By Deb Chapman
Gordon Stirling was a Salmon Arm man determined to do his part and serve his country during the war effort. This story recounts some of the details of his military service, followed by some of Sterling’s diary entries as he prepared to leave for the front.
Stirling served as an Orderly to Col. McDonald of the Strathcona Horse, then received a commission in the Horse Guards known as “The Blues” and went to the front as a second lieutenant, taking charge and delivering horses. At one point he was hospitalized with trench fever and spent time in London convalescing.
With the cavalry no longer in demand and keen to get back to the front, Stirling accepted a permanent commission in the Scots Guards, where he received machine gun training and joined the machine gun section of the Guards Brigade at the front. He went through much “severe fighting” according to the Salmon Arm Observer, with only a slight wound in the hand.
In June 1916, he earned the Military Cross for Valour, bringing in two wounded men lying in the open under heavy fire.
According to the Observer, Stirling was told of two soldiers under fire, lying wounded and exposed in the open.
At great personal risk, Stirling went to help, only to have to return for stretcher bearers. After getting one soldier to safety, one of the stretcher bearers lost his nerve. Stirling stepped in to his place and returned. The second rescue took an hour, which must have seemed like an eternity. Neither was wounded but the lieutenant’s “steel helmet was hit several times whilst his tunic was fairly riddled.” Unfortunately, the wounded soldier lying on the stretcher was hit again.
“No word had been previously received as to (Stirling’s) being wounded at all and it is therefore surmised that the wounds which were the cause of his death must have been inflicted at one of the daring battles which took place (later)… when the Guards and others succeeded in capturing three lines of German trenches,” the Observer continued.
“We join with all our readers in extending to Mr. and Mrs. Stirling and the members of their family our sincerest and heartfelt sympathy in the great and irretrievable loss they have sustained assuring them, at the same time, of the high esteem and admiration which we all feel for the conspicuous bravery displayed by their distinguished son whilst on the field of battle and for the noble sacrifice he has made in laying down his life for the good of his country and the sacred cause of liberty and justice for which she is shedding her life blood on the battlefields of Flanders today.”
Stirling died in combat Sept. 15, 1917 and is buried in grave 9.A.35 in High Wood, London Cemetery and Extension, near the Village of Longueval in France.