Sam Chickegian is the youngest soldier from Brantford (Canada) to fight and die in First World War
Born in Armenia but living in Brantford during the First World War, Chickegian was determined to enlist and go overseas to the battlefields of Europe.
“From what I remember, he fell in with some Scottish kids when he was going to school and he went with them to Toronto to join some Scottish regiment,” Sam’s nephew, Andy Chichakian, 98, of Hamilton, said in a telephone interview Monday.
“But his mother went to Toronto and brought him back. He wanted to go, but she wanted him to stay.”
Sam’s mother, Loosig, could hardly be blamed for wanting to keep her son home.
After all, she had brought Sam and his four older siblings to Canada to build a new life.
She arrived in 1907. Her husband, John, had arrived earlier.
But as determined as Loosig was to keep her youngest child home, Sam’s mind was made up. He enlisted and went overseas.
“He must have got out from under her watchful eye somehow because he did get overseas,” said Chichakian.
“I have some postcards that he sent home, as well as some letters.”
Although Sam’s name is spelled Chickegian on his attestation papers and on other documents, the family name is now spelled Chichakian.
On his attestation papers, Sam listed his address as Alfred Street, Toronto, when in fact it was Alfred Street, Brantford. And he also said he was born in 1899.
It’s possible that he was born in 1899 but it’s more likely that he was born in 1903 or 1904, Chichakian said.
Whatever the case, Sam Chickegian was in England in February 1918 receiving basic training in advance of going to the front lines.
He described his experience in a Feb. 10, 1918, letter to his mother in Brantford.
“I started drilling at the beginning of the week, we get musketry, bayonet-fighting, bombing, drilling, gas, a machine gun course, and a wire course, so it will be quite a while before we are ready for France,” Chickegian wrote.
“We get up at 6:30 a.m. and drill till 12:00. We start at 1:15 and I quite like the work. The picture I sent a few days ago is not a very good one. I’ll get another taken on pay day and send it to you.”
In another letter, Chickegian makes reference to a letter that his mother had sent to his commanding officer.
“The officer called me up and asked me about the letter you wrote him. He asked me if I wanted to go back but I said no. I know you must be worried mother, but there is no use trying to get me to quit when I’ve come so far. I am going to do my share,” Chickegian wrote.
Less than seven months later, Chickegian, who served with the third battalion, Central Ontario Regiment, was dead.
He is buried in the Ontario Cemetery, Sains-Les-Marquion, Nord, France.
Geoffrey Moyer, a local historian who has done a great deal of research into the contributions the people of Brantford, Brant County and Six Nations to the First World War effort, has long been aware of the story of Priv. Sam Chickegian.
“He was the youngest person from Brantford to fight and die in the First World War,” Moyer said.
“He died during the last 100 days of the First World War – on Sept 2, 1918 – at the time when it was open warfare.”
Loosig was heartbroken by her son’s death.
“I never really knew Sam – I was only a toddler at the time – but I remember how it hurt his mom,” Chichakian said.
“Every day – at about one or two in the afternoon — she would sit in a chair and weep and say, ‘Oh, why did you leave me? Why did you go?
“That went on for years.”