Thursday, February 18, 2010

RIP John Babcock: Last Canadian veteran of WW1

(picture: Globe and Mail)

Canada's last WW I veteran dies

John Babcock's death at age 109 marks 'an end of an era'

Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010 | 9:22 PM ET

Canada's last known First World War veteran, John Babcock, has died at age 109, the Prime Minister's Office says.

Born on an Ontario farm in 1900, Babcock enlisted to join the war at the tender age of 16. He lied about his age to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Sydenham, Ont., and arrived in England a few months later.

Because of his age, Babcock wasn't allowed on the front lines. The truth about his age caught up to him. So in August 1917, Babcock was sent to the Boys Battalion — 1,300 young soldiers training until they were old enough to fight the Germans.

But peace came first — the war ended a few months after Babcock's 18th birthday. He never saw front-line action. Ninety years later, he expressed regrets about being a "tin soldier" who didn't see combat.

"I think if I had a chance, I would have gone to France, taken my chances like the rest of them did," he said in 2007. "A lot of good men got killed."

In the 1920s, Babcock moved the United States and later served in the U.S. Army, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1946. At the time, dual citizenship was not allowed, so Babcock had to give up his Canadian ties.

Canada's only living First World War veteran, John Babcock, licks  icing from his fingers as his wife Dorothy, 78, cuts him a piece of  birthday cake at their home in Spokane, Wash., July 18.
Canada's only living First World War veteran, John Babcock, licks icing from his fingers as his wife Dorothy, 78, cuts him a piece of birthday cake at their home in Spokane, Wash., July 18.
(Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Babcock married Dorothy after the death of his first wife, Elsie, about 30 years ago. Despite his age, he still liked to go to his favourite restaurant where he would flirt with all the waitresses before ordering a burger and fries.

His son, Jack Jr., said his father could come across as a polite elderly gentleman with plenty of stories to tell, but he was also strong-willed.

"He's humble and bashful about being the last guy and very realistic about it. But you don't do what he's done in his lifetime without getting a little self-assurance." (Read more here: CBC)

Be sure to check out the 'related' links there, too. Back in 2007, the History Channel did a profile of Mr Babcock. Take a look:

There is much to be found about the last Canadian WW1 veteran. If you go here you can find the videos to Parts 2 and 3 of this interview with Mr Babcock.

On a site called The Lost Canadians: Denied Citizenship in their own country, I found an in-depth profile of Mr Babcock:
Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Curious Case of Jack Babcock

John Henry Foster "Jack" Babcock (born July 23, 1900) is, at age 109, the last known surviving veteran of the Canadian military to have served in the First World War and, since the death of Harry Patch, the conflict's oldest surviving participant. Babcock first attempted to join the army at the age of fifteen, but was turned down and sent to work in Halifax until he was placed in the Young Soldiers Battalion in August 1917. Babcock was then transferred to Britain, where he continued his training until the end of the war.

Having never seen combat, Babcock never considered himself a veteran and moved to the United States in the 1920s, where he joined the United States Army and eventually became an electrician. In May 2007, following the death of Dwight Wilson, he became the last surviving veteran of the First World War who served with the Canadian forces.[1] Since then, he has received international attention, including 109th birthday greetings from the Queen of Canada, the Governor General of Canada and the Canadian Prime Minister. [2]

Early life

Babcock was born into a family of thirteen children on a farm in Frontenac County, Ontario.[3] According to Babcock, the barn where he was born (which no longer exists) was located off Highway 38 in South Frontenac Township.[4] His father died in 1906 after a tree-cutting accident, when Babcock was only six years old. As described in his account given to Maclean's, while his father was cutting down one tree, another dead tree fell on his shoulder. Though he was brought into the house on bobsleigh, he only survived another two hours. Babcock claimed that this was an "awful blow" to the family.[5]

School was never a concern for the young Babcock, and he did not earn his high school diploma until the age of 95.[5] On growing up in the area, Babcock claims that he "didn't do very much," although he admits that "It was a fun place to grow up."[4] Babcock partook in fishing, hunting and swimming—especially around the local Sydenham Lake—in order to pass the time with the other kids his age. He would return to the area in 1919, after his wartime experiences, but soon after left for the United States. Nevertheless, Babcock's relatives continue to work at the Crater Dairy farm (named after the Holleford crater, a remnant of a meteor strike) and the community grew to greatly respect John.[4]...(read more here)

The reason Mr Babcock was included in the group who lost their Canadian citizenship, is also detailed in this profile. It is an interesting insight into a matter that - to this day - is still before the Canadian courts. Be that as it may, John Babcock did serve in the Canadian military as a young Canadian, later joining the US military. With his death, we all lose a vital link to an important part of our history.

RIP, Mr Babcock.

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