SASKATOON – The late Sgt. Hugh Cairns saved the lives of many Canadians in the First World War. Pinned down by the opposition outside the city of Valenciennes, France in November 1918, Cairns rushed forward taking a gun and successfully killing the crew of five.
Afterwards, he charged another enemy group killing 12 Germans and capturing two guns. With the help of his men, he took over a third post, capturing seven additional machine guns and many prisoners.
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Cairns died of his wounds on Nov. 2, 1918. He is buried in Auberchicourt British Cemetary in Nord, France.
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The Canadians were able to take the city from the Germans as a result of his efforts.
His older brother, Albert, died of his wounds on Sept. 10, 1918 and is said to be the driving force behind Sgt. Cairn’s heroism. The two enlisted in the army together in 1915.
Cairns was also awarded the Legion of Honour and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal after holding Vimy Ridge for over 90 minutes.
Cairns moved to Saskatoon from Ashington, England in May 1911 with his family. Before the war, he was an apprentice of Saskatoon’s Northern Plumbing Company and a member of the Christ Church choir and soccer team. He played on the St. Thomas Church team in 1915 when they won the Saskatoon league championship.
The Sgt. Hugh Cairns Monument on the south edge of Saskatoon’s Kinsmen Park is the only known war memorial dedicated to soccer players who lost their lives in the First World War.
A street in Valenciennes, “L’Avenue Hugh Cairns” was named in his honour.