This Week in History


A Six Nations Soldier of the First World War

For the week of Monday, September 21, 2015

“I, Cameron D. Brant, hereby agree and accept to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force overseas”

On September 22, 1914, Cameron D. Brant, great-great-grandson of famous Mohawk War Chief Joseph Brant, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight overseas in a different kind of war than his ancestor's. Within a few days, he was sent across the Atlantic to continue his training in England.

The First Canadian Contingent in the Bay of Gaspé
© Library and Archives Canada / E. Espèrence / Canada Patent and Copyright Office / PA-030192

Cameron D. Brant, from the Six Nations of the Grand River, began his military life long before the start of the First World War. He studied at the military school in London, Ontario, and served six years in the 37th Regiment. When Canada went to war, he was quick to volunteer even though Aboriginal peoples did not have the same rights as Canadian citizens and consequently did not have the same duties to the country.

Like most recruits, Brant trained in Valcartier, Quebec, a military station that became a primary training base for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. There he was promoted to lieutenant and became part of the 4th Infantry Battalion. After joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force he sailed on the S.S. Tyrolia to further training on the muddy Salisbury Plain. A few months later, Brant’s battalion left for the French front.

Cameron D. Brant
© Great War Centenary Association

In April 1915, his troop participated in its first great battle: the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Faced with a fierce German attack and the use of poison gas on allied troops, Cameron D. Brant, 28 years old, disappeared. He was declared “killed in action” on April 26th 1915. His name remains at the battle site among those of the 55,000 other missing First World War soldiers.

Cameron D. Brant was one of the first members of Six Nations to enlist in the Canadian army during the First World War. Three hundred men from the community fought on the front line, many of whom distinguished themselves as snipers or pathfinders.

Aboriginal Military Service in the First World War is designated as a national historic event to recognize the voluntary and significant contribution by First Nations, including Six Nations men, to the Canadian war effort.

To learn more about Canadian achievements during the First World War, read Pioneer of Bush Aviation, A First World War Top Sniper - Corporal Pegahmagabow and Canadians Join the Fight at Passchendaele in the archives of This Week in History.

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