Column: Mother loses two sons in six days

Annie Lemon of Woodwards Landing, at the south end of No. 5 Road, (today a Girl Guide camp) with her husband George, the local wharfinger.  This couple offered up two of their sons to the Great War.

The Battle of Hill 70 took place in World War I between the Canadian Corps and four divisions of the German 6th Army. The battle took place along the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 and 25 August 1917.

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Hill 70 was part of the larger Allied offensives on the Western Front in 1917, which began in April with the launch of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, widely known as a great Canadian victory, and a nation-building event.  In its shadow, Hill 70, and subsequently Passchendaele, assumed footnote status in Canadian history, even though the casualty rates for both Hill 70 and Passchendaele were higher than  Vimy Ridge.

The Hill 70 Memorial Park, dedicated to the Canadian Corps that achieved victory at the Battle of Hill 70 in August, 1917, was just completed on October 2nd, 2019. The centerpiece of the Memorial is an obelisk signifying the victory of the Canadian Corps at the Battle of Hill 70. In addition to the obelisk, there is a series of walkways dedicated to the six Victoria Cross awards, as well as plazas dedicated to Regiments and soldiers who figured prominently in the battle.

It was during the spring and summer of 1917 that Canada's troops emerged as one of the most effective and feared fighting forces in the Western theatre, and would for the remainder of the war act as leading forces in battle.

As Canada was fighting under their own flag but that time, virtually every Canadian soldier serving in Europe would have participated in battles like Hill 70.

Sergeant Reginald Lemon, was a policeman living in Vancouver BC.  The home he lived in on 13th Avenue still stands today, and is listed in the City of Vancouver's heritage building registry.

Born 1890, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on August 7, 1915.  His younger brother George had enlisted just one week earlier, and this may have been his motivation.  Reginald was married to Lillie Susan Lemon, and after Reginald shipped overseas, Lillie moved to Wimbledon, England, presumably to be closer to her husband should he earn leave.  Reginald served in England and France, and along with the entire complement of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, went over the top on the first day of the Battle of Hill 70, and was Killed in Action on the first day of battle on August 15, 1917.

Lance Corporal George Lemon listed his occupation as teamster, indicating he drover either a truck or a team of animals in the shipping, cartage or delivery business.  Teamsters were common in Richmond at that time.

George enlisted with the 29th Overseas Battalion on July 31, 1915.  Born in 1894 and listing his residence as Woodwards Landing, Lulu Island BC, 21-year old George Lemon sailed for Europe aboard the SS BALTIC May 20 1916.  Also on board was his older brother Reginald.

George spent time after arrival in England training in the UK, at at some unknown point arrived at the front lines in northern France.  Very little of his day to day activities are indicated in his official military records, but he experienced a unique illness and was sent to the rear for treatment on three occasions.   His medical records indicate PUO, an acronym for Pyrexia, Unknown Origin. This affliction was first identified in the British Army in France in the summer of 1915.  It had the name because it was only observed among officers and men living near the trenches, and in the personnel of hospitals, especially among orderlies of wards in which there were patients suffering from the disease.  The illness eventually became know as Trench Fever.

The circumstances of his death are scant.  His record shows him Killed in Action on August 21, 1917, near the French town of Lens, just 6 days after his older brother Reginald was killed.

Two young men, brothers from Richmond, killed within 6 days of each other on a faraway hill in France.

No remains from either soldier were recovered.  Like so many other soldiers with no known grave, they were likely obliterated from life by close proximity to a shell-burst, leaving nothing but tiny scraps of bone, tissue and hair.  Certainly not enough to identify a body.

Mrs. Annie Lemon of Woodwards Landing, Lulu Island BC would receive two Memorial Crosses and become one of thousands of Canadian Silver Cross Mothers.

With no grave for either of her sons, their names are etched on the memorial at Vimy Ridge; are entered into the Canadian Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower in Ottawa.

Reginald and George Lemon are remembered in our town on the eastern face of the Richmond Cenotaph, at City Hall.

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