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Canada  

WW1's last soldier to die

Moments before the armistice ending the First World War took effect on Nov. 11, 1918, a sniper's bullet sliced the morning air.

It struck a Canadian soldier in the chest as he emerged from the doorway of a house in a small Belgian village. Pt. George Lawrence Price died minutes later at 10:58 a.m. — a mere two minutes before hostilities ceased.

He became the last British Empire soldier to die in a war that claimed millions of lives, including nearly 67,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders.

It's unclear whether the 25-year-old was aware the war was so close to being over when he and five other members of 'A' Company, the 28th Battalion of the Saskatchewan North West Regiment, decided on their own to search a series of houses for Germans in Ville-Sur-Haine, east of Mons.

"They had heard rumours for months that maybe the war was going to come to an end, but if you are a soldier on the front lines you tend to take that stuff with a grain of salt," said Ken Hynes, curator of the Army Museum Halifax Citadel.

Price was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is interred in a cemetery in Belgium not far from the war's first British Empire casualty, Pt. John Parr of the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment.

Price's story has remained ingrained in the lore of succeeding generations of his surviving family, according to his niece, Beverly McLean, of Kentville, N.S.

"My mom was his second youngest sister and from the time I was a little girl that's all I heard was about Uncle George," McLean said following the recent premiere in Halifax of a short documentary film about Price.

Price, a native of Falmouth, now Port Williams, N.S., was working as a labourer in Moose Jaw, Sask., when he was conscripted on Oct. 15, 1917.

He fought in the Battle of Amiens, the Battle of Cambrai and the Pursuit to Mons, and was gassed in the Canal-du-Nord area on Sept. 8, 1918.

Upon his discharge from hospital, he returned to his unit on Sept. 26 and was on the line in Canal-du-Centre when he took part in the final action that led to his death.

According to unit records, Price and his comrades crossed the canal to check on houses that appeared to be the site of a German machine gun post. They rushed one house and found only the owner and his family after the Germans ran out the back door.

A second house was checked, and as Price stepped back into the street he suddenly slumped into the arms of Pt. Art Goodmurphy. He was dragged back into the house where attempts to save him proved futile.



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