By Aaron Zaretsky
November is a month to remember those who served and or sacrificed their life for our country. Unfortunately, heroes of Colour are often forgotten or underepresented when discussing Canadian war heroes. They are also not as well documented.
Born around 1745 in the West African kingdom of Bondu, Richard Pierpoint was a slave who served for the British army in 1776 to fight the Americans. In exchange for his service, freedom was granted if he survived. Pierpoint survived and evacuated to Upper Canada as a free man.
When the War of 1812 began, Pierpoint created the Coloured Corps of Upper Canada – a regiment that participated in important battles and were upgraded from infantry to “artificers” - an elite branch of the Royal Engineers. The regiment disbanded in 1815 but was revived in 1837, officially ending in 1851. According to Steve Pitt of the Toronto Star, The Coloured Corps of Upper Canada remains one of the longest and most distinguished records of any Canadian militia unit. Here is to celebrating Richard Pierpoint!
Born on the Minas Basin in Nova Scotia, William Hall was a sailor at the age of 15. In 1852, he joined the British Navy and fought during the Crimean War. At this time, Britain’s crown jewel was India. Hall served in the Far East when Indian regiments of the British Army rose in arms against the British in 1857. In November of that same year, Hall and his fellow sailors went on a mission to rescue a British garrison in Lucknow, India. Tasked with breaching the thick walls of a large mosque, which was being used as a fortress by the rebels, six men were killed and only Hall and another man were able to break the walls.
For his bravery, Hall received the Victoria Cross which is the highest award for military valour, becoming the first Black and first Canadian sailor to receive that honour. There is a memorial of Hall at a Baptist church in Hantsport, Nova Scotia. In February 2010, Canada Post celebrated his legacy with a commemorative stamp. William Hall was a very important hero in Canadian history!
Reverend William White
Born in Virginia in 1874, Reverend William White moved to Nova Scotia in 1899. During World War I, a large Black military unit, called the No. 2 Construction Battalion, was formed in Pictou, Nova Scotia. In 1917, a year after the unit’s formation, Reverend White enlisted, becoming the first commissioned officer of Colour in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). In his role as Chaplain for the CEF’s only segregated unit, the battalion was tasked with non-combat support roles such as providing the lumber required to maintain trenches on the front lines, and helping construct roads and railways.
Also, Reverend White advocated for equality of Coloured soldiers both in Canada and overseas, preaching race consciousness and inspired advocacy and social advancement. For his service, Reverend White became Honourary Captain, one of the few commissioned officers of Colour in the Canadian Army during WWI.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1920, Welsford Daniels joined the Reserve Army in 1939 and served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals during World War II. He was tasked as a signalman where his responsibilities were repairing every type of electronic equipment for every communication platform and staying close behind the front lines to report casualties.
When a communication line broke down, he traveled at night through areas that were not cleared out. Daniels put his life in jeopardy and successfully fixed the communication line. He also went to Red Cross units to ensure that the wounded received proper care.
Major Stephen Blizzard
Born in Trinidad in 1928, Major Stephen Blizzard is a Canadian military trailblazer both in the air and in medicine, and is one of the National icons of Trinidad and Tobago. He practiced medicine in Trinidad before moving to Canada in 1958 where he studied medicine at Western University. To pay for his studies, he joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Program, and worked at the National Defence Medical Centre (NDMC) in Ottawa. After years of hard work, Blizzard became a Base and flight surgeon and a jet pilot in the 1960s. In 1978, according to Angela Pidduck of Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, he was the first doctor on site in “Operation Magnet,” being the first airlift to bring 604 Vietnamese refugees to Canada. Blizzard made imperative contributions to aviation medicine in Canada, and internationally, in both military and civil fields. His most prominent work is on the effects of pilot fatigue, jet lag, and proper in-flight care. Thank you Major Stephen Blizzard!
It is important to mention the Canadian war nurses, especially those of Colour. Although there are no records of specific nurses, they are just as crucial as those who served on the front line. While the front line protected our country, the nurses protected them. And we cannot forget the Canadian women who served in other areas during war such as factory workers who helped manufacture war equipment.
How are you remembering those who have fallen during the various wars? Let us know @vibe105to on all social media platforms.