Canada's Last Remaining World War I Veteran

Discussion in 'Remembering' started by knewheart, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. knewheart

    knewheart Active Member

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    First World War vet to regain Canadian citizenship

    It all started with a hand-written note to the prime minister, scrawled on a sheet of paper decorated with cartoon Teddy Bears and American flags. But on Thursday, Canada’s last remaining First World War veteran, John Babcock, received an important gift: the restoration of his Canadian citizenship.<br>

    By Canwest News ServiceMay 13, 2008
    StoryPhotos ( 1 )

    OTTAWA — It all started with a hand-written note to the prime minister, scrawled on a sheet of paper decorated with cartoon Teddy Bears and American flags. But on Thursday, Canada’s last remaining First World War veteran, John Babcock, received an important gift: the restoration of his Canadian citizenship.

    Babcock, 107, is the only remaining Canadian to have served in the Great War. But until this week, he was only a Canuck by birth — after the war, he moved to the United States, where he was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen. At the time, the U.S. did not allow “dual citizens” and he had to renounce his Canadian status.

    Last month, Veteran Affairs Minister Greg Thompson visited Babcock near his home in Spokane, Wash., to present him with a Minister’s Commendation — a special award recognizing the sacrifice and achievements of veterans and commendable service to the veteran community.

    During the minister’s visit, Babcock told Thompson that he would like to be a bona fide Canadian citizen once more. Thompson suggested he write Prime Minister Stephen Harper a note. At the suggestion, Babcock’s eyes “lit up,” and he “grabbed a sheet of paper and penned the note right away,” said Thompson.

    “It was certainly something he was thinking about, that had been weighing on his mind,” said Thompson of the soldier. “I think (Babcock) was thinking that it would be nice to leave this world the way he entered it.”

    The veteran, who served in 1917 in the Boys Battalion, a reserve brigade, kept his note to the prime minister short and simple:

    “Dear PM,” he wrote. “Could I have my Canadian citizenship restored? I would appreciate your help. Thank you, John Babcock.”

    After that, the Conservative MP delivered the letter to Harper personally during a cabinet meeting, he said. According to Thompson, the prime minister was “really taken” with it and acted on the request right away.

    “I think everyone really focused on the fact that there was some level of urgency, given (Babcock’s) age, and wanted to get it done as quickly as possible,” said Thompson.

    The vet became a Canadian again — officially — Thursday, after Governor General Michaelle Jean completed “all the necessary signatures,” said Thompson, adding that officials will soon be flown down to meet Babcock near his home for a swearing in ceremony.

    The newly minted Canadian started his life as an Ontario boy, growing up as one of 13 children on a farm in Kingston, Ont. Born on July 23, 1900, he was too young to join the forces in 1915, so he lied about his age to sign up with the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

    Two years later, Babcock landed in England with the Boys Battalion. The war ended before he could join the front lines — something he has said is a great disappointment.

    Babcock moved to the United States after the war and served in the U.S. army from 1921 to 1924. It was these circumstances that led to the removal of Babcock’s original citizenship. Today, however, dual citizens are allowed in Canada and the U.S.

    “I wouldn’t call it an accident of history,” said Thompson, “but he was caught up in a set of circumstances, and today we corrected it.”
  2. knewheart

    knewheart Active Member

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    Canada's last surviving WW I Vet Turns 109

    Canada's last surviving WW I vet turns 109

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Canada's last known surviving veteran of The First World War celebrated his 109th birthday with a party on Thursday.

    John Babcock received letters of greetings from the Queen, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with songs and well-wishes from about 40 family and friends.

    A barbershop quartet sang 'O Canada" at the gathering in the restaurant of a Rosauer's grocery store, Babcock's favorite eatery. He ate his standard lunch of french fries with tartar sauce and coffee.

    "It was a very jolly event," said Wendy Baldwin, of the Canadian consulate in Seattle.

    Babcock was born in 1900 on an Ontario farm and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Regiment when he was just 15 years old, lying about his age.

    Babcock trained with nearly 1,300 other underage soldiers in anticipation of crossing the English Channel and facing enemy fire, but the war ended before he could set foot in France.


    Soon after the war, he moved to the United States, where he served in the U.S. Army and became a naturalized citizen. He has lived in Spokane since 1932.

    Babcock became Canada's last First World War veteran after two others died two years ago. More than 600,000 Canadians served in World War I and about 66,000 died.

    The lone remaining U.S. veteran is Frank Buckles, 107, of Charles Town, W.Va., according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Babcock, who draws some veterans benefits from the Canadian government because of hearing loss, has attributed his longevity to the physical training he received from serving in two armies in his youth. He doesn't drink much and stopped smoking a long time ago.

    He remains married to his second wife and has a son, a daughter and numerous grandchildren.

    Babcock, who grew up in Kingston, Ont., was born into a large family that scattered after his father died in a logging accident when the boy was six. He lived with relatives and did hard physical labor on a farm while receiving only a rudimentary education.

    According to an autobiography he wrote for his 100th birthday, he enlisted in the Canadian Army just after New Year's Day in 1916. He was posted to several training camps. He was deemed too young for combat so he was given assignments in Canada.

    While unloading military trucks in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he answered a call for volunteers to head to France. He lied about his age and got on a troop transport.

    But it was discovered in England that he was only 16, and he was assigned to the so-called "Young Soldiers Battalion," who were held out of battle. Babcock ended up in Wales in 1918, but the war ended and Babcock shipped back to Canada.

    He worked on farms and at 19 received vocational training in electrical wiring.

    Seeking work, he paid a $7 tax to enter the U.S., taking various jobs. He joined the U.S. Army in 1921, even though he was not a citizen.

    He tried to enlist in the U.S. military again in 1941, hoping to learn to fly. He didn't get in, but it was discovered he had never become a U.S. citizen. It wasn't until 1946 that he was naturalized.
  3. knewheart

    knewheart Active Member

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    Forgetful nation loses part of past

    John Foster Babcock was born in the ebbing shadow of the 19th century and died in the youthful glow of the 21st century. More pointedly, he arrived during the Boer War and departed during the Afghan War.

    Wars bracketed his long, eventful life. None was as consequential as his service in the Great War. It was that war – of all the carnage the world would see in his 109 years – which kept him in our consciousness generations after the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.

    As that war defined his life, it defined his country. It is famously said that Canada entered the European war in 1914 a colony and emerged a nation or, at least, a people with a sense of self. True or not, the war has become our governing mythology, forged in the killing fields of Passchendaele, Ypres and Vimy Ridge.

    That, more than anything, is why his death matters to us today; his passing severs the last living link with a distant past. As long as John Babcock lived and breathed, he reminded us, by virtue of his service, that Canada didn't just arrive here yesterday. It didn't fall from the heavens, fully formed.

    His message: We built. We sacrificed. We came from somewhere.

    Losing him and his generation is dangerous in an unconscious country which doesn't celebrate its story. Indeed, when it comes to understanding our past, we have become a nation of amnesiacs stumbling about in a poetic fog.

    Whatever Babcock represented as a veteran – duty, courage, honour, and perhaps adolescent exuberance and recklessness, too – he is no longer a tribune of his time. Now the memory is ours to preserve. Alone.

    What to make of it? What to make of John Babcock in 2010?

    Like so many of his generation, Babcock did not think highly of his contribution. If he was "a great man," as Stephen Harper rhapsodized on his death, greatness was not a sobriquet he wore easily.

    As he often said, his story was less interesting than most of the 650,000 Canadians who served in World War I. He left the farm in eastern Ontario, signed up at 15, and went to France. When it was learned that he was too young to fight, he was sent for training. The war ended before he could get into it.

    On the face of it, Babcock is an unlikely candidate for veneration. As he was not a decorated soldier with tales of derring-do, he was not a Canadian for most of his life, either. He emigrated to the United States in the 1920s, joined the U.S. Army and gave up his Canadian citizenship (which he regained in 2008).

    But that isn't the point. What matters today, to us, is that he represented a generation that served its country. Whatever his reasons or even his delusions, young Babcock went to war.

    That isn't to say the Great War was a moral or honourable enterprise. Nor is it to forget that Canada had no choice but to fight as a member of the British Empire in 1914, which wasn't so at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

    But none of our reservations can diminish the service of Babcock and his compatriots, some 60,000 of whom died in Europe, which was extraordinary for a country of 8 million. When it was all over, they gave Canada a new self-consciousness that would flower in its ambition and self-assertion in the 1920s and beyond.

    Intellectually or emotionally, John Babcock wasn't a war profiteer. He always played down his contribution. It was predictable that his family would refuse the government's offer of a state funeral. Nor would he have much liked the call, from The Historica-Dominion Institute and others, for a National Day of Commemoration.

    But whatever he was as a warrior, John Babcock remains an emblem of a nation and its passage to maturity. It is why we remember him today.
  4. violet47

    violet47 New Member

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    Hi guys

    OTTAWA - John (Jack) Babcock, Canada's last remaining veteran of the First World War, has died. He was 109.
    Calling it "the end of an era," Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened" by Babcock's death, and extended his condolences on behalf of all Canadians.
    "As a nation, we honour his service and mourn his passing," he said. "John Babcock was Canada's last living link to the Great War, which in so many ways marked our coming of age as a nation. In honouring his service and mourning his passing, we honour the proud history of our country and pay tribute to all those who fought and died for Canada."

    Thanks for all friends

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