by Kathy Sabo November 06, 2023
In the stillness of Remembrance Day, I want to share a few stories that resonate from the heart of Saskatchewan. Beyond the traditional narratives of soldiers donning uniforms, we find extraordinary stories of courage and resilience. Today, we shine a light on two remarkable figures, each with a unique story etched in the soil of Saskatchewan.
Our journey begins with the curious case of Sergeant Bill, a most unusual hero who served in the 5th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the tumultuous days of the First World War. What sets Sergeant Bill apart? Well, he wasn't a regular soldier; he was a goat. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite his four-legged status, Bill's contributions to the war effort were nothing short of extraordinary.
Picture this: Sergeant Bill possessed an uncanny ability to hear and warn soldiers about impending shell explosions. In the chaos of the battlefield, his keen senses allowed him to push three soldiers into a trench seconds before an incoming shell struck. In another instance, he cornered three enemy guardsmen, displaying a courage that belied his caprine form. Not without a touch of mischief, Bill faced two courts martial during his service—one for consuming his battalion's personnel roll and another for a skirmish with a fellow sergeant.
Now, let's traverse time to the Second World War, where we encounter Charles Henry Byce, a Moose Cree man, and the most decorated Indigenous soldier of his era. Byce's journey from a residential school to Buckingham Palace, where he received decorations from King George VI, is a testament to the indomitable spirit of Saskatchewan.
Awarded both the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Byce's acts of heroism are woven into the fabric of Canadian military history. During a daring mission, he led a fighting patrol across the Maas River in the Netherlands, capturing an enemy soldier amidst a hail of gunfire. His bravery continued as he single-handedly destroyed an enemy tank near the Hochwald forest in northwest Germany. In the face of adversity, Byce assumed command after his superiors fell, directing his men to safety during a harrowing encounter with enemy soldiers.
His remarkable achievements are even more poignant when juxtaposed with the First World War, where his non-Indigenous father, Henry, earned similar distinctions. Byce's medals, a tangible testament to his courage, now find a place of honour in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
As we gather in solemn remembrance on this day, let us not only pay tribute to those who sacrificed but also celebrate the resilience that defines Saskatchewan. These stories remind us that courage transcends conventional boundaries, and in unity, we discover our greatest strength. Lest we forget. 🍁🕊️ #RemembranceDay #SaskatchewanHeroes #SergeantBill #CharlesHenryByce #LestWeForget
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