Great Canadian athletes who went to war and never came home

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

- Laurence Binyon, 1914

There were many great Canadian athletes who went to war and never came home again. And although many are not household names to most of us, the least we can do is remember some of them once a year.

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World War I

Percival Molson was a Stanley Cup winner whose famous family currently owns the Montreal Canadiens. Molson was also a St. Louis 1904 Olympian in the men’s 400 metres. In the Battle of Mount Sorrel, Captain Molson was wounded. He recovered but died near Vimy Ridge in the summer of 1917.

Cree distance runner Alex Decoteau born in 1887 at a Saskatchewan Reserve, finished sixth in the men’s 5,000 metres at Stockholm 1912. Decoteau died at the Second Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.

Tennis player Robert Powell from Victoria, BC, represented Canada in men’s tennis – singles and doubles – at London 1908. That same year he reached the Wimbledon semifinals in singles. Powell was a lieutenant in World War I. He died leading a charge at Vimy Ridge just two weeks after Canadians captured the strategic high ground.

World War II

Fencer Don Collinge was Canada’s foil and sabre champion in 1936, which earned him a trip to that year’s Games in Berlin. He continued to compete until Canada entered the war. Collinge was serving as a navigator on July 7, 1944 when he was killed in a flying accident.

Bantamweight boxer Harvey Lacelle competed at Berlin 1936. Just six years later, while serving as a Pilot Officer, he was killed over the skies of Germany.

Rower Jack Murdoch won a bronze medal as a member of the eight at the 1928 Amsterdam rowing regatta. A member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, he was killed in action in the Netherlands in October 1944.

Middle distance runner Hugh Thompson competed in the 1500m at Berlin 1936. When World War II began, he travelled to England to join the Royal Air Force. He was just 28 when he died in an airplane crash in 1942. 

© Melita New Era