Three-time recipient of the Military Medal, he is one of the most decorated Native American soldiers in Canadian military history (But not the most decorated, see Jerome Frank N and Prince Tommy).
After the outbreak of the First World War, Pegahmagabow became a volunteer for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in August 1914 and was posted to the 23rd Canadian Regiment (Northern Pioneers). After joining the Canadian force, he was based at CFB Valcartier. He decorated his army tent with traditional symbols, including a deer, a symbol of his clan. In February 1915, he was deployed abroad with the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion of the 1st Division, the first Canadian contingent sent to fight in Europe.
Shortly after arriving on the mainland, Pegahmagabow saw the action during the Second Battle of Ypres, where the Germans used chlorine gas for the first time on the Western Front, and it was during this battle that he began to establish a reputation as a sniper and scout. Later, his battalion took part in the Battle of the Somme and it was during this battle that Pegahmagabow was wounded in his left leg. Neat, he joined the 1st Battalion who went to Belgium. During these two battles that lasted nearly a year, Pegahmagabow carries messages along the lines, and it was for these efforts that he received the Military Medal. On November 6/19, 1917, Pegahmagabow got a bar at his Military Medal for his actions in the second battle of Passchendaele. During the fighting, the Pegahmagabow battalion was charged with launching an attack at Passchendaele. At that time, he had been promoted to the rank of corporal and during the battle he was encouraged to play an important role as a link between the units on the flank of the 1st Battalion. When battalion reinforcements were lost, Pegahmagabow helped guide them to where they needed to go and ensure they reached their assigned positions in the lines.
On August 30, 1918 during the Battle of the Scarpe, Pegahmagabow was involved in the fight against a German attack on the Orix Trench near Upton Wood. His company was almost out of ammunition and in danger of being surrounded. In an effort to avoid a catastrophe, he took it upon himself to bring the necessary supplies. Braving the machine gun and the enemy fire, he went out into No Man's Land and brought back enough ammunition to allow his company to continue to repel counter-attacks. For these efforts, he received a second bar for his Military Medal, becoming one of 39 Canadians to receive this honor.
He was repatriated to Canada in 1919. He had served in the military for most of the war, and had built a solid reputation as a skilled marksman.
Upon his return to Canada, he continued to serve in the militia (Algonquin Regiment). In the wake of his father and grandfather, he was elected leader of the Parry Island Band in February 1921. Once in power, he caused schism in the band after writing a letter asking some people and the half-breeds to be expelled from the reserve. He was re-elected in 1924 and served until his overthrow by an internal power struggle in April 1925. A decade later, he was appointed councilor from 1933 to 1936.
During the Second World War, he worked as a guard at an ammunition factory near Nobel, Ontario while being a sergeant major in the local militia. In 1943, he became the supreme leader of the self-governing Aboriginal government, a First Nations organization.
Married with six children, Francis Pegahmagabow died on the Parry Island Reserve in 1952 at the age of 61. He is a member of the Indian Hall of Fame at the Woodland Center in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, and his memorial is also commemorated on a plaque at Rotary and Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail in Parry Sound. More recently, he was honored by the Canadian Forces who appointed the general building of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at CFB Borden on his behalf.
Francis Pegahmagabow has rarely spoken of his military exploits. However, his son Duncan remembers saying that his father was responsible for capturing 300 enemy soldiers.
In 2003, the family donated their medals and headdress to the Canadian War Museum where they can be seen as part of the World War I exhibit.
Quote of the medals:
1st medal: "For continuous service as a messenger from February 14, 1915 to February, 1916. He carried messages with great bravery and success during all the actions at Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy. he has always shown a contempt for danger and his fidelity to duty is very commendable ".
2nd medal: At Passchendaele November 6th / 7th 1917, this non-commissioned officer did an excellent job. Before and after the attack, he remained in contact with the flanks, advising the units he had seen, this information proving the success of the attack and gaining valuable time in the consolidation.
3 rd medal: "During the operations of August 30, 1918, in Orix trench, near Upton Wood, when his company had almost no more ammunition and in danger of being surrounded, this NCO to cross the ground under fire MG heavy [machine gun] and enemy fire and bring back enough ammunition to allow the post to continue and help repel enemy counterattacks. "
Quote from Department of Indian Affairs Report, 1919:
About twenty Indians enlisted in the district of Parry Sound. One of them, Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, won the Military Medal and two Bars. He enlisted in 1914 with the 1st Battalion of origin. He distinguished himself as a sniper and carries the extraordinary record of killing 378 enemies. His military medal and two bars were awarded for his distinguished conduct at Mount Sorrell, Amiens and Passchendaele. At Passchendaele, Corporal Pegahmagabow led his company through a one-victim engagement, and subsequently captured 300 Germans at Mount Sorrell.
Myths and Legends:
The first point is his medals. Pegahamagabow is not the most decorated of the 1st world war. The information comes from the Indian affairs report in 1919, which did not know the story of Sergeant JEROME Frank Narcisse, who also received the Military Medal 3 times. Since the information was copied, without being verified and thus Sgt JEROME was completely forgotten in Aboriginal history.
The other point being the capture of 300 Germans. The author Adrian Hayes, who has written several books on Pegahmagabow, also notes the glaring lack of information concerning this famous capture (page 125 of the book Life Long warrior: Unfortunately, the official summary is full of errors, which were repeated at many times in books, newspapers and elsewhere since then.). Apart from the Indian Affairs Report of 1919, which contains, among other things, many errors and lack of service to the natives during the war, there is no document other than Pegahmagabow's statements concerning his 300 prisoners. The medal quote itself does not mention it.
Serious errors of interpretation or reading of documents have been made by journalists, including Peter Worthington and Joseph Hall concerning facts about Pegahamagabow. The author makes it clear in his book that he wanted to correct the mistakes but only received criticism and accusations. Many errors, uncorrected, were also committed on Veterans Canada publications and museums led to the creation of a Pegahmagabow myth, from which it becomes impossible to disentangle the truth from the false. This included the awarding of a Distinguished Conduct Medal, wrong photos, his commitment to Vimy, the number of his injuries. The fact to note is the systematic refusal of these journalists and organizations to change the information despite the provision of documentation.
Francis's daughter, Marie Anderson, will speak about her brother Duncan in these terms: "Duncan remembers things differently from me" Reference made to the statements quoted by his brother and stories often heard and unverifiable. Mary will recognize, however, and this is true, that her father was totally forgotten by his nation and that it was now time to honor him.
Finally, last myth. Pegahmagabow was not a spy or crazy. Unlike other Sniper, he preferred to act alone in the No man's land, so the exact count of his victims could be higher. It is now almost admitted that he suffered at the end of the war from a serious post-traumatic stress disorder.
We are not trying to destroy or insult the memory of this soldier, but I strongly recommend Adrian Hayes's book - Pegahmagabow Life long warrior; which restores the facts between reality and myth on Pegahmagabow with years of research and interview.
You will also find reading my website that the official information conveyed for a long time contain a lot of mistakes, repeated repeatedly without being verified.