Luitenant Russell Longworth Germain.

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Luitenant Russell Longworth Germain.

Berichtdoor Tandorini » 22 mei 2011, 11:37









The 20th (Central Ontario) Battalion, which formed part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), was composed of volunteers from militias in Central Ontario. One of those volunteers was Russell Longworth Germain, who was born in Kingston,Ontario, in 1898.

Russell "Busty" Germain originally enlisted on 28 november 1914, as a Sapper with the 6th Field Company Canadian Engeneers (the prefix 'Royal' was not bestowed upon the Corps until 1932). About half of the volunteers were students from Queen's University, as was Germain who was studying medicine at the outbreak of war.

His unit boarded HMT Northland at Halifax om 24 april 1915, and sailed for Britain. After further training, the Engineers were sent to France in september of that year. Less than a year later, in august 1916, Russell Germain was buried under debris in his dugout and both his ankles were broken. He was invalided back to Canada where he could have remained, having already played his part in the Great War.

Yet, as soon as he had recovered from his injuries he re-enlisted, this time with the 146th Battalion CEF and sailed once again to the UK. On arrival in England he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. However, Germain wanted to return to the action immediately and the only way he could do this was by giving up his stripes and joining another battalion - the 20th.

So, now Private Germain sailed for France being promoted once again when he joined his new unit, this time as Corporal. Back in the front line he was gassed and hospitalised in France. Upon his recovery he was ordered to the UK to take up a commision, having been recommended by his commanding officer for his conduct in the field during the fighting on Vimy Ridge. (During the attack on 9 april 1917, the 20th Battalion attacked as part of the 4th Brigade on the right of the offensive, mopping up any enemy still holed up in trenches and craters, taking prisoners and collecting maps and documents).

After officer training Germain rejoined the 20th Battalion as a Lieutenant in the autumm of 1918. He has received his commission on his twenty-first birthday.

It was at this point that the Allies were driving the Germans before them. On 2 september 1918, Canadian troops smashed through the Drocourt-Quéant section of the Hindenburg Line defences, and broke its main support position, taking 5622 casulties. After this, the Germans retreated across the Canal du Nord, which was almost completely flooded, followed closely by the Canadians.

On 10-12 oktober 1918, Germain's battalion found itself exploiting bridgeheads across the Canal de l'Escaut in pursuit of the Germans. During this fighting the 20th Battalion suffered casualties of eleven officers and 319 other ranks in one period of just forty-two hours of almost constant action.

It was during the final thirty-two days of the war that the Canadians engaged the retreating Germans over about forty-five miles in a running series of battles at Denain and Valenciennes in France, finally driving the enemy back to Mons in Belgium.

The fighting continued in what was known as the "Pursuit to Mons" up until the last moments of the war. In the last twenty-four hours before the armistice, the 20th Battalion continued to be engaged being the unit which captured the last prisoner taking by the Canadian Forces - at 10.00 hours on 11 november 1918, at Mons.

The 20th Battalion won a total of eighteen Battle Honours and 398 decorations and awards, including two Victoria Crosses. During the entire war, on no occasion was the battalion ever driven out of its trenches by the enemy, nor did any company, platoon, or section ever flee the battlefield. Althogether, 855 officers and men of the 20th Battalion died in the First World War - unfortunately some were killed in that last twenty-four hours before the Armistice.

In that period one officer and eleven other ranks were killed; thirty other ranks were wounded. That officer was Lieutenant Germain.

After joining up just months from the start of the war, and having endured injuries and gassing, Russell Germain lost his live just hours before the war ended.
Twenty-two year old Lieutenant Germain was buried in Mons Communal Cemetery. His grave can be found at plot X. B. 23.


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