ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder

July 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 28 of 33

N othing in the annals of French-English relations in Canada could have had a more benign influence than the events of the night of 16 May 1899, in Quebec City, when an Anglophone Canadian army officer assisted by a staff-sergeant gave their lives saving the city from certain destruction. Major Charles Short and S/Sgt George Walick were members of B Battery, Regiment of Canadian Artillery, stationed at Kingston's Fort Frontenac. Both A and B Batteries had been originally formed in Quebec City at the formation of the newly-formed Canadian Army and officers were regularly posted back and forth. On occasion the two batteries themselves were exchanged back and forth. Some the gunners and a few of the officers were French Canadians. And the troops who fought the "Great Fire" of 1889 were actually stationed at Quebec, as was Kingston's Major Charles Short, commanding B Battery. The Quebec Morning Chronicle of 17 May 1889 recorded the action this way: "At an early hour of yesterday morning in the city of Quebec a wild and fast-consuming fire was raging in St. Saveur [Lower Town]. One house after another went down. Five hundred houses perished in that awful blaze. A thousand people were homeless. Moving masses of men women and children bearing household goods rushed through the streets. The Artillerymen (B Battery R.C.A.) went to the front of the fire to stop its progress by demolishing houses in its course. Major Short and Sergeant [sic] Walick stepped into a house on the corner of St. Gertrude St. near St. Sauveur Street to perfect arrangements for its destruction. Gunpowder prematurely exploded. Major Short had just time to shout 'run.' The house was hurled six feet into the air and fell in a chaotic mass." "The next day the major's body was carried with full military honours through the streets of Quebec City. Soldiers lined the streets. The Major's horse King Tom followed the gun carriage with his master's empty boots reversed in the stirrups. All businesses closed. All flags were at half-mast. The streets were crowded. A similar funeral parade took place in Kingston when Major Short made his final journey to Cataraqui. In Kingston, there was a solemn funeral procession to the Cataraqui Cemetery. The British Whig's editorial declared 'A Heartfelt Loss,'" (Whig 4 AUG 2001). Five weeks later on St. Jean-Baptist Day (21 June), Wilfred Laurier, leader of the Liberal Party, travelled to Quebec City and spoke in the Jacques Cartier Hall. He said: "A man came forward to fight the scourge, to fight the conflagration. He met his death there. Gentlemen let us have the pride of our race; let us be just to our fellow countrymen without distinction of race or creed." A year after his death, a brass plaque was placed in the Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Quebec with the text of his stone at Cataraqui, followed by "Erected by his brother officers of the regiment in affectionate remembrance of a brave and gallant comrade." One hundred years later in 1989 at Fort Frontenac a replica of this memorial was set into the stone of the fort. In 1891 a statue of the two gallant soldiers who died trying to create a firebreak with a barrel of gun-powder, standing shoulder to shoulder, was set up in Place George V opposite the Quebec National Assembly. An Authentic Canadian Hero By Terence Cottrell 28 SHOULDER TO SHOULDER

Articles in this issue

view archives of ANAVETS Shoulder to Shoulder - July 2017