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

Just Posted

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

Commerical marijuana grow ops that are budding up in Prince Rupert’s downtown core are legal and out of the city’s jurisdiction, Mayor Lee Brain said, on June 14. (Photo:supplied/K-J Millar)
Prince Rupert downtown’s pretty dope

Marijuana operations grow in the Prince Rupert city core

Unionized longshore and port workers gather along Highway 16 on June 15 not crossing the picket line where Prince Rupert Solidarity Movement group protests the docking and unloading of the JPO Volans, a ship with Israeli designed technology and equipment. (Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)
Prince Rupert Solidarity Group pickets at port in protest

Demonstrations against the container ship JPO Volans lead into the second day to dissuade docking

BC Ferries has announced the welcoming back onboard of recreational travellers on June 15 after the provincial travel restrictions were lifted. (Courtesy of BC Ferries)
BC Ferries welcomes back recreational passengers

The ferries corp will relax mask-wearing in outdoor spaces

Nic Pirillo received $1,000 Youth WORK Apprenticeship Award presented to him by Erik Brooke and Catlin Chandler of Broadwater Industries, in front of the boat Pirillo built in his free time using newly acquired skills. (Photo: supplied)
Learning and earning with apprenticeship

Nic Pirillo graduated in 2020 and was awarded the Youth WORK Trades award

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Most Read