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Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

All explanatory text, archival descriptions, narratives, database headings, and navigation assistance on the web site of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick are provided in both English and French. When content is extracted from a document for insertion in a database or to be presented as a facsimile, it is provided in the language of the original.

Yerxa, Guy Randolph

Lieutenant 434060
50th Battalion, (King’s Own Calgary Regiment)
71st York Carleton Regiment

Background

Lieutenant Guy Randolph Yerxa was born February 15, 1890 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Guy grew up with his father, Randolph Yerxa, also of Fredericton, and mother, Mary E. Torrens, of Fairville, New Brunswick, situated in present day Saint John. Together, the family occupied a residence at 527 King Street, which would have been located in an area on the south block between Regent Street and Carleton Street. According to census records, Guy also had a younger sister named Gladys Faye, who would have been approximately 13 years of age when Guy went off to war. Gladys married a man named Charles Austin McMaster who was from the Fairville area, the same as Guy's mother. He also had a brother named Roy. While few details exist of his early life growing up in Fredericton, at the time of his enlistment in December of 1914, Guy was living in Calgary, Alberta, having left Fredericton to work with the Immigration Works of the Interior Department. He had served two years in Fredericton with the 71st Carleton York Regiment and worked as a surveyor for the Royal Bank of Canada while living here. He was well known and admired by many in Fredericton. At the time of his enlistment with the 50th Battalion, known as the King's Own Calgary Regiment, Guy was 24 years of age and single. His attestations documents suggest that he stood five feet nine inches tall, had blue eyes, and dark hair.

Wartime Experience

According to newspapers at the time, Guy was a non-commissioned officer quickly working his way up the military ranks. It would not be until October 27, 1915 that Guy would embark for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia on the SS Orduna. He would arrive in England approximately a week later on November 4. It would be in Bramshott Camp, England where he would complete much of his training before accepting a commission and promotion to Sergeant with the King's Own Calgary Regiment. Before embarking for Le Havre, France on August 10, 1916, Guy was given a six day leave of absence. Records indicate that he was likely able to do so while in training so that he could be with his newly-wed wife, Louise King-Yerxa, for the birth of the couple's only child, a son named Randolph. Upon arriving in France in the fall of 1916, Guy was quickly given recognition for his excellent work in the field by being promoted to Lieutenant in November, and later was already being considered as the next captain of his battalion. However, his military service would be short-lived. On April 9, 1917, Lieutenant Yerxa was an integral part of the four-day assault by all four Canadian Divisions against German positions on the coveted Vimy Ridge, just north of Arras. More than 10, 600 Canadians were killed or wounded during the 4 days of fighting, with the first two days claiming the highest number of casualties. It was here on April 10, that Guy lost his life. A fellow officer with the 50th Battalion, Lieutenant Stewart Moore, noted that he had been killed during their first attack on German positions while Lieutenant Colonel L. F. Page offered that while Guy was killed leading his men into action, his sacrifice and action turned out to be one of greatest victories for Canada and the Allies during the First World War. Guy's sacrifice and service record in the winter and spring of 1917 earned him the Military Cross, awarded for his work in a raid on enemy trenches on March 21, 1917 and, according to the London Gazette, "for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty leading his men to the enemy second line with great courage and skill under heavy fire. Later, he personally superintended the collection of the wounded and set a splendid example throughout". Guy was 26 years old when he died. His body has never been found.

Lest We Forget

Lieutenant Guy Yerxa is memorialized and remembered with honour at the Vimy Memorial, overlooking the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about eight kilometres northeast of Arras. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, after the war, the highest point of the ridge was chosen as the site of the great memorial to all Canadians who served their country in battle during the First World War, and particularly to the 60,000 who gave their lives in France. It also bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France - many of them in the fight for Vimy Ridge - who have no known grave.

*This biography was researched and written by Olivia Rowinski, a Grade 8 student (2016-2017) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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