The Great Sam: Mi’kmaq war hero’s legacy lives on
Decorated for his bravery in battles like Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele - Sam Glode is remembered for saving the lives of many.
“I stayed out most of the night, watching the flares go up over No Man's Land like fireworks, and hearing the cannons and bursts of rifle and machine-gun fire,” says Jeff Purdy, reading a handwritten note by his great great grandfather.
The note details the sights and sounds of his first night at war, but the majority of his service was spent underground.
The Mi’kmaq soldier was an infantryman and then a tunneller with the sixth Field Company and Battalion.
He carved out subterranean battlefields in Belgium and dugouts at Vimy Ridge.
Glode also saved 20 men who were buried alive after one collapse, but his more courageous act came in peacetime.
After the armistice was signed, he had to search for mine and demolition charges and personally removed 450.
Glode’s service and dedication is preserved by his great great great grandchildren, Jeff and Bev Purdy in the village of Milton, N.S.
“He’s a well-known aboriginal Mi’kmaq veteran that everyone lays claim to, but the fact of the matter is he grew up here in Milton and we are the descendants of the Great Sam,” says Jeff.
The two along with their family are the keepers of previous photographs and wartime relics like his helmet and compass.
Before the war, Glode was a hunting and fishing guide, often working with his son Louis, who eventually followed him to the battlefield.
“They said he was cutting wood somewhere, him and his friend, and they just decided to go off to war,” says Bev. “My grandfather, he lied his age and went off to war too, so Sam didn’t know Louis was going.”
Glode died in 1957 and was buried with his three medals.
Jeff says while his great great grandfather’s one room house may be gone, the legacy he left behind is still very much alive. Jeff even named his son after Sam.
“I’ve always had a huge connection to him and my family, especially this time of year, you think about all the war heroes,” he says.
Jeff says he believes Glode enlisted in the war because it was the “right thing to do.”
According to Veteran’s Affairs, First Nations were originally discouraged from enlisting and some were turned away.
Once at war, their military roles were among the most dangerous – like snipers and reconnaissance scouts. Others like Glode served in support units, including tunneling companies.
According to Veteran’s Affairs half of the eligible Maliseet and Mi’kmaq men from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia enlisted in the First World War.
Across Canada, 4,000 or one in three able bodied First Nations men signed up, but 300 never came home. The total number of Indigenous volunteers in unknown.
Reflecting on the written words of his great great grandfather, Jeff says it send shivers down his spine.
“What a legacy,” he says. “You try to live up to it and leave that kind of legacy behind.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelly Linehan.