1906-2004. — 2 cm of textual records. — 21 photographs. — 33 postcards.
Gabriel (Gaby) Rene Basly was born on March 28, 1885 in Gennevilliers (Seine-St. Denis), France, a district on the Northern edge of Paris. He was the seventh child born to Jules Alexander Basly and Amelie Marie Lecouvreur. His father was “chef d’atelier d’entrapreneur,” a shop foreman in an artisan type workshop. Gaby’s mother had been a widow when she married Jules Basly. She brought two daughters with her: Leontine and Blanch. It was with this second daughter, Blanch Charbonneaux, and her family that Gaby would come to Canada with.
When he was 15 years old, Gaby was apprenticed as an electrician to “Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de L’ouest,” (Railway Company of the West) at Champs de Mars. This rail station is situated in the 15th Arrondissement (district) in Paris, south of the Eiffel tower along the Seine.
At the time, young men in France were required to serve in the army for three years, so at the age of 21, Gaby enlisted in an infantry unit at Caen, County Calvados, where he was living with an older brother who was his guardian, his parents already being deceased. When he immigrated to Canada in 1907 with Jules and Blanche (Charbonneaux) Pivert, he notified the French Government about his move and inquired about his army status.
Gaby and the Pivert family took out homesteads in Big Valley, Alberta, about 67 km east of Innisfail. Gaby filed on part S.E. 16-36-9-W4th in 1907 and received his patent for proving up on the homestead in 1911.
In August 1914, Gaby was informed by the French Consulate that he should report for mobilization with his army corps, so with several other young men from Big Valley who were also French, he made his way back to France to “save the motherland.” He was placed in the 17th Company of the 302 Infantry Regiment, and in August-September of 1914 fought in the Battle of Lorraine, which was a disaster for the French. During the next year, the 302 Regiment lost so many of its soldiers that it was dissolved and Gaby was moved to the 311 Infantry Regiment, just in time to fight in the Battle of Verdun (June 1916), where he served as a message carrier.
It was in the Battle of Verdun that Gaby earned his “Croix de Guerre,” an award for bravery. The citation reads, “Basly, Gabriel No. 1156, of 7075 13th Comp. has assured communications with the company, with the greatest disdain for danger under a bombardment of the most violent kind during attacks on the 15th, 16th and 17th of June 1916.”
Again, because of heavy losses, Gaby was transferred again to the 255 Infantry Regiment, which is the number that appears on his uniform, and in April 1917, he was granted permission to travel back to Canada on a three-week leave.
Gaby never went back to the war. His relatives and friends from Big Valley, who had also returned to France at the outbreak of the war had all decided that they would be fools to return. They had given three years of their lives and lost many good friends and former neighbours from Big Valley.
Gaby settled back into farming, and in 1926 headed for Grande Prairie with the Pivert brothers (Blanche & Jules nephews) to start a new life. There he acquired many horses, working the land with them in the summer and hauling coal in the winter. He also worked as a “Bull Cook” for a lumber camp at Big Mountain.
Gaby died on May 4, 1966 at the age of 80 years. He is buried in the Grande Prairie Municipal Cemetery.
The records were preserved by Gabriel Basly’s niece, Paulette Pivert Hrychiw, who deposited them in Grande Prairie Regional Archives in 2004.
Scope and Content
The fonds consists of military papers, photographs and postcards from Mr. Basly’s time in the French military; leases and records concerning his farm; two photographs of him after the war; and papers detailing his relationship with Veteran’s Affairs. There is also a paper written by Paulette Hrychiw, based on the papers in his collection and supplemental research, detailing his movements with the French Army and her memories of Uncle Gaby, with whom they lived from 1939 to the 1960s.
Table of Contents
|The Story of Gabriel Basly
|Personal Papers. — 1911-1965. — 0.5 cm of textual records. — 2 photographs.The series consists of Gabriel Basly’s personal papers: his electrician apprenticeship papers, the patent on his homestead in Big Valley on Pt. S.E. ¼ of Section 16, Township 36, Range 19, West of the 4th Meridian; correspondence with various government departments such as Veterans Affairs, National Revenue, Public Welfare and the Old Age Security Branch of the Department of Health and Welfare; receipts from his final years at Central Park Lodge and an Urban Preliminary List of Electors showing him resident at Central Park Lodge for the 1965 election. There are also 6 ration booklets from WWII and one photograph of him at about 75 years of age.
|Military Records. — 1906-1917. — 0.5 cm of textual records. — 19 photographs. — 33 postcards.The series consists of military papers including Mr. Basly’s registration with the French Army in 1906; his “Matricules militaires” from Caen in 1906; correspondence with the Consul General of France and the Military Government of Paris; certificate of completion for his training as a wireless operator; the dissolution notice for the 302 Infantry Regiment; day passes, postcards, and receipts including travel passes and permits to go from the Front to visit Big Valley for 3 weeks; his citation for receiving the “Cross de Guerre” in 1916; and copies of the passenger list of S.S. Canada of the White Star Dominion Line showing Gariel Basly and four other French Soldiers returning to Canada on Leave. There are also 17 photographs and 33 postcards from World War I.
|Farm Records. — 1942-1955. — 0.5 cm of textual records.The series consists of Lease Documents showing that Mr. Basly rented land in the Flying Shot Lake area from Mrs. Margaret M. George from 1942 to 1949; Wheat Board, Wheat Pool and Cooperative Life Insurance receipts and circulars.
|The Story of Gabriel Basly. — 2004. — 0.5 cm of textual records.The series consists of a paper written by Gabriel Basly’s niece, Paulette Pivert Hrychiw, based on the personal papers in his collection, supplementary research, and Paulette’s memories of him.