Peruvian volunteers who offered their bravery and sacrifice in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars

Posted On 29 May 2023
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Foto: Gobierno de Canadá/ II Guerra, 1939-1945.

By Captain Rey GARCIA-SALAS VASQUEZ.- The Latin American community has played a significant role in defending Canadian values and ethics throughout history. From Confederation on wards, individuals from Latin American countries, including Peru, actively participated in Canada’s military during times of conflict. This article highlights the remarkable contributions made by Peruvian soldiers who volunteered in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars. Their dedication, bravery, and sacrifice exemplify the shared values between Latin America and Canada, serving as a testament to the strong and lasting bond between the two regions.

Trimer Vic Crothalin: Trimer Vic Crothalin was born in Peru and enlisted in the Canadian Mercantile Marinein the SS Halifax Wreckduring the First World War. A cargo ship steam propulsion built in 1888. Having a missing cause lost on 11 December 1917 with 37 casualties. Trimer Crothalin’s commitment to serving his newfound homeland is noteworthy. He joined countless other Peruvians who volunteered to defend Canada’s values, demonstrating the spirit of camaraderie and sacrifice. Trimer Vic Crothalin’s selflessness exemplifies the Latin American community’s dedication to upholding shared principles and the strength of the bond between Peru and Canada.

Sailor A. Velasquez: Sailor A. Velasquez, born in Peru on 1894. He died on 13 August 1915 as a Canadian Mercantile Marine. Wreck HMS Royal Edward/Canadian Northern Steamships was an invaluable member of the Canadian Navy during the First World War. Velasquez’s service as a sailor exemplifies the dedication and courage of Latin American individuals who joined the Canadian Armed Forces. As a representative of Peru, Sailor A. Velasquez contributed to protecting Canadian values and promoting international peace. His commitment to the navy reflects the Latin American community’s deep-rooted respect for maritime traditions and the importance of collective defense.

Robert John Lancashire: Robert John Lancashire, born in Peru on 9 September 1891 in Callao. He died on 16 Jan 1923 in Callao, Peru. His mother was Sofia Francisca Gillis 1868-1925 and hisfather Lewis Charles Lancashire 1853-1900. Both parents from Callao, Peru. Before he joined Canadian Expeditionary Force, he was Telegraph and Cable Operator. Place of Enlistment New York USA 9 Oct 1918. Unit served 2nd Depot Bn Eastern Ontario Regt (EOR). His demobilization was in Ottawa on 26 Nov 1918.He made significant contributions as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. His enlistment showcases the commitment of individuals from Latin American backgrounds to stand alongside Canadian Soldiers. Serving with honor and valor, Lancashire symbolizes the Peruvian soldiers who fought for freedom, justice, and a brighter future for all in this case from Canada due to the First World War ended on 11 November 1918.

Captain Hedley Maurice Harrison: Capt Hedley Maurice Harrison, born in South Africa. Died on 14 Aug 1944. Age 30 years old. Hewas an exceptional leader in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War. Joining the Royal Canadian Artillery, 19 Field Regiment. Captain Hedley Maurice Harrison, a proud Canadian and son of Ernest Harrison and of Annie Gladys Harrison (nee Anyan), of Lima, Peru. B.Sc. (University of Toronto). Captain Harrison demonstrated his unwavering commitment to defending Canadian values and upholding global peace. He is buried at Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

El Capitán Rey GARCIA-SALAS VASQUEZ es uno de los impulsores de los reconocimientos a soldados latinoamericanos que ofrecieron su valentía y sacrificio por Canadá. Photo Somos Toronto.

During the First World War, the Canadian and Allied merchant ships and mariners of the Merchant Navy played a crucial role in transporting personnel, munitions, weapons, and food to Great Britain and Europe. This massive undertaking involved navigating treacherous waters, evading German U-Boats and mines that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Allied personnel and thousands of ships. Canada’s Grand Armada, in October 1914, saw over 31,000 troops transported on 31 ocean liners, escorted by Royal Navy warships, as they sailed for England.

In the face of this daunting challenge, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Navy rose to the occasion. The Royal Canadian Navy, though relatively young and small at the outbreak of the war, expanded significantly by 1918. Their fleet grew to nearly 9,500 sailors and over 130 commissioned vessels, including numerous merchant marine vessels and sailors. However, the Canadian Merchant Navy faced a shortage of supply vessels, troop carriers, and trained sailors. In response, thousands of Canadian merchant sailors, including some Peruvians, bravely left behind the comforts of home and familiar waters to serve their country and fight for freedom abroad.

Trimmers played a vital role in the Merchant Navy. These individuals ensured that coal was evenly distributed to maintain the ship’s trim and supplied the firemen with an adequate amount of coal for the boilers. They performed their duties using shovels, wheelbarrows, and sheer physical strength, often working in cramped and challenging conditions. The engine room crews, including trimmers, regarded themselves as highly skilled professionals, as their responsibilities were critical to the ship’s operation.

The perils faced by the Canadian Merchant Navy were magnified by the introduction of German U-Boats. These submarines silently lurked beneath the surface, posing a significant threat to the merchant ships. The Canadian Merchant Navy, responsible for transporting troops and essential supplies, became a lifeline for the troops fighting overseas. To mitigate the risk, the convoy system was implemented, grouping merchant ships together and providing them with warship escorts for protection. Trans-Atlantic convoys, consisting of up to 60 ships, traveled from Eastern Canada to European ports. These efforts were crucial in ensuring that vital resources reached the Allies, ultimately contributing to the Allied victory in late 1918.

Captain Rey Garcia-Salas is part of the Latin American Soldiers who presented the Latin American Soldiers in Canada Remembrance Book Vol I.

The sacrifices made by Peruvians and other members of the Canadian Merchant Navy during the First World War should never be forgotten. Their dedication, bravery, and selflessness played an instrumental role in safeguarding Canadian and Allied interests. Memorials, such as the Tower Hill Memorial in London, United Kingdom, stand as a testament to the fallen Canadian seafarers, including Vic Crothalin and Sailor A. Velasquez, who lost their lives while serving their country.

The Latin American Soldiers in Canada Committee’s mission is to publicize the names and stories of Canadian Latinos who were part of the Canadian Armed Forces.

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