Armistice Day: The last soldier to die

When news of the Armistice reached George Price's home town in Canada on 11 November 1918, his younger sister Florence celebrated in the school yard with her friends.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 11th November 2018, 4:15 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 1:55 pm

For all Florence knew, her much beloved brother was on his way home from Belgium to play games of ‘horsey’ in their garden of their house in Nova Scotia.

It was only later that she learned the heartbreaking truth.

At 10.58am - at the very moment she had been celebrating - her beloved George had been shot dead by a German sniper on the outskirts of the city of Mons.

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He was the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war to end all wars.

It is still a painful story for Florence’s 89-year-old son George Barkhouse, who visited Mons this weekend as the city’s people turned out in droves to pay tribute to his uncle.

“My mother loved George dearly,” Mr Barkhouse told the i newspaper ahead of a remembrance at the cemetery of Saint Symphorien where his uncle is buried. “He was a favourite brother. When he came home from work and played with her, she worshipped him. He meant an awful lot to her.

“When the end of the war came, they were all in the playground celebrating - not knowing that he had been shot. It was only later that she was hit with the news that he had been killed. It was a terrible day.”

Mr Barkhouse revealed that his uncle had not wanted to go to war, but did his duty and went off to fight for the British Empire half way around the world in the streets and fields of Belgium.

“He was a nice person and he didn’t want to join the army. He wrote to his own mother asking if he should go. He didn’t want to kill anybody. But he did what he had to do.”

Price joined the 28th Canadian Infantry Battalion in 1917 and took part in the capture of Monchy-le-Preux and Wancourt. He survived a gas attack in September 1918.

On 11 November, as Canadian troops were liberating the city of Mons, Private Price and a friend, Arthur Goodworthy, decided to go on a patrol with five men to search some houses across the canal on the city’s outskirts at Ville-sur-Haine.

He was fatally shot by a sniper as he left a house at 10.57am and died one minute later while being protected by a young Belgian girl who ran to his aid - just two minutes before the guns fell silent.

A Belgian school teacher took a bloodstained fabric maple leaf that Private Price carried in his chest pocket as a reminder of home and later placed it in a glass frame with the words: “At the ultimate moment when peace was signed, you fell for us, the last victim of a sad conflict. Thank you, George Price. A drop of your blood was spilled on this simple flower that you hid on your chest.”

Mr Barkhouse his wife June, 85, and their granddaughter Sylvia Desloges, 37, visited Mons this weekend as part of events to mark the anniversary of the Armistice. They watched as the people of the city Mons, which is bedecked with Canadian flags for the anniversary, unveiled a new memorial to their relative. It stands next to a kindergarten - the George Price primary school.

Mr Barkhouse told i: “The Belgian people have paid a great tribute to George over the years. It’s touching. It’s such an honour to be here to say thank you to them.”

He added: “Remembrance day is a big day for so many families and especially ours. My mother loved George so much that she named me after him. It’s a lot to live up to. He was unfortunate to be the last one.”