James David Moses

Moses was a Delaware from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford, Ontario.

WW1 Portrait: The Moses Brothers — Read Arnold’s bio

There’s nothing particularly unusual about a group of subalterns posing together in July 1916 for a photograph. But it’s what’s written in the margins that make it unique. After each man’s name, someone has also listed their ethnicity: “Irish… English … Delaware … Mohawk … Irish… Scotch.”

These lieutenants are all members of the 107th Battalion, nicknamed the “Timberwolf Battalion” after its wolf insignia. Raised in November 1915, it was the only fully integrated WWI battalion featuring First Nations soldiers. More than half of its nine hundred members were Indigenous, with many of those volunteers hailing from Ontario and Manitoba. Among them was Lieutenant James David Moses.

Moses was a Delaware from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. At the time of his enlistment, in February 1916, Moses was a twenty-five-year-old teacher. He was also active in his local militia unit, the 114th Battalion.

Moses served with the 107th in France for several months before being seconded in 1917 to the 57th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps as an aerial observer and gunner. John Moses, James’ great nephew, notes that the man in the front row, far left—lieutenant Oliver Milton Martin, a Mohawk also from Grand River Reserve—would survive the war and go on to serve in the Second World War as a brigadier, the highest rank ever attained by an Indigenous Canadian. Sadly, James David Moses would become one of Canada’s more than sixty-six thousand war dead.

On April 1, 1918, he and his pilot, South African Douglas Trollip, climbed into their DH 4 bomber and flew off on a mission against the Germans and never returned. After a search turned up nothing, the men were listed “presumed dead.” Officially, neither man’s remains have been found. However, John Moses said German Air Force records suggest the men were shot down by German flaying ace Hans Joachim Wolff; he believes their remains are buried in two graves marked “unknown” at the British Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Grevilliers, France.

All told, more than four thousand First Nations Canadians served in the Great War.

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