Two Brave "Van Doos"

At least two Indigenous soldiers serving with le 22e Bataillon canadien-français 45 —Quebec's famous "Van Doos"—were awarded the Military Medal (MM) for bravery.

In February 1918, 20-year-old Private William Cleary, a Montagnais and former lumberjack from Pointe-Bleue, Quebec, volunteered to join a raiding party headed for an enemy trench near Lens, France. Afterward, when the raiders returned to their own trenches, they discovered that two of their group had been left behind. Cleary immediately returned to the enemy position and, with help from three others, brought back the missing men, both of whom had been wounded.

Three months later, the private suffered a gunshot wound, which forced him to recuperate in Great Britain. Cleary returned to Canada in February 1919 and, later that year, received the MM from the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII.

On August 15, 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Hill 70 in France, Private Joseph Roussin, a Mohawk from Quebec's Kanesatake Band, merited his medal for carrying out a successful solo attack against eight enemy soldiers. The former lumberjack came back with three prisoners and a gash in his arm from an enemy bayonet. Fortunately, the wound healed, and he returned to action one month later.

In the history of the battalion, Roussin is remembered as one of the battalion's "two famous military scouts" (Cleary is the other):

In the chaplain's hut . . . another casualty has just been given first aid. One of the scouts from the Van Doos has been wounded in the wrist. Roussin, an Indian, is the most wounded man in the Regiment, perhaps in the entire British Army. This one will earn him a ninth wound stripe. It's starting to become old hat to him; he's patched up and heads back to his post! 46

Roussin survived the war and returned to Canada in late 1918.

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