1916 Yukon Nuggets
George Black 1916
In far off France in that dismal year of 1916, men in the mud braced themselves for yet another shelling. Both the Allied forces of Britain and Canada and the German army had reached a stalemate. The war to end all wars - it seemed - would never end.
Back in Dawson City in 1916, Commissioner George Black, now 43 years old, grew restless. Sporadic news reports from the front lines, were mostly bad. Black, who had come to the Yukon in 1898, as a young lawyer from New Brunswick, knew the war, which was to be over in months, would not likely be over for years.
He telegraphed the Canadian minister of the Militia, Sam Hughes in Ottawa and offered to set up a Yukon Regiment. He received no reply so he made the long trek to Ottawa to personally present his proposal. Hughes said if he could raise a battalion, Black would become a colonel.
Back in Dawson, Black cajoled men from the gold dredges to form an infantry company. The recruitment letter on the Commissioner's office letterhead lead to 275 volunteers who were ready to join George Black overseas. The contingent left Dawson on the sternwheeler Casca on October 16, 1916.
Mrs. Martha Black went too. After months of training, the Yukon Infantry and Mrs Black, the only woman in the company, boarded a troopship and sailed from Halifax harbour in January 1917. In England, the Yukon infantry trained with the17th Canadian Machine Gun Company before going to the front in France .
There, the Yukoners took part in the famed Battle of Amiens, which began on August 8th, 1918. It was the opening phase of the Allied offensive that ultimately led to the end of World War I.
On the grim march to battle in Amiens, just a few months before the November 11 armistice, Captain Black took a bullet in one leg and a piece of shrapnel in the other. His war was over and he was sent to England for medical treatment.
At war's end, Captain Black, now fully recovered, was stationed with the Army of Occupation in Germany . Then, in 1919, the Blacks returned to Canada and settled in Vancouver where Mr. Black opened a law practice. But he couldn't resist politics. In 1920, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the British Columbia provincial legislature.
When the federal election was called in 1921, George Black was offered the Yukon nomination for the Conservative Party, so the couple returned to Dawson City and began another phase in their illustrious Yukon careers.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.