Samuel Glode (also spelled Gloade), Mi’kmaq lumberjack, hunting and fishing guide, trapper, soldier and war hero (born 20 April 1880 in Milton, NS; died 26 October 1957 in Halifax, NS) was a veteran of the First World War. He served as an engineer and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroic actions after the Armistice of 11 November 1918.
Samuel (Sam) Glode was the son of Stephen and Sarah Jane Glode, who lived a traditional Mi’kmaq way of life: hunting and fishing for food, as well as making and selling baskets, axe handles and mast hoops to buy other goods. Sam Glode married Louisa Francis in 1900, but she died five years later, leaving him with a son, Louis. As a young man, Gloade worked as a lumberjack. However, the same year as his wife died he began working as a guide for visiting sportsmen, mostly from the United States. He even undertook a lengthy guiding job in the Yukon for wealthy Americans.
First World War
One day in 1915, when he was 35 years old, Glode and a buddy were felling trees — hot, hard and tiring work. They knew the army was paying $1.10 a day, plus “clothes and grub,” so they decided to “go to war,” as they imagined it could not be any worse than tree cutting. Glode enlisted in the 64th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), on 28 August 1915 at Camp Sussex, New Brunswick. Originally, it had been planned that the 64th would be recruited from the three Maritime provinces (Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada), but in the most of its soldiers came from Nova Scotia. In November, after 10 weeks of training at Sussex, the unit moved into winter quarters in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
On 31 March 1916, the 64th sailed to England on the SS Adriatic and moved to camps in the southeast part of the country. After three months of further training, the 64th was broken up in July to provide needed reinforcement drafts to the units of the Canadian Corps, then fighting on the Western Front in France and Belgium (see First World War).
In summer 1916, a call went out for volunteers for a mining unit in the Canadian Engineers (see Military Engineers). Although Glode was not a miner, his tent mate from Cape Breton Island (NS) was, and he convinced Glode to transfer to the mining unit with him. Glode and several others were sent to Belgium, where they became part of No. 1 Canadian Tunnelling Company.
Glode later recalled how he could see the German lines along Messines Ridge in Belgium and never forgot his first night in the trenches. “I stayed out most of the night,” he remembered, “watching the flares go up over no man’s land, like fireworks, and hearing the cannons and bursts of rifle and machine-gun fire. It was like a big show, and kind of pretty in the night.”
The first experience Glode had with tunnelling occurred in the Messines Ridge area. He was part of a group that tunnelled toward the German lines, but because of the slope of the land, the engineers had to first dig 25 metres straight down before they could start to dig toward the enemy trenches. “It was all pick and shovel work,” he noted, “mostly in hard blue clay.”
One morning, Glode was leading a tunnelling party of about 20 men. As they worked forward under No Man’s Land, suddenly “everything went black.” Glode felt like someone had hit him “on the head with a big club” and his ears “were singing like a steam whistle was inside them.”
When Glode tried to light a blown-out candle, it would not light as there was not enough air. He found an electric torch and quickly discovered that the tunnel behind them had collapsed. Glode realized their only chance of getting out was to dig straight up, as he knew the ground above them dipped down. Still dazed by the collapse, all the others could think of was the 25-metre shaft they had dug straight down to get to their present location.
Grabbing a pick, Glode began to chop away at the roof of the tunnel, while the others watched. After several hours of digging, Glode broke through to the surface. However, he told the group they would have to wait until dark to return to their own lines. While they waited, a rescue party broke through from the other end of the collapsed tunnel and Glode and his men were saved. Glode went on to participate in other tunnelling operations at Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge.
Monument dedicated to Indigenous soldiers who fought in the First World War and Second World War for Canada (Courtesy of Wikipedia).
Distinguished Conduct Medal
In July 1918, Glode was posted to the 6th Battalion Canadian Engineers. He undertook regular engineering tasks, such as repairing roads. On 20 October, he was promoted corporal. After the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, ending the First World War, Glode’s bravery resulted in a rare honour (see Remembrance Day in Canada). As Canadian soldiers advanced through Belgium toward Germany, his unit was in the lead, searching for mines and demolition charges. On 19 and 20 November, Glode personally removed 450 charges, showing “great devotion to duty and an utter disregard of personal danger,” which resulted in the awarding of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).
During the First World War, the DCM was the second-highest award that could be given to soldiers of the British Empire, exceeded only by the Victoria Cross (see Medal). Fewer than 2,000 members of the more than 600,000 that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force received the DCM during the war.
Glode returned to Halifax on the SS Belgic and was discharged on 1 May 1919. Back in Nova Scotia, Glode preferred to live as he had before the war: “alone in my shack in the woods.” Eventually, he was admitted to Camp Hill Hospital, the veterans’ hospital in Halifax. He died there in 1957 at age 77, after an illness of some months. He was buried in Saint Gregory’s Catholic Cemetery in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, in the presence of a Royal Canadian Legion honour party.
Samuel Glode was one of the most highly decorated First Nations soldiers of the First World War, winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for bravery in action. In 2018, on the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, the annual poster for Mi’kmaq History Month paid homage to the 200 Mi’kmaq men from the Maritimes who had enrolled in the army (about 90 were from Nova Scotia). Sam Glode featured prominently on the poster.