Johnson Paudash and his younger brother George were born and raised on the Hiawatha First Nations reserve located on the north shore of Rice Lake, just southeast of Peterborough, Ontario. Johnson was born on January 29, 1875, while George was born on July 20, 1890. Johnson and George were from a distinguished Ojibwe family of chiefs and warriors that stretched back several generations. Their great grandfather, George “Cheneebeesh” Paudash, fought in the Revolutionary war alongside the British in 1774-75 and then again in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm on November 11, 1813, during the Anglo-American War of 1812. He died in 1869, at the age of 104, the last Sachem or Head Chief of all the Mississaugas. Their grandfather, Mosang Paudash, trained for battle in the Mackenzie Rebellion in Upper Canada (1836-1837). He was also the last hereditary Chief of the tribe of Mississaugas situated at Rice Lake. He died in 1893 at the age of 75. And their father, Robert Paudash, Chief of the Mississaugas at Pamadusgodayond, trained to guard against the Fenian raids (1866-1871). In the language of the Ojibwe, the word “Paudash” means “Crane”.
Much of the content of this article comes from research done by Johnson’s grandson, Brian Paudash.
Johnson Paudash was a personal friend of Sir Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defense during the First World War. Recognizing his ability as a marksman, Hughes talked Johnson into joining the newly formed 21st Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. When the war began, both brothers were married and lived in Hiawatha where George worked as a tinsmith and Johnson as a farmer. They enlisted within one week of each other in Kingston, in November 1914, and joined the 21st Battalion as privates. Prior to his enlistment in the CEF, George had served one year in the 40th Regiment in nearby Cobourg, Ontario.
After training in Kingston, they boarded a train to Montreal where they embarked on the SS Metagama on May 6, 1915, and sailed to England. Upon their arrival on May 15, they proceeded to the West Sandling Camp in Saltwood, Kent. Here, soldiers of the CEF and other allied British forces underwent harsh training in ‘Entrenchment’ at Tolsford Hill before being sent to the front line in France. This training consisted in the digging of practice trenches and “going over the top”. George was promoted to Lance Corporal on June 6, 1915, while Johnson was promoted to the same rank one month later. Sailing from Folkestone to Boulogne, France, on September 14, the 21st Battalion became the first to cross the English Channel in broad daylight. Their battalion was to fight in France for the remainder of the war.
Johnson soon became one of the top snipers of the First World War. Ironically, he is often referred to as the “Gentle Sniper”, someone who was very wise and very calm. He didn’t speak often but when he did, people would listen.
Shortly after his landing in Boulogne, Johnson was sent to Messines where on September 22, he received a shotgun wound in the right thigh. After recuperating from this wound, he rejoined his unit south of Ypres in Belgium. It was here that Johnson showed the skills required to be a sniper. From the start he was singled out as a sniper and scout, accounting for 42 Germans which he recorded on the stock of his Ross rifle. He was also noted as a forward observer and had a native talent for slipping perilously close to the enemy trenches without detection. High ranking generals were often put in his care for tours of the front line in France and Belgium.
But, by early 1918, he was getting on in age. His eyesight was no longer as accurate and he was suffering from shortness of breath as well as pain and stiffness in his shoulder and both hips and knees due to shrapnel, bayonet and gunshot wounds received during his wartime service. Considered as no longer fully capable of carrying on with duties in the field, he was reverted to the permanent rank of Private in February 1918 and posted to the Eastern Ontario Regimental Depot at Seaford, England, before being briefly attached to the 6th Reserve Battalion. Having been declared “fit for base duty” only, Johnson embarked at Liverpool for Canada on May 13. He was finally discharged from the Army at Kingston, Ontario, on July 9, 1918.
Johnson was awarded several medals, including the Mons Star (for being part of a unit that came under exceptional fire in a short period of time) and the Allied Medal for service. He received another medal for giving information that the enemy was massing at Hill 70 (August 1917) for a counter-attack, which took place just 25 minutes after he made his report. His timely warning saved many lives. He was also recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of having saved the life of an officer in the Battle of the Somme. In April 1918, he was awarded another Military Medal for bravery in the Field. On January 26, 1918, when our trenches were being heavily bombarded, Johnson maintained his post and continued to snipe various targets disregardful of danger. Johnson was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they visited Canada in 1939.
After the war, Johnson settled in Lindsay, Ontario, and gladly went back to civilian life, serving as a rural mail carrier in the Lindsay area for 25 years before later moving to the Durham region. He also became a First Nations Chief and advocated for the needs of his people in various diplomatic roles. He died at his home in Brougham on October 26, 1959, at the age of 84 and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery, Lindsay.
His brother George’s military experience at the front unfolded quite differently. George served in the machine gun section of his battalion and was promoted to Corporal on December 26, 1915. However, on July 10, 1916, he was admitted to the 4th Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA) then transferred to No 5 CFA with acute appendicitis. He was to spend the following months in casualty clearing stations, convalescence depots and hospitals after being diagnosed with various chronic illnesses and nervous strain from front line service. Although little is known of is actions at the front in France, George was a recipient of both the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Having been invalidated to Canada at the beginning of January 1917, he arrived in Montreal on February 13. He then spent several months as an outpatient at the Elmhurst and Ongwanada Hospitals in Kingston, and was finally discharged from the CEF on October 26, 1917.
After the war, George returned to the Hiawatha reserve where he worked as a guide and became Chief of the band of Mississaugas there. He also served in the Veterans Guard of Canada during the Second World War.
George died in August 1969 and is laid to rest in the Hiawatha Cemetery alongside his wife Margaret Anderson (1893-1966), and his son Herman (1918-1935). The name of his son Elmer Robert (1920-1942) is also engraved on the tombstone even though his body lies elsewhere in unknown grounds. Flight Sergeant Elmer Robert Paudash enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force one week before Christmas 1940. At flight school, he learned Morse code and finished in the top three of his graduating class. He went on to become a wireless operator and air machine gunner and was shipped to England where he was assigned to the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. For safety, he and his fellow pilots would fly at night, a thousand planes at a time taking off from all the airfields along the English Channel. On each mission, about 200 of those aircraft wouldn’t make it back. He was part of the 115th Squadron which had the mission of dropping mines in the North Sea in order to stop German ships and subs sailing near England. He was listed as killed in action on September 21, 1942, when his Wellington aircraft went missing during a mine-laying operation. His name appears on Panel 106 of the Commonwealth Air Forces Runnymede Memorial in Surry, England. This Memorial records the names of 20,285 airmen who were lost during the war and who have no known graves. Elmer was the recipient of the 1939-45 Star Medal, the Air Crew Europe Star Medal, the Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the Clasp and War Medal 1939-45. He was also posthumously awarded the RCAF Operational Wings in recognition of gallant service in action against the enemy on February 27, 1947.
Another of George’s sons, George Reginald Jr., also served during WW2. He was born on May 16, 1914, so shortly before George himself enlisted. George Reginald served as a Sergeant in Northwest Europe, participating in the D-Day invasion, with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, a Primary Reserve Infantry Regiment of the Canadian Army. After the war, he succeeded his father as Chief of the Rice Lake Mississauga Band for many years. He died on November 29, 1982, and is buried in the Hiawatha Reserve Cemetery.
|Full Name||Paudash, Johnson|
|Band Name||Hiawatha First Nation|
|Date of Death||1959-10-26|
|Next of Kin||Wife: Florence Paudash|
|Married before Enlistment||Married|
|Occupation before Enlistment||Farmer|
|Biographical Notes||Paudash is officially credited with killing 88 enemy soldiers. C.f. Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the year ended March 31 1919.|
|CEF Unit||21st Bn|
|Date of Enlistment||1914-11-11|
|Location of Enlistment||Kingston, ON|
|Age at Enlistment||39|
|Service History||sniper, WWII Veterans Guard|
|Age at death||84|
|Burial location||Riverside Cemetery, Lindsay, ON|
|Date Medal is awarded||1918-04-10|
|Medal notes||Citation reads:For gallantry and devotion to duty. On 26th January 1918, when our trenches were heavily bombarded, Pte Paudash maintained his post and continued to snipe disregardful of danger. Seeing a Hun observing the effect of the Trench Mortars he shot him and continued sniping at various targets while they presented themselves. during his 29 months service in France Pte Paudash has sniped 42 Huns. AFW 3121 27-2-18|
|Veterans’ Land Grants reference number||1955-1965 (LAC RG10-B-3-e-xvi)|