2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the WWI, and ceremonies of remembrance are planned all across the globe to coincide with the centenary of the armistice.
Over 600,000 Canadians served in the First World War and so we are taking a closer look at a remarkable individual with an important connection to Virden.
Raphael Louis Zengel was born on Nov. 11, 1894 in Faribault, United States. While he was still very young, he and his mother moved from the US to a homestead in Saskatchewan. Zengel enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in December 1914, at Virden.
Decorated for bravery during the battle of Passchendaele, Sergeant Zengel was later decorated with the British Empire’s highest award, the Victoria Cross, for his actions on Aug. 9, 1918, near Amiens, France. A record of the citation follows.
“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when protecting the battalion right flank. He was leading his platoon gallantly forward to the attack, but had not gone far when he realised that a gap had occurred on his flank, and that an enemy machine gun was firing at close range into the advancing line. Grasping the situation, he rushed forward some 200 yards ahead of the platoon, tackled the machine-gun emplacement, killed the officer and operator of the gun, and dispersed the crew.
Later, when the battalion was held up by very heavy machine-gun fire, he displayed much tactical skill and directed his fire with destructive results. Shortly afterwards he was rendered unconscious for a few minutes by an enemy shell, but on recovering consciousness he at once continued to direct harassing fire on the enemy. Sgt. Zengel’s work throughout the attack was excellent, and his utter disregard for personal safety, and the confidence he inspired in all ranks, greatly assisted in bringing the attack to a successful end.”
Sgt. Zengel survived the First World War. He moved to Calgary where he joined the Calgary Fire Department.
He later relocated to Rocky Mountain House, Alta. where the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion was named in his honour. He passed away at Errington, B.C. in 1977.
The Pioneer Home Museum helps to preserve Virden's military history and honour those who served.
Visitors to the museum will find a wide array of artifacts in the museum annexes and those who wish to learn more about the Canada's role in WWI are invited to come to the museum and explore the museum collection.