Private Elmer Sager
The Canadian Machine Gunner
The Liberation of Pequencourt
Elmer Sager was born in 1898, in Ancaster, Ontario, the youngest of four brothers. At the time of his enlistment Elmer worked as a school teacher having completed a teaching certificate at what was then termed Normal School.
Elmer enlisted in Hamilton, Ontario on October 10th, 1916. He had two brothers that were already fighting in the Great War: his brother Ed was an officer in the 122nd Muskoka Battalion, and his eldest brother Efered was in the 173rd Highanders from Hamilton. Elmer enlisted with the 205th Infantry Battalion, which was called The Hamilton Sportman's and Tiger Battalion, as it included among its officers several well-known Tiger Football players and the Olympic sprinter Bobbie Kerr.
The 205th Battalion had been formed in the spring of 1916, but 6 months later it had only 667 recruits. Hence, Sager's first task in the army was recruiting, a tough job in the Hamilton area as all the fit men had already gone off to war. Eventually the 20th Battalion was disbanded, and all the members who were of the right physical stature, became machine gunners and members of the Don Battery 1st. Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Elmer states in his memoir: "We were all quite thrilled at the change. First we were given long lectures and lessons on the Colt and the Maxim. The Maxim was a relic from the Boer War and long since outdated but we didn't know it at the time. The Colt had gone out of date at the outbreak of war and England was now using a new weapon called the Vickers but we didn't know that either. At any rate we took copious notes and conned the intricate parts of the Maxim and Colt until we thought we were fairly expert".
Elmer left for England on April 24th, 1917, and spent the spring and summer receiving extensive machine gun training on the new Vickers.
An avid sketcher since childhood, Elmer was assigned for six months to become the artist for a new magazine entitled `The Canadian Machine Gunner'. The Don Battery 1st. Canadian Machine Gun Corps were stationed in Seaforth awaiting to be sent overseas during this time, and this monthly magazine was issued to cheer and amuse the troops. Edited by his good friend Private Charlie Smith, the magazine contains many amusing sketche's by Elmer. To see a copy of the magazine, and some of these sketches, please click here.
The Don Battery 1st. Canadian Machine Gun Corps were finally sent to France in April,1918. What followed was weeks and months of marching and training, until August when they were sent to the Arras front, and participated in the battles that are now known as "Canada's Hundred Days". To read Elmer's personal account of the liberation of the French village of Pequencourt (located near Cambrai) please click here.
Elmer Sager resumed his teaching career when he returned to Canada.
This account was contributed by Elmer Sager's son, Bill Sager.