Remembrance Day: When the Gaspesians were at war
This week’s show In the heart of the world Military historian Tom Eden has called for a Memorial Day celebration in four interviews. He told the facts about the First World War.
One of these interviews was about the participation of many Gaspés in the Battle of Vimy Ridge from April 9 to 12, 1917. Over 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded during this battle. Of this number, eight soldiers were natives of Gaspé.
Leo Leboutillier distinguished himself during the same battle. When the First World War began, this young man from Gaspé did not hesitate to join the army. Died in battle, he is the most decorated Gaspé soldier.
Gaspé’s aborigines also played their part in defending the country’s freedom. Tom Eden chronicles the journey of Sergeant Frank Narcisse Jerome from Gesgapegiag who fought in the First World War. He was awarded the medal “For bravery” three times. A Canadian under 40 can say the same.
Of all the Gaspés who fought abroad, the brothers Augustin and Félix Goulet caught Tom Eden’s attention. During the fighting in Belgium, Felix received shrapnel in his head, and Augustin had to have his arm amputated. These injuries could have affected their motivation to carry out their duties, but they did not: Felix returned to the front and Augustin re-enlisted in World War II.
When War crossed the Atlantic by submarine to arrive at Gaspésie
On Friday, the Musée de la Gaspésie celebrates Remembrance Day by opening its archives to the public.
Jacques Bouchard, another Gaspé historian, will give a lecture there on the Battle of St. Lawrence during World War II.
He explains that this battle was spread over two years, from 1942 to 1944.
German soldiers aboard submarines had a mission to attack ships leaving Canada to supply Great Britain. They wanted to weaken this country, which was still resisting the aggressor.
The first incident happened in May 1942.
Nicoya au large de Cloridorme, raconte-t-il. Ce sont des gens de Cloridorme et de L’Anse-à-Valleau qui sont montés à bord de chaloupes pour aller les secourir.”,”text”:”Un sous-marin allemand ou U-boot, est venu attaquer un navire qui s’appelait le SSNicoya au large de Cloridorme, raconte-t-il. Ce sont des gens de Cloridorme et de L’Anse-à-Valleau qui sont montés à bord de chaloupes pour aller les secourir.”}}”>Mr. Bouchard says that a German U-boat or U-boat came to attack the SS Nicoya near Chloridorm. It was people from Cloridorme and L’Anse-à-Valleau who boarded the boats to rescue the survivors.
They welcomed them. They had to warm them, give them dry clothes, and feed them. The sailors were truly miserable– says Mr. Bouchard.
About three hours later, the SS LETO Madeleine was torpedoed. Jacques Bouchard reminds that the Dutch sailor who died after this attack was buried in Grande-Vallée.
It had to be big. It created anxiety and panic among the populationnotes.
He said it certainly came as a complete surprise to the sailors who were victims of the torpedo, perhaps to the people of Gaspe, but not to Prime Minister Mackenzie King and the admirals of the Royal Canadian Navy.
They knew the submarines were coming. They just didn’t know whenhe said.
” It was truly remarkable. The Gaspesi understood that war was coming to North America. »
The next summer there were more torpedoes.
I am thinking, among other things, of the torpedoing of three ships at Cap-Chat, he notes. This happened on the night of July 5-6, planes from Mont-Joli intervened and we even lost a Canadian airman.
Jacques Chevrier was the only Canadian pilot killed in action in Canada during the Second World War. Mr. Bouchard tells the story of this aviator in the book TransientPublished in April 2022.
It was a landmark event for Canada. It was a shock to everyonehe says.
Another page of the Battle of the St. Lawrence was written in the fall of 1942, when the Canadian government closed navigation in the Gulf to all ships coming or going overseas.
Several historians have interpreted this as a defeat, an acknowledgment of Canada’s defeat against the Germans, Jacques Bouchard points out. But he wasn’t like that. There were strategic reasons.
With the winter, the danger decreased due to the presence of ice. In 1943, no incidents involving submarines were recorded.
The Germans had other fish to fry, especially in the Mediterraneanthe historian notes.
Did the Gaspesi begin to feel safe then? Not really, says Mr Bouchard.
qu’ils ne sont pas revenus, mais à l’époque on ne savait pas.”,”text”:”Aujourd’hui, c’est facile de le supposer parce qu’on saitqu’ils ne sont pas revenus, mais à l’époque on ne savait pas.”}}”>It’s easy to assume today because we know the Germans didn’t come back, but at the time we didn’t know that.
Gaspé was fortified to protect the bay, a highly strategic point. Speed cameras were installed everywhere. Residents along Gaspé’s northern coast were ordered to keep lights off from homes, cars and construction sites.
Bouchard. C’était majeur, parce que ce régiment-là a été le bataillon de la réserve avec le plus gros effectif de tous les temps au Canada. Il y avait 49officiers puis 1877soldats.”,”text”:”La force de défense de la Gaspésie qui s’appelait le Gaspé-Bonaventure, le troisième bataillon des régiments des Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent, restait sur le qui-vive, raconte M.Bouchard. C’était majeur, parce que ce régiment-là a été le bataillon de la réserve avec le plus gros effectif de tous les temps au Canada. Il y avait 49officiers puis 1877soldats.”}}”>Mr. Bouchard says that the Gaspésie defense force, called the Gaspé-Bonaventure, the third battalion of the Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent regiments, remained in readiness. This was important because that regiment was the largest reserve battalion of all time in Canada. There were 49 officers and 1,877 privates.
Thousands of soldiers in Gaspe
The historian says that the soldiers defending Gaspésie had their headquarters in Gaspésie, in the rue de la Reine, now called Manoir Wakeham.
marins et aviateurs à Gaspé, ce qui devait être impressionnant pour les Gaspésiens. C’était considérable, estime M.Bouchard. Gaspé n’était qu’un village à cette époque. Vous comprendrez que ça modifie l’écosystème.”,”text”:”Au plus fort de la guerre, du moins en saison de navigation, il y avait à peu près 3000marins et aviateurs à Gaspé, ce qui devait être impressionnant pour les Gaspésiens. C’était considérable, estime M.Bouchard. Gaspé n’était qu’un village à cette époque. Vous comprendrez que ça modifie l’écosystème.”}}”>At the height of the war, at least during the navigation season, the Gaspé had about 3,000 sailors and airmen, which must have been impressive for the Gaspé people. Mr. Bouchard believes that this was significant. Gaspé was just a village back then. You will understand that this changes the ecosystem.
According to him, the building currently called Brise-Bise is reserved for sailors and airmen. He says they had phones on the second floor to contact and reassure their families. There were also military police providing security.
Historians attribute the end of the Battle of the St. Lawrence in 1944 to two other, less significant, incidents involving German U-boats.
According to Mr. Bouchard, who wrote his master’s thesis on the presence of British and American military bases in eastern Quebec during the Second World War, 19 merchant navy ships were sunk as a result of the battle, as well as four ships of the Royal Canadian Navy. , a total of 23. Although it is impossible to be certain, it indicates that the death toll at the Battle of St. Lawrence was estimated at 340.