Heber Rogers

Heber Rogers was hit fifteen times in the face by shrapnel, captured by German troops, and hauled to a POW camp.

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News of the death of Private Heber Rogers hit his family back in Peterborough, Ontario, like a thunderbolt.

A member of the 2nd Battalion, Rogers was reported killed while manning a machine gun in the spring of 1915 near Langemarck, Belgium, during the Battle of Ypres.

To honour Rogers’ memory, his hometown newspaper printed his “last letter.” Dated April 21, 1915, and datelined Belgium, it’s filled with lighthearted stories of a company sports competition. It was pretty rough going, apparently, for Rogers writes that several of the competitors “went to hospital with sprains and breaks.” Afterwards, the men gathered for a bonfire “with the Kaiser on top of it, and a good concert.”

Throughout the night, Rogers writes that he heard the thunderous thump of the big guns and saw the sky lit up with “star shells and search lights.”

He ends his letter on a grim note, describing the stream of refugees filling the road — Belgians, young and old, struggling to carry their meager possessions on their backs as the fled the fighting.

“It was a most pitiful sight to behold,” he wrote. “If some of the Canadians could see a few sights like that, there would be a greater representation of Canada over here today.”

Miraculously, Rogers’ story didn’t end there. It turned out he wasn’t killed after all. Hit 15 times in the face by shrapnel, he was captured by German troops and hauled to a Prisoner of War camp at Giessen, Hesse, Germany.

In a letter home to his mother dated May 5, 1915, Rogers reassures her that he’s okay. “My right eye has got a band and I cannot see out of it yet. Beyond that, I am feeling fine.”

He ends by urging his mother to send him a care package of sweets: “some cake, chocolates, candy, biscuits, jam, potted meats, etc.”

Despite two escape attempts, Rogers remained a POW for the remainder of the war. Following the Armstice, he was freed by the Germans, and returned to Peterborough. He enlisted again and served during the Second World War. Rogers died in 1958.

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.