanette Mills in 1909. They began working a farm of 320 acres and became very active in the community.
Gerald worked as a trustee of Wild Horse School, something he had even helped to organize.
When the First World War broke out, Gerald enlisted and was sent overseas in October of 1916. He was commissioned as a lieutenant and fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Soon after, he was hit by a fever and sent back to England.
After he had recovered, he was in a trial trip on a plane as he was transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.
The plane crashed while he was flying on July 28, 1917.

George Bannister

Born in Staffordshire, England in 1890, George Bannister would spend his first 20 years in England before moving to Canada and working on a farm at Cornwall, Ontario. That same year, he made his way to Watrous and began working for the Grand Trunk Railway.
Buying his own farm, he went back home to visit family and brought them back with him. While he worked for Grand Trunk Railway, his family worked the farm.
When the First World War erupted, he enlisted and began serving with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. He went overseas and fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. During the battle, he was injured and lost his right arm.
When he returned home from the war, he was unable to work at his old job as a fireman on a steam locomotive. Thankfully, he was able to continue working with the company as a night clerk. He would remain in the job for 40 more years.
He would meet Ellen Brown and marry her in 1928.
Remaining an active member of the Legion, he was given a 50-year pin and was awarded a life membership. In 1936, he made a pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge with his wife.
George passed away in 1976, two years after his wife Ellen passed away.

John Arnott

John and Charlotte Arnott

Born on June 8, 1879 in Coatbridge, Scotland, John Arnott grew up as the son of a boilermaker and would himself begin to learn the trade with his brothers.
Marrying Charlotte Richardson on June 11, 1901, the couple emigrated to Canada in 1903 and settled in Toronto Junction. It was there that their sons, William and David, were born. In 1905, they left for Melfort and lived in various districts in the area including Hanover and Star City.
On April 4, 1907, John filed for a homestead in the Clashmoor School District and bought an ox team from Hanover.
Over the next several years, John and his family worked to clear the land of trees and brush and would eventually have a thriving farm. In the winter, John provided for his family by working at local sawmills where he looked after the steam engines.
On Sept. 26, 1914, John enlisted at Valcartier, Quebec in the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Heading overseas, he would fight in the Battle of Passchendaele, the Somme, Ypres and Vimy Ridge. For his heroics he was presented with the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was twice buried alive and gassed during the battle. After being sent away from the front lines, he was found unfit for active service and was sent to Regina to work as a recruiting officer.
Once the war was over, he was sent to Prince Albert where he became the Quartermaster. On Feb. 28, 1919, he received and Honourable Discharge and left the army with the rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant.
John would continue to farm the land for several more decades before retiring from the farm in the early-1950s and moving into New Osgoode. In the community, they would garden and take part in many activities. Charlotte would pass away on Aug. 25, 1960, while John passed away on May 21, 1964.

Harold Dugard

Born in 1889, Harold Dugard attended the Manitoba Agricultural College and wanting to learn more, he went on to attend the Winnipeg Business School.
Working for George Scruton at his store, he did well enough to buy himself a car. He sent a telegram to his parents to tell them he was going to see them. Due to the fact that roads were dirt at the time, it took him a day to drive the distance over the horrible terrain.
He would then teach his eight-year-old brother to drive the car, before he decided the time was right to enlist with the Eighth Battalion and fight in the First World War.
In April of 1917, he took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and was severely wounded. Shrapnel from an explosion had embedded itself in his lower spine. He had to go through repeated surgeries but doctors were successful in removing the shrapnel that had sliced the vertebrae. After many more months of rehabilitation, he would return to Canada and get into the lumber and hardware business. In 1920, he married Nettie Laurie.
In 1923, his store burned to the ground so he built a larger store and yard and was eventually bought out by the North American Lumber Company.
Harold had a love for his community and would eventually serve as mayor in the 1920s, helping to get sidewalks built in the community. In 1929, he bought up a piece o land south of town along the river and turned it into a park. He was able to employ many people at the park through the Great Depression. Dugard Camping Grounds would operate until 1968 before it was bought by the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded and renamed Sherwood Forest Camp.
In 1936, Nettie passed away. He would marry Majorie Barclay in 1943 and have six children.
He passed away in 1972.

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