One of these boys was an Englander by the names of Stephen Sargent Claude Nunney who was born in either 1891 or 1892. There were 8 children in family and his parents etched out a living in a London steam laundry plant, But by age five Stephen lost his mother due to food poisoning. The family would then relocate from St Leonards to Kentish Town. In 1905 Stephen, then aged 12 or 13 found himself and 2 brothers rescued and spirited off on a boat like that above noted to Quebec and then railed to Ottawa. The fate of his brothers is unknown but Stephen went to live under the protection of a woman for many years in the Ottawa area and when she died he moved off to a second home in Lancaster Ontario.
Then came WW1.
When joining the army, part of the paperwork involved the collection of information and the signing of what is called the Attestation Paper. If you have a relative who served for Canada in WW1 you should be able to find their AP by going to the Government web site at... http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/001042-100.01-e.php
Here is the top portion of the front of Nunney's AP...
A fellow in England has done many years of serious background investigation into Nunney and his early life. He notes that whilst enlisting with the name of Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney, his actual formal documentation has been discovered and lists his true names being Stephen Sargent Claude Nunney. (The Sargent being his mother's maiden name.) This same documentation claims a birth in 1891...not 1892. It also notes clearly a birth in England...where the family had lived for many generations being Oxford bred. Yet he claimed a birth in Ireland.
This may have been because he might have not had any personal papers when he came across the Atlantic, or lost them, or decided he would not disclose his true identity, place and date of birth for unknown reasons.
Claude's unit would spend about 10 months in Bermuda, probably then headed back to England briefly and by August would be in France and soon at the Western Front.
The 38th CEF formed part of the 12th Infantry Brigade, which in turn, was part of the 4th Canadian Division.
In April the 4th along with the 1st through 3rd Canadian Divisions all found themselves going into fierce battle at Vimy Ridge. Claude's 38th CEF would be fighting in the area shown below on the right map. They were at the top dark box in the centre line of troop formations and battling eastward. (Right, on the map.)
On 9 April 1917 Claude Nunney found himself in charge of a Machine Gun section and trying to stop an advancing enemy said to be numbered at about 200 Germans. Soon Claude was on his own as the rest of the section were either killed or wounded. His actions managed to hold off the enemy for three days despite being wounded twice. For his most conspicuous gallantry he was recommended and later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Less than 3 months later and just a few miles north east, at a place called Avion Claude would again show his leadership skills. This time as a Corporal probably, he had to take charge when his platoon officer and sergeants were either killed or wounded. His actions to motivate and lead the troops on for days, and even travelling out into heavy defended German terrritory to rescue a wounded comrade were again recognized for the bravery involved. He would be recommended for another award... The Military Medal, and he would get this in mid 1917. He would also get yet a third battle wound. And this time he would be away from the unit recovering for about 2 months.
A fourth battle wound in May of 1918 saw him yet again being off to recover, and this time it took another 3 months of rest and care.
About a dozen miles east of Arras France Claude would take yet another battle wound. He was in the Company Headquarters when, all of a sudden enemy concentrated fire was heard. He raced out to investigate and without any orders requiring the actions, he made it back and forth from numerous company dugouts to ensure the men were allright and provide additional motivation. During all of the time that he made it from unit to unit, he was under constant rifle fire. Very heated fire that finally found its mark and causing serious injuries.
For this bravery he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. But later this was upgraded, to that of a Victoria Cross. His would be one of only 2 for the regiment, but 7 VC's were awarded in full for the battle to Canadians. He was also nominated, unsuccessfully, for the Croix de Guerre for his heroism at this battle.
This final wound took his life several days later. His VC was therefore a posthumous award.
Claude Nunney lies at rest today at the Anbigny Communal Cemetery Extension in France.
There is a Royal Canadian Legion Post with a historic plaque on the property in Lancaster Ontario and his VC medal group is on display at the armouries in Cornwall Ontario. A squadron of Cadets also in Ontario are named in his honor.
His Victoria Cross was awarded for actions on 2 September 1918... 96 years ago Monday past.