Dianne Rabel

Dianne Rabel

Prince Rupert’s connection to Vimy Ridge

100-years-ago Canadian soldiers from Prince Rupert fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and seven men lost their lives in the effort.

One-hundred-years ago Canadian soldiers fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge and defeated the German forces but not without significant losses.

More than 100 men from Prince Rupert and surrounding area died in World War One, and by 1917 the city had already experienced many casualties.

Retired Charles Hays Secondary School history teacher, Dianne Rabel, travelled to Vimy Ridge three times, once with a group of students for the 95th anniversary of the battle.

She has spent years researching the Prince Rupert connection to the battle that is often described as a defining moment for Canada as an independent nation.

It was also a moment of honour for northern British Columbians (102nd Battalion) who occupied the place of honour at the very top of the hill. “Most people are unaware of that,” Rabel said.

In her research, she discovered that there are only 27 names on the cenotaph by the Prince Rupert courthouse, and two of those names were men who had died in Vimy Ridge during the battle that lasted from April 9-12.

But seven men from Prince Rupert had lost their lives in the battle, six on the first day and one who died from his wounds the following day.

Their names were Lance-Corporal Charles “Scotty” Dennis, 28, of the 1st/9th Royal Scots, a poet; Private Francis Frank Gray, 33, of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, a miner; Lance-Sergeant Charles Helas, 34, of the 72nd Battalion, a builder; Private Percy Godfrey Le Neveu, 21, of the 72nd Battalion, a jeweller; Lt. Albert Lineham, 33, of the 102nd Battalion, known as a “gentleman”; Lt. Robert Alexander Stalker, 38, of the 102nd Battalion, a merchant; Lance-Corporal Albert Williamson, 40, of the 102nd Battalion, a clerk in the road superintendent’s office.

“One [of the names on the cenotaph] is Charles Dennis, he was a favourite in town. They called him Scotty. He had a poem for every occasion and his name constantly appears in the papers of the time,” Rabel said.

The other name written on the cenotaph is Robert Stalker, who was a merchant in town. He was well-known and liked. His granddaughter still lives in the city.

“He died first thing in the morning when they first came out of the tunnels in the first waves,” she said.

And there were more that died in the lead-up during the horrendous trench warfare of WWI.

“On March 1 dozens of men from the 54th (Kootenay) Battalion died when the gas they released turned back on them. One casualty was Major Frederick Travers Lucas, 34, civil engineer, who was a Prince Rupert pioneer,” Rabel said.

“Two local miners also died there that month. Private Thomas Cavanagh, 33, of the 2nd Cdn Mounted Rifles on the 21st, and Private Walter Smith, 37, of the 47th Battalion on the 4th.

A total of 3,598 Canadian soldiers lost their lives and 7,004 were wounded in the battle that brought victory to the Allied side. They had spent months to prepare. Soldiers dug tunnels and laid train tracks. Previous attempts to take the hill from the Germans had failed, but the Canadian Corps were able to take the Germans by surprise and seize Vimy Ridge.

Charles Hays Secondary School and the Prince Rupert Sea Cadets organized a trip to France to commemorate 100 years since the battle.

“When you go to Vimy Ridge it absolutely takes your breath away,” Rabel said, reflecting on her own visit. “It’s set high above the surrounding area so it naturally just grabs your attention. When you approach the monument it’s standing there like a cathedral.”

Rabel hopes that one day the full list of names of soldiers who died in the war will be added to the cenotaph in Prince Rupert.

“Citizens must understand what brought us to this place in history and recognize and honour the enormous sacrifices of previous generations. It is so humbling to walk amongst the tombstones and realize what these young men did for us.”

Prince Rupert Sea Cadet William Roubicek met the Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan at the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary memorial in France on Sunday, April 9.Prince Rupert Sea Cadet William Roubicek met the Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan at the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary memorial in France on Sunday, April 9. CONTRIBUTED

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More than 35 families received renoviction notices on Feb. 26, 2020 at Pinecrest Townhomes in Prince Rupert. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Renovictions will be tightened in proposed changes to renters laws

Rent freeze, and changes to procedures will benefit Prince Rupert tenants and landlords

Chloe and Koy are two participants in the talent show format of the 2021 annual Children's Fest to be broadcast on community television March 5th and 6th. ()Photo: supplied by Prince Rupert Special Event Society)
30th Annual Children’s Fest takes on a new format

2021 Prince Rupert Children’s Fest will feature a show of local talent

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Families on the North Coast will benefit from 70 new childcare spaces Ministry of Children and Family Development announced on March 1. Seen here are children from Growing Together Child Care Centre in Surrey. (Photo supplied by Jennifer Rice, MLA for Northcoast)
Northcoast families to benefit from new childcare spaces

62 Childcare spaces in Lax Kw’alaams and 8 in Haida Gwaii are part of Childcare BC New Spaces Fund

Prince Rupert Firefighter Dylan Lawrence, demonstrates the new fire safety nozzles for hoses on March 1, which will allow for increased safety of firefighters at hazard scenes. The nozzles can spray water up to 200 feet and money for the purchase was donated to the department by Pembina. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Pembina donates to Prince Rupert Fire Dept.

New fire equipment will improve safety in Prince Rupert

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read