8 November 2015

Remembtance: Here we fear nothing, except God.

Corporal Joseph Kaeble, aged 26, was born in Quebec and served with the legendary Vandoos. He had been a mechanic in civilian life, and for that reason was made into a machine gunner during the war. (At the time they tried to match trades with positions within the army. It was thought mechanics would be better able to clear a jam in a machine gun than other trades.) He had served since 1916, and often wrote home to family and friends. He wrote to one girl in particular, who may have been his sweetheart or even his fiance. He wrote of how he longed to come home and see his people again, but also accepted that he may never return. He once wrote: “I pray to God every day that I may see you again, but that does not prevent me from doing my duty at the front. We must fear only the Good Lord. Here we fear nothing, except God.”

His devotion to duty and his courage he displayed in full on the June 8, 1918. I will allow his citation from the London Gazette explain the events of that day:

For most conspicuous bravery and extraordinary devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun section in the front line trenches, in which a strong enemy raid was attempted. During an intense bombardment Corporal Kaeble remained at the parapet with his Lewis gun shouldered ready for action, the field of fire being very short. As soon as the barrage lifted from the front line, about fifty of the enemy advanced towards his post. By this time the whole of his section except one had become casualties. Corporal Kaeble jumped over the parapet, and holding his Lewis gun at the hip, emptied one magazine after another into the advancing enemy, and although wounded several times by fragments of shells and bombs, he continued to fire and entirely blocked the enemy by his determined stand. Finally, firing all the time, he fell backwards into the trench mortally wounded. While lying on his back in the trench he fired his last cartridges over the parapet at the retreating Germans, and before losing consciousness shouted to the wounded about him: "Keep it up, boys; do not let them get through! We must stop them !" The complete repulse of the enemy attack at this point was due to the remarkable personal bravery and self-sacrifice of this gallant non-commissioned officer, who died of his wounds shortly afterwards.

Alone Kaeble had defeated fifty men and prevented his position from being overrun. Time and again, victory came down to the raw courage of just a few good men. Kaeble stands among the finest of the few.

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