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Ontario : Branch 50 - FRED GIES, Kitchener.

 

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Fred Gies 1896 - 2000


Fred GiesThe Kitchener Legion branch proudly bears the name of comrade Fred Gies a local Veteran on World War One.

The branch was renamed on the occasion of his 100th birthday on 17th September 1996 in recognition of his remarkable contributions to Canada, The Royal Canadian Legion, and his community.

Fred, or as he was affectionately called, "Goose", was born on September 17, 1896 in Berlin, Ontario. He enlisted in the army at London, Ontario on Sept. 6, 1915. He served with the 13th Battalion of the Royal Highlanders in France, fighting in the trenches on the front line on May 6, 1916. Fred was in combat at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

In September of the same year, he survived a bomb that injured his shoulder. He was then captured and held as a prisoner of war for a year in a camp at Aldaum. Fred was later sent to West Prussia to work in a lumber camp. In total he spent two years and three months as a PoW.

Fred returned to Canada in February 1919 settling in Toronto where he returned to work as a machinist. After his marriage in 1921, he began a 34-year career as a letter carrier.

Fred Gies passed away on the 11th of August, 2000.

 

In the foyer of the current facility you will find a plaque memorializing Comrade Gies which includes his first world war decorations.

 

Interview 1998

Mr. Gies was nearing his 100th birthday when the following interview was recorded during the summer of 1996 at his residence in Kitchener, Ontario.

Interviewer: Were you in the trenches?

Yes, in the trenches, in, on May the 6th. We went in the trenches, that was the front line.

Interviewer: Yes, what was life like there?

It wasn't too bad, but the Germans broke through on June the second 1916 from a frontline, and so we forced marched up to hold... to try and hold the line anyway and then on June the 12th we went up and took our but with an awful lot of losses. We had 550 and we come out with 112.

Interviewer: Oh Dear, that's terrible eh, yeah? So you saw a lot of the enemy?

Yes, we saw a few of them. But, I think the worst was when we moved to France. I was sick at the time I didn't have to march down, they had me in the hospital. So ah, when we got to France on the Somme, yeah that was wicked. The mud, it was all mud everything, was it mud holes you know.

Interviewer: Were you affected by the gas? Where there any gas raids when you were there?

No, there was no gas at all. You didn't have gas in 16.

Interviewer: Were you wounded?

Yes, that's why I was wounded in the shoulder in on the um... when I was taken prisoner I was wounded in the, I got three holes in the shoulder from the wounds and that's was were the shrapnel still comes out of you know.

Interviewer: And you were taken prisoner?

Yeah, taken prisoner on September the 28th.

Interviewer: How did they treat you?

Well, I think I had a little bit better treatment than the average. The, we weren't treated as bad, the British weren't treated as bad as the Russians. We, we used to have the Russians, see they were see they'd be working on farms and if they had misdemeanour they were sent back to camp and then they gave them a hellish treatment (Did they?). In front of the prison, in front of the British, the British huts you know (Yeah?). I don't, whether there was supposed to say this might happen to you some day so yes, so (You be careful). Anyway I was the interpreter, chief interpreter, and then finally they, we moved, we were moved to a lumber camp with only twenty men going up and there I was more or less the chief but I still worked the same as the other people did.

Interviewer: And how long were you a prisoner?

For over two and a half, two years and a quarter, two years (Until, 'til the armistice?) Till the armistice. Then they come to me and asked "What do you want to do? Do you want to go right back to camp now or right away or do you want to wait? If you wait we'll look after you. You will get the same pay, we got 4 cent an hour, but they get the same food. We, had one, one good meal a day is what they provided us. And the rest was from, through the parcel post (Through the Red Cross?) Through Red Cross yeah. We got a parcel about every fifteen days through the Red Cross.

Interviewer: And they were good to you the Red Cross parcels?

The Red Cross was good and then when we did go on strike they were holding our parcels for about two weeks anyway, or three. We were right down to our last tin of, of corned beef for the twenty of us.

Interviewer: And why, ehy did you go on strike?

Well, they thought the tin goods contained poison. So we were going to poison their animals. And that's the reason we went on strike.

Interviewer: So you as prisoners actually went on strike?

If it had happened in Hitler's time we'd a been dead.

Interviewer: I am sure you would have been. Yes. That is very interesting. And who liberated your camp?

Nobody, no after the ah, as I said they asked me what we want to do. So I says "I'll ask the boys" (Yeah) When we get back to camp, I'll wait a minute, our quarters, we were billeted like in a, in a hotel in the dance hall. So ah, I says we'll ask them I'll and let you know in the morning. So I says they have decided to stay there until the call come. We only went back to the camp for over night and the next day we were on a boat out to go to Denmark. (Wonderful.)

Interviewer: Wonderful, now, so the Germans announced that the, that the armistice was on to you?

Yeah they told me right away


 

Other Links

Nov 09, 1998: Fred Gies Receives France's Top Honour

Nov 10, 2000: Veteran of First World War Dies At Age 103

Nov 12, 2000: Fred Gies, Lest We Forget
 

 

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