Friday, November 24, 2017

The Death of Malcolm Gifford, Jr.

On Veterans Day--Armistice Day--Gossips remembered Malcolm Gifford, Jr., the great nephew of artist Sanford Robinson Gifford, who, as a member of the Canadian Field Artillery, was the first person from Hudson--indeed the first person from Columbia County--to die in World War I. Gifford was buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No. 3 in Belgium, on the Western Front.

Gifford died on November 8, 1917, two days before the end of the Second Battle of Passchendaele. His father received a telegram from the director of war records in Ottawa on November 19, informing him of his son's death. Three days later, on November 22, the Hudson Evening Register reported that the family had received letters from Malcolm, Jr., written before his death.

This news item provides context for this letter from a Canadian chaplain, which was published in the newspaper two months later. Gossips stumbled upon it in 2012.

Canadian Chaplain Tells of Heroic End of 
Malcolm Gifford, Jr.
Hudson, Jan. 26--It was the terrific fighting for the possession of Passchendaele in a recent great British offensive that Malcolm Gifford, Jr., of this city, was killed, according to information received here by his father from the Rev. George C. Taylor, chaplain of the Thirty-sixth Battery, Canadian Artillery. The young man's death was previously reported.
The chaplain, in his letter, stated that Gifford fell after twenty days' fighting at the utmost point then gained in the British advance.
"To die in such a struggle was to crown a life with glory," the chaplain wrote. "It has been said that the Victoria Cross should have been given to every man who took part in it. The work had been tried again and again by others but, when all had failed, our boys brushed aside 'impossibility' and carried all before them. Day after day, no German fire could divert them from their guns. Your brave boy and another fell together. It was a typical soldier's death."
The photograph below shows German prisoners of war helping to carry casualties from the front during the Second Battle of Passchendaele.

Photo: Wikipedia

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