Medals of last soldier killed in First World War go to Canadian War Museum

Kirk Starratt
Published on November 8, 2016

OTTAWA - The medal set and memorial plaque in honour of the last Canadian soldier killed in the First World War have been given a home in the Canadian War Museum.

Private George Lawrence Price died at 10:58 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918 – two minutes before the armistice went into effect. The Kentville branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, with the support of Price’s descendants, donated his medals and memorial plaque.

Price’s story is currently included at the end of the museum’s First World War gallery. The medal set will be displayed in an exhibition in 2018 on the Last Hundred Days campaign of the First World War, curated by Dr. Tim Cook and Dr. J.L. Granatstein.

George Barkhouse of Kingsport, Price’s nephew, said he and his sister Beverley McLean were all for Price’s medals being donated to the War Museum.

“In Kentville there, they were kind of worried about security and everything,” Barkhouse said. “My younger sister and I were both well agreeable that they go to Ottawa because they’d be more secure there.”

Barkhouse said he’s visited the War Museum on a couple occasions and was quite impressed. He said he’s pleased the medals and memorial plaque will be housed in such a prominent venue where so many people will be able to see and appreciate them.

Barkhouse said he didn’t even know the medals existed until his cousins donated them to the Kentville Legion.

“My mother never mentioned that there were medals around, I don’t know that she ever knew,” Barkhouse said.

Eric Fernberg, Arms and Technology collections specialist with the Canadian War Museum, said it means a lot to accept the Price medals and plaque. The Kentville Legion has placed their trust in the museum for the long-term care and preservation of the artifacts.

He said it’s a special responsibility and an honour to be looking after the artifacts of Canadian military history.

“It can be tempting to want to place a status on an object whether it is associated with being the first or the last – in this case with Private Price being the last Canadian killed in the First World War, but more importantly the artifacts are a tangible link to Price’s service to Canada and that he tragically lost his life so close to the end of hostilities,” Fernberg said.

The museum received ownership of the Price artifacts July 5. William Schofield of the Kentville Legion first approached the museum in late April, indicating that the branch was interested in donating the medals and memorial plaque. Schofield acts as the curator of military artifacts held at the legion hall.

The Price family of Port Williams donated the medals to the legion in the 1960’s or 1970’s and the artifacts had been there since.

Fernberg said they went through the museum’s donation procedures, which included presentation at the Collections Committee and making arrangements to have the Price artifacts shipped to Ottawa.

Did you know?

Born in Falmouth, Price was a 24-year-old farm labourer in Saskatchewan when he was conscripted into military service.

After training in Canada, he was sent to Bramshott Military Camp in England and was eventually assigned to the 28th Battalion. Price survived a gas attack at the battle to cross the Canal du Nord in France two months before he was killed.

Although there are several conflicting stories surrounding Price’s death, official records note that at approximately 10:50 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, an enemy sniper shot Price in the chest while he was on patrol in Ville-sur-Haine, Belgium, just outside Mons. At the time, he served as a runner for A Company, 28th Canadian Infantry Battalion, and was chasing German soldiers through a series of houses.

First-aid was administered but Price died a few minutes later. He’s buried at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium. Price is generally recognized as the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the war.