Sunday, November 18, 2018

WWI best sniper returned broken in spirit and morale

First Nations sniper never recovered from horrors of war

By Don Thomas
November 16, 2018
Labelle was not so fortunate. He returned broken in spirit and morale, recalls his daughter Yvonne Poucette, 79. Her shoulders shook with grief last Sunday near the stone marker at the Chiniki cemetery where Labelle was buried with full PPCLI honours when he died at age 91 in 1989.

The final resting place for First World War sniper Tom Labelle of the Stoney First Nation is a remote one, on the edge of a drumlin at the Chiniki band cemetery 30 kilometres from Morley.
The Stoney Nation honours the memory of First World War sniper Tom Labelle. Photo submitted by Don Thomas.

But it’s not a forgotten place, as seen last weekend when Stoney First Nations residents gathered to honour his memory on Remembrance Day.

Labelle volunteered for the Canadian army at age 17 by lying about his age. He was inducted into the 31st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry where his shooting skill and ability to take out German machine gunners endeared him to the officers.

Exactly how many Germans he shot is unknown. Certainly, it wasn’t as many as Corp. Francis (Peggy) Pegahmagabow, of the Shawanaga First Nation in northern Ontario — the war’s best sniper, German or British — who is credited with killing 304 Germans and capturing another 300.

But Labelle’s marksmanship may have saved the lives of hundreds of Canadian and British soldiers, since it led to German machine gunners being killed before they could slaughter Allied soldiers with their weapons.
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