Not One War, But Two Wars

He stood ninth in line. The Federal Government of Canada had asked for volunteers. He was a young man of about 21 years. Eventually he would be joined by 5000 volunteers and militia along with 500 North West Mount Police. His name was Lionel Arthur Dent, born March 18, 1864 at Cowansville, Brome-Missisquoi, Quebec.

Lionel is my 1st cousin 3x removed, son of Caroline Gibbs, who is sister to my 2nd great grandfather, Hiram Garner Gibbs. Their parents were Abraham and Annie Sax Gibbs. It was his great grandfather, Isacc Gibbs who I last blogged about fighting in the Revolutionary War who settled in Canada among the Loyalists. Caroline and Hiram were great grandchildren of Keziah Atwood Gibbs, my 5th great grandmother.

Lionel went to present day Saskatchewan from March 26 – June 3, 1885 being transported on the Canadian Pacific Railway. This railway was built as the dream of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to unify the Canadian nation. But, as the white settlers of the rapidly changing West, saw towns, farm fences and railways the Plains Indigenous nations were facing disaster. The great bison herds had disappeared, pushing people to near starvation. The old life as fur traders and carriers for the Hudson’s Bay Company was also disappearing and the Metis were waiting without much help from the distant federal government, for reassurance that title to their river-lot homesteads and farms would be guaranteed. Surveyors came through tasked with making square lots which took away their way of life along the rivers. (Lionel’s great grandfather Isaac Gibbs lived on one these parcels of land Called Seigneurie d/Argenteuil, in Quebec. The farmers could live close to each other, each have water from the river and the farm was behind them in long narrow strips. The Metis along the Red River had settled the same away along the river, and the Canadian government was telling them a different way was best. The Metis disagreed.)

Riel was named president of the provisional government, and Gabriel Dumont was installed as military commander. Lionel with the new Canadian troops reached Qu”Appelle, Saskatchewan on April 10th. Over 90 would die in the fighting that occurred that spring before the rebellion’s collapse. Riel would be hung for treason. Was it a rebellion or an organized resistance to an established government? There is much from history to be learned here.

Lionel Arthur Dent returned home and married having children named Lionel Arthur, James Percival, George Arthur, Ernest, Douglas and Edith Lorraine. It is to James Percival Dent I turn my attention to.

James Percival Dent in uniform, wife Evelyn and daughter

James was born March 13, 1891. He enlisted in the 28th Battalion CEF on October 27, 1917- May 20, 1920. The 28th was an infantry battalion, leaving for Britain and fought in France and Flanders until the end of the war. I found some diaries of what he would have been witnessing. November 6, 1917; Clear skies, turning cloudy, no rain. When the 28th entered Passchendaele, the buildings had been smashed flat and mixed with the earth. shell exploded bodies from previous attacks were scattered everywhere so that you could not avoid stepping on them.. The Germans fought a tough rear guard battle that was murderous for both sides. The advancing men moved from their hole to shell hole and crouched in the cellars of destroyed buildings. By 7:10 AM, the Canadians were streaming through the village. Lou flying aircraft spent their time strafing the infantry. This was James Percival Dent’s first battle. In May between Lattre-St. Quenten and Fosseux, a cabin was struck by a bomb dropped by a German airplane, killing 15 soldiers and wounding 20. His Battelion had been occupying the cabin. James fought on, and on August 26, 1918 crossed a dry river and attacked the ridge with great amounts of wire to slow them down. The high ground was taken. Although James missed Vimy Ridge in 1915, his battalion was on the Western Front and included Private G. Price, shot by a sniper while on patrol at 10:58 AM Nov. 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice; The Last Hours, The Last Man.

James Percival Dent on December 13, 1918 marched over the bridge across the Rhine into Germany at Bonn. He didn’t get to eat Christmas dinner until December 30th, because the turkeys arrived late. James returned to Canada but he wasn’t finished with war yet! On his Declaration of Attestation papers, he declared his occupation of painter and decorator and did solemnly declare to engage to serve in any Active Formation or Unit of the Canadian Army, signed James Pervical Dent Sept 18, 1942. “You’re too old”, he was told. The former soldiers were being denied, even though they had ample wartime military experience. James at 49 was being passed over for younger recruits. However, he was determined to serve his country and joined the Veteran’s Home Guard, established for the adequate protection of military property on the home front .Canada operated 40 internment and prisoner-of-war camps across the country during the Second World War. The camp held 1200 German and Italian merchant marines, as well as many Canadians who had spoken out against the war or were deemed by the government to be Nazi sympathizers. They were mostly a harmless lot. Guarding prisoners of war wasn’t glamorous or exciting and working conditions meagre. The guards had the same rations as the prisoners’.

James Percival Dent died their on November 27, 1944. He chose to serve in not one war, but two. And in spite of his age limitations, when not allowed to fight again overseas on the front lines, performed a duty to his country that is just a footnote in the greater narrative of the Second World War.

In the UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921 and 1939-1947 Register is listed:

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