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John Shiwak will long be remembered


Dear Editor,

I read with interest your Oct. 13th article in The Labradorian “Labrador connection- new hall at MUN residence named after WW1 Inuk sniper.” I can add some additional information about Lance Corporal John Shiwak.

All of his Royal Newfoundland Regiment (RNR) papers are available on microfilm at The Rooms in St. John’s, and copies of these can be printed. I have a copy of most of his documents (as well as some of my grandfather’s and a few others). Included in John Shiwak’s documents are his enlistment papers, his medical examination report, his will, a letter of sympathy that accompanied his kit bag when it was returned to his mother Sarah, and her reply (as written by Rev. Henry Gordon).

He died in Masnieres, France on Nov. 21, 1917, and the town has one of the five caribou monuments that stand in France and Belgium as a memorial to members of the RNR. His captain (writing to Dr. Harry Paddon’s sister in England) indicated “We were walking along the canal bank towards the sugar factory when one shell burst in the middle of our column and killed seven…” and another letter in his file gives the exact coordinates of where he was buried. You can see the remains of the sugar factory as you walk along the canal in Masnieres even now. Sadly, most of these areas were fought over again and again, and graves themselves were blown up in the shelling and battles that followed— a single German howitzer could leave a crater 10 feet deep and 22 feet wide. Masnieres reverted into German hands ten days later (Nov. 30, 1917), and was not won back until October 1918.

Lance Corporal Shiwak and 819 other men with no known grave have their names inscribed on the memorial plaque at Beaumont Hamel (and its copy in Bowring Park, St. John’s).

Captain Robert Tait from the RNR gives this tribute to LC Shiwak “His loss was keenly felt by the whole Regiment, as he was a great favourite with all ranks, an excellent scout and observer and a thoroughly good and reliable fellow in everyway…(he) will long be remembered by all who knew him”.

Robert Forsey

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

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