Marking a piece of Kingston and Canadian history. The Princess of Wales Own Regiment is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Courcelette. A battle that took a huge toll on the Limestone City’s 21st Battalion — the night will also honour a high ranking officer that just happened to be a Hockey Hall of Famer. Here’s Newswatch’s Mike Postovit with this week’s Posto’s Postcard.
“It’s known as the “Vimy Cross”. A relic from World War One brought back from a cemetery near where that historic battle was fought. Now proudly on display on the west wall at the Princess of Wales Own Regiment — on Montreal Street. Surrounding the cross are names of various other battles that members of the 21st Battalion fought in during the “war to end all wars”. Included in that number is Courcelette.
Arthur Jordan/Princess of Wales Own Regiment Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel
“Courcelette was a battle that took place towards the end of Somme offensive in September 1916. The 21st Battalion lost 114 men during that battle — 81 of whom have no graves so the percentage is much higher for the 21st in that one battle.
“Just about depleted the regiment — entirely.”
The loss of life not only here — but country wide was staggering — and that story needs to be told and it will be.
“Because it has affected this country and to help us do that is to put a personal face on it — so we’re commemorating the loss of Lieutenant Frances McGee.”
Frances or Frank Mcgee was a member of the 21st Battalion — he was also a very gifted athlete making a name for himself in hockey.
“1900 in Hawkesbury — it was a charity game — they were raising money for the troops that were coming back from South Africa War. He got butt ended in the eye and lost the use of that eye.
He continued to play hockey — he tried to retire but he kept going back and going back and wound-up playing for the Ottawa Silver Seven and won a Stanley Cup.”
“In fact still holds the record of scoring 14 goals in one single Stanley Cup game — not a whole series — one game.”
So how did “one-eyed” Frank McGee make it to the army and eventually to France and Courcelette.
“The medical officer was having him read the eye chart — he said cover your right eye and he used his right hand to cover his right eye and then he said cover your left eye and he used his left hand to cover his right eye again — because his good eye was the one he could read the chart on”
That tells you something about the men of that time.
“It was the fashion to contribute.”
“He had a great desire and he showed some real talent as an officer and was made a Lieutenant and trained as a machine gunner — a lot of people don’t know.”
“That battle lasted for about 10 days — and he apparently was in a shell hole and that was the last time he was seen and that’s why his remains haven’t been found because they figure another artillery shell landed in the same hole.”
Now — just as a century ago that sacrifice must be remembered — “Lest We Forget”. Mike Postovit, CKWS Newswatch, Kingston.