Corporal George Walter Longbottom


George Walter Longbottom, a Metis soldier (half Native American, half European) served with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles (Little Black Devils) during the entire Great War. He would have seen action at most of the major battles of the Great War -- the Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Amien, etc.

It is ironic that George served with the Winnipeg Rifles, given their history: In 1885, Canadian government forces quickly suppressed the uprising of Metis and Indians under Louis Riel. One captured Metis puzzled over the dark green uniforms of rifle regiment troops, which appeared black at a distance. More familiar with the scarlet coats of the rest of the infantry, he asked, "Who are those little black devils?". A correspondent played up the story, and the delighted 90th Winnipeg Rifles, predecessor of today's Royal Winnipeg Rifles, adopted "Little Black Devils" as their nickname, along with a Latin motto saying "Named By The Enemy". They also incorporated a naked, ebony devil toting a pitchfork into their badge.

Near the end of the war, while liberating a town in either France or Belgium, George's faction came across an empty tavern. Since they were in a celebratory mood, they decided to have a drink of wine.After relishing the thought of delicious red wine, they had a toast and guzzled it down. They then declared it the worst concoction they had ever tasted, unfit for human consumption. Some curious soldier took it upon himself to inspect the barrel/cask it was in. Much to his surprise, there was decomposed German soldier (or 'dead Hun') within its contents. Apparently this unfortunate German soldier decided that this would be a good hiding place from the advancing army, and as a result suffocated within its confines.

When George Longbottom returned from the war, he settled in Scanterbury Manitoba, an Indian reserve, situated on the Brokenhead River in Manitoba, Canada. He married his childhood sweetheart, Christina Mckenzie, after the war, and had 5 children. His livelihood revolved around the seasons of the marsh: he was a game warden in the 1920's - 1930's, possessing an early respect of the environment, long before it became "vogue" to. He also was an avid duck hunter, carrying on his traditional Metis culture, passing down the love of the hunt to his four sons.

During WWII he became a drill sergeant, training young recruits in Ontario. His own children liked to say that he applied these "drill" techniques in the way he raised his family, with strict discipline, hard work, and "no guff". Since he was a Metis man, he had a dark complexion, which could account for his nickname of "Muddy", or perhaps it was his curmudgeon personality.

After he retired from the army, he had a "cottage" industry, being the caretaker of several summer cottages and duck hunting lodges on the sandy shores of Lake Winnipeg, at the mouth of the Brokenhead river. He enjoyed his last few years in relative simplicity, and began to carve wood as a hobby and as therapy for his arthritis. He was also a talented painter and his legacy can be seen in the numerous landscapes of the marsh that he created. He died in 1963, at the age of 66 years old.

This account was submitted by George Longbottom's granddaughter, Tracey Longbottom



 
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