WINNIPEG – More men whose next-of-kin lived in Winnipeg died on the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge than on any other day during the First World War.
Over the course of the four-day battle, 42 men were slain in what many believe was a defining victory for the Canadian military – the first time all four Canadian divisions launched an attack as one force.
Winnipeg's Vimy Ridge casualties
One of those men was Sydney James Bevan, 26, a private who died on the first day of the battle, leaving his widow to receive the news at their Vaughn Street home.
Bevan, was born in Newbury, England, the son of a labourer and his wife. He came to Canada when he was nine years old, in March 1901, with 260 other children. They were some of the thousands of “home children” or “Barnardo children” who were sent to Canada under the U.K.’s child immigration scheme, according to a story about him on a website about Canadian British home children.
He worked as a bound domestic servant to an Ontario couple until he completed his term 10 years later. He then sought work in the U.S. and became an American citizen, but later returned to Canada, marrying a Canadian woman.
He settled in Manitoba and he and his wife, Christina, became parents just six months before he voluntarily enlisted, his great-granddaughter told Global News via Facebook.
“Sydney enlisted when his daughter was only 6 months old, and he never came home again. He is buried in France,” wrote Flynne Morris, the granddaughter of that six-month-old baby.
When Bevan enlisted with the 1st Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles on Jan. 25, 1916, he identified himself as a homesteader from Fairford, Man. However, the next-of-kin address for his wife was 335 Vaughn St., where she must have lived with her baby after he left for war.
That would be where she received news of his death by shellfire at Vimy Ridge.
Bevan was buried at La Chaudiere Military Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, but in 1925, his wife received a locket that had been found on the battlefield. In it was a photo of her and the words “Baby Bevan” were inscribed on the back, the home children website says.
“I have Sydney’s Silver Cross medallion in my care,” Flynne Morris wrote. “He will never be forgotten, nor will I forget the countless other brave souls who defended our freedom.”
Explore our interactive map and click the links to learn more about the men who died at Vimy Ridge. Do any of them live on your street? Do you know their stories? Please share them in the comments below.
- Was someone on your street killed during WWI’s Battle of Vimy Ridge?
- Mapping Winnipeg’s First World War dead