Henry Desrochers in 1910. Photos submitted
One hundred years ago, Private Henry Desrochers gave his life for his country, serving in the 13th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment).
Desrochers was born in Montreal, Quebec on September 22, 1892 to Adelard and Helen Brien Desrochers. From there, Desrochers moved with his family to Manitoba in 1906.
According to www.canadianfallenheroes.com, Desrochers was a single briquetier who volunteered with the 90th Winnipeg Regiment before enlisting at age 22 in Montreal, Quebec on May 28, 1915. Desrochers served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 57th Battalion (Canadien –Francais), and went overseas on the SS Saxonia in October of 1915 to train in England for nine months.
In July of 1916, Desrochers landed in France and at Boulogne, was transferred to the 13th Battalion. Desrochers faced the eight kilometer Vimy Ridge with three lines of German trenches and machine gun nests. On April 9, 1917, Desrochers took part along with the four Canadian Divisions who began the siege to secure Vimy Ridge with 983 guns and mortars taking part; at age 24, Desrochers died the same day.
His name is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial in France, and on the Manitoba Historical Society War Memorial, as well as on page 227 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.
Desrochers, was the great uncle of Vermilion’s Town Councillor, Robert Pulyk. Until searching the internet in recent years, Pulyk was only familiar with the fact that he had a relative that had died at Vimy Ridge, but no further details. Pulyk also received some photographs and letters from his grandmother that can be viewed at http://www.veterans.gc.ca.
During his service, Desrochers wrote several letters to his father and Pulyk was able to gather some personal anecdotes from these letters. The fact that he cherished letters from home, or anticipated another shipment of chewing tobacco, along with the fact that he had been injured and endured a hospital stay before going back to the front lines was all included before the salutation, “Your son, Henry.”
“Just a few lines to let you know that I am O.K. and it is only a few days before I will be back with my Battalion to go and do some more fighting. My wound is O.K. now and I am not sorry to be able to say that I can still go back and do a bit more for my country. I might not be as lucky this time but I hope to trust in God again as I did the first time and hope that I come out O.K. again,” said Private Henry Desrochers in a letter to his father dated October 18, 1916.
Pulyk was moved to know that his great uncle had left home at an early age, expecting to be gone a short time, and longed to be home soon.
“It’s an honour to now that we had a relative who served in WWI and laid down his life at Vimy. I look forward to having a plaque made by the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation, and by having it online, my grandchildren will be able to know their history.
Having the opportunity to represent the Town of Vermilion during the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April of 2017 held special meaning for me. There’s a piece of my family history over there, and at some point, I plan to visit the Vimy Memorial in France,” said Pulyk.
Private Henry Desrochers during his service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916.