By MPP Toby Barrett
Many have heard of U.S. sniper Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, who gained fame when he wrote the book American Sniper, which was made into a film in 2014.
Kyle made a confirmed kill at 1,920 meters in 2008 during the Iraq war. With more than 150 kills, his total was more than any other American at the time.
Yet Kyle doesn’t make the list of longest confirmed sniper kills. Three Canadians do though. The current record of 3,540 yards is held by an unnamed Canadian and was made in Iraq in May 2017. He beat a record of 2,475 meters set by British soldier Craig Harrison in 2009. Harrison edged Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong’s shot of 2,430 meters made in March 2002 in Afghanistan. Furlong unseated Canadian Master Corporal Aaron Perry, who made a 2,310-meter, shot earlier the same month.
Canada’s snipers are amongst our unsung heroes.
During the First World War, Metis Henry Louis Norwest was one of the most famous Canadian snipers. In the days of trench conflict, a sniper needed excellent marksmanship, with the ability to stay still for long periods of time and camouflage himself. Lance-Corporal Norwest had 115 fatal shots to his credit. He earned the Military Medal for bravery during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
During the Hundred Days War, in August 1918, he earned a second Military Medal in the Battle of Amiens for taking out several German machine gun positions. Norwest was killed by a German sniper shortly thereafter.
One of Norwest’s companions wrote of him: “Our famous sniper no doubt understood better than most of us the cost of life and the price of death. Henry Norwest carried out his terrible duty superbly because he believed his special skill gave him no choice but to fulfil his indispensable mission.”
A sniper also ended the life the last Canadian killed in action on the Western Front before the Armistice came into effect on Nov. 11.
When the Armistice was signed at 5:12 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, there was a difference between the two signatories concerning when it would come into effect – the Germans wanted it to be immediate while the Allies wanted a delay to inform the troops. Hence, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
In the ensuring six hours, hundreds of soldiers would die before word reached the trenches. French Private Augustin-Joseph Victorin Trebuchon’s story was particularly tragic as he was shot at 10:44 a.m. carrying a message saying soup would be served at 11:30 a.m. after the truce came into effect.
Canadian Private George Lawrence Price of the 28th Battalion was the last soldier of the British Empire to fall. Born in Falmouth, N.S., he moved to Moose Jaw, Sask., where he was conscripted in December 1917. On Nov. 11, his patrol was fighting in the village of Ville-sur-Haine, near Mons. As he left a house, a sniper shot him through the right breast at 10:57. One minute later he died, being the last British Empire soldier killed in action.
Officially, American Private Henry Gunter was the last soldier to die before the Armistice came into effect, falling at 10:59 a.m.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk