Case study

WW1 Canadian VC recipient Joseph Thomas Kaeble

The story of Canadian First World War Victoria Cross recipient Joseph Thomas Kaeble.

Joseph Thomas Kaeble
Credit: National Defence Canada

70 men from Canada received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed at the British High Commission Ottawa. This archive tells their stories.

Name: Joseph Thomas Kaeble

DOB: 5 May 1893

Place of Birth: St Moïse, Quebec, Canada

Date of Action: 8 to 9 June 1918

Place of Action: Arras, France

Rank: Corporal

Regiment: 22nd Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Joseph Thomas Kaeble was born on 5 May 1893 in St Moïse, Quebec, in French-speaking Canada. He worked as a mechanic before enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916. He later joined the 22nd Infantry Battalion in France and was awarded the Military Medal.

Corporal Kaeble was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his bravery on 8 to 9 June 1918 near Arras in France. He was in charge of a machine-gun on the Canadian line when there was an intense enemy attack. His citation explains:

For most conspicuous bravery and extraordinary devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun section in the front line trenches, on which a strong enemy raid was attempted. During an intense bombardment Cpl. 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. Cpl. 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.

Corporal Kaeble died of his wounds on the night after the attack. He is buried at Wanquetin Communal Cemetery, near Arras in France. A mountain, streets and buildings are named after him in Canada. In 2012 a Hero-Class patrol vessel used by the Coastguard, was named in his honour.

Published 20 June 2016