Canadian Expeditionary Force

A studio portrait of Ryochi Kobayashi in military uniform; Vancouver, BC in 1916.

During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a three-day ordeal that began on April 9, 1917, more than 7,000 Canadians died and 3,598 Canadians were wounded including Kobayashi, who was shot in the left arm.

Kobayashi was sent to Ramsgate Hospital in England where he was wounded again during an air raid attack before being being sent back to Canada and honourably discharged on May 17, 1918.

During The Second World War Kobayashi, his wife Masako and his children were sent to the Tashme internment camp where they had 2 more Children. When the War ended, they were given a choice — move east of the Rockies or be ‘repatriated’ to Japan.

Kobayashi chose Japan.

In May 1946, they and their seven Canadian-born children were among the first of the 3,964 “repatriates” to leave Canada. They went to Ryoichi’s birthplace, Hiroshima, which only a few months earlier had been devastated by a nuclear bomb.

At the start of the Korean War, Ryoichi and his four sons applied to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. Ryoichi was rejected because of his age, but his sons were among the nearly 40 repatriated Japanese-Canadians who were accepted. By 1955, their son Yukata had been posted to Western command in Edmonton and two years later, the rest of the family returned to Canada.

Ryoichi applied for citizenship and was rejected by the presiding judge because of his poor English. Yukata, who had accompanied his father, challenged the decision. Pointing to the insignia pinned on his father’s lapel, Yukata explained that his father was a Canadian veteran of the First World War.

The judge relented.

A Japanese Canadian soldier posing in a captured German Cap during the First World War.

222 Japanese Canadian soldiers overcame prejudice and barriers to enlistment and fought for Canada on the Western Front of the First World War between 1916 and 1918.

Their valour was recognized in the awarding of 11 Military Medals for Bravery to Japanese Canadian soldiers. Fifty-four, or nearly one-fourth of the Japanese Canadian soldiers were killed on the battlefield or died from wounds sustained in combat, and most of the surviving soldiers were also wounded.

On April 22, 1915, we saw our first major combat action, Canada’s baptism by fire.
We were undertrained.
We were outnumbered.
We were outgunned.
We fought, killed, and bled for days.
But we held the line.

On that fateful morning in Flanders, a massive gap in our lines developed when an entire french division was annihilated by a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas.
In a few short minutes, the risk of a German breakthrough had escalated into a veritable crisis for Entente forces on the western front.
For the next few days the weight of this impending disaster fell on the shoulders of the volunteers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

When the well-trained veteran German troops crossed no-man’s land, they expected to occupy a trench full of corpses unopposed.

The last thing they expected was a hail of bullets from a bunch of colonials.

Our rifles were garbage. Our training was brief. Our supplies were low.

But we kept fighting.

Canadian troops were miserable. Many succumbed to the gas. We kept fighting.

We were outnumbered and spread out, the Germans hammered us day and night. We kept fighting.

We died by the thousands. We kept fighting.

And that is what Canadian soldiers have done since - they keep on fighting. Our freedom was secured in the blood, sweat and tears of Canadians who, over the past hundred years, refused to give up and kept on fighting.

They lie under the soil somewhere on Vimy Ridge, never to be found. Their blood has since washed off the beaches of Normandy. Their tombstones stand row by row in Korea. Their flag-draped caskets were carried down the Highway of Heroes. They walk among us, ordinary citizens who did their civic duty and answered the call to arms, and those who will in the future.

We owe them all our thanks.

In memory of six thousand Canadian lives lost during the Second Battle of Ypres and of every Canadian who sacrificed for our country since that horrific battle, our baptism by fire that occurred in the infernal meat grinder of the First World War.

Lest we forget.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— 

In Flanders Fields

by 

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Canadian Expeditionary Force 

2

James Cleland Richardson

25th of November, 1895 – 8/9th of October, 1916.

“Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, born in Bellshill, Scotland and a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and then Chilliwack, BC. Richardson was a Piper in the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and he proceeded overseas as part of the large Seaforth contingent of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, in the First World War, when the following deed took place when he was 20 years old for which he was awarded the VC.

During the Battle of the Ancre Heights on 8 October 1916 at Regina Trench, Somme, France, the company was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire. Piper Richardson, who had obtained permission to play the company ‘over the top’ strode up and down outside the wire playing his pipes, which so inspired the company that the wire was rushed and the position captured. Later the piper was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and some prisoners, but after proceeding some distance he insisted on turning back to recover his pipes which he had left behind. He was never seen again.

Richardson’s remains were found in 1920 and he is buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, located 6 miles north-east of Albert, France (plot III, row F, grave 36).” (x)