The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the Minister of Culture and Community Services has officially adopted the name Gibb Lake for a previously unnamed lake in Clear Hills County. The small lake is located approximately 16 kilometres north east of the Village of Hines Creek. The newly adopted name serves two commemorative purposes. Firstly, it commemorates the family of William and Christina Gibb, early homesteaders in the Hines Creek region. Secondly, it commemorates the service of their sons, many of whom served in the armed forces, particularly Private Stanley Alexander Gibb, Loyal Edmonton Regiment, R.C.I.C., who lost his life during the conflict.
William Gibb was born about 1899; he was raised in the Gordon district of the Scottish borderlands where he worked as a farmer or farm labourer. His wife Christina, who was born about 1901, was from Newtyle, Scotland. In 1925, they and their four sons (Charles Howard, aged 5; Stanley Alexander, aged 3; David William, aged 2; and three month old John William) immigrated to Canada aboard the Canadian Pacific liner SS Marburn. They arrived in Quebec on August 22 and immediately traveled to Wolseley, Saskatchewan where William was employed as a farm labourer in the employ of a Mr. Alex Callander.
The family moved to Fairview, Alberta in 1928 and William Gibb filed for a homestead in the relatively unsettled Hines Creek region (NE ¼, Section 5, Township 85, Range 4, West of the 6th Meridian). The family would grow to include eight children – Charles, Stanley, David, John, Marjorie, William and Chris. While proving up the homestead, William Gibb Sr. became an active member of the community. In addition to farming, he worked on regional road crews and served as a trustee for the Ednam School District No. 4359 (the school district being named for the market town of Ednam, Scotland, which was near William Gibb’s birthplace). According to a long-time resident of the region, the Gibb’s also provided entertainment at community gatherings with their singing (in Gaelic) and traditional Scottish dancing. Despite only clearing 10 of the required 30 acres, the Gibb family was granted title to their land in December 1935. The inspection agent determined that the Gibb’s land was extraordinarily difficult to clear and declared that the 10 acres was equal to 30 acres of cleared land elsewhere in the province.
With clear title to their land, the Gibb’s existence should have been more stable. However, their lives, like those of many Alberta families, were irrevocably disturbed with the outbreak of war in 1939. A number of the Gibb sons enlisted for service. It has not been possible to track down records for many of them, but Stanley’s service records indicate that he had two brothers (unnamed) serving, one with the Royal Navy and the other with the Royal Air Force. However, since the lake became officially named, more information has been revealed by a family member (William Gibb Jr.), which suggests strongly that Stanley’s Service Record may be inaccurate or incomplete.
According to William Gibb Jr., almost all of the Gibb sons did their part for their country either during or following the war:
– Charles Gibb enlisted in the Army and spent most of the war as a sergeant, training troops in England;
– David Gibb enlisted, but was released after six months due to having poor eyesight. He returned home, and worked on the construction of the Alaska Highway under the employ of the American Armed Forces;
– John Gibb enlisted later in the war and served with the Occupation Army in Germany during 1944-45;
– William Gibb served in the Canadian Merchant Navy and then as a seaman and helmsman on a hydrographical survey ship (CGS W. J. Stewart) on the Pacific Coast;
– Chris Gibb served with the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1953 to 1956.
The Gibb’s second son, Stanley Alexander Gibb, had perhaps the most interesting and ultimately the most tragic experience. Stanley served as a Private with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. In his enlistment papers he stated that he was employed as a farm labourer and expressed interest in training as either a mechanic or a railroad engineer. He also indicated that he collected stamps and enjoyed boxing and baseball (he played third base). He trained in Calgary and embarked for Great Britain in August 1941 where he received further training, served garrison duties and was temporarily assigned to a Mechanical Transport Vehicle Reception Depot. In June 1943, Private Gibb was deployed to the Mediterranean. Soon after arrival in North Africa, he contracted malaria and spent three weeks in hospital.
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment was actively involved throughout the Italian campaign, but Private Gibb’s role in most of these engagements is not known. However, on October 22, 1943, The Regiment fought in a battle that became known as the Savio Bridgehead. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada launched supporting attacks to the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry’s second attempt to cross the Savio River just north of Cesena and gain a foothold on the opposite bank. The attack began with an artillery barrage at 8pm. By 9pm, the Edmontons were in the fast flowing river and attempting to reach the other side. An early setback occurred when Major W. G. Longhurst, the commander of the first company to attempt the crossing, was killed. A second company joined the fight and the Edmontons recovered. The crossing continued until daylight, when they reached Case Gentili, a small hamlet west of the river. The Regiment received Battle Honours for their actions in this engagement. For most of the Regiment, the fight continued. However, during the crossing, Private Stanley Alexander Gibb had stepped on a landmine. According to his service record, he suffered the traumatic amputation of his right foot and severe wounds to both legs and both arms. He was evacuated to a field hospital and underwent surgery, having his right leg amputated at the knee and his right arm amputated above the elbow. His post-operative condition was listed as stable, but infection and fever set in the following day, from which he did not recover. Private Stanley Gibb died of his wounds on October 27, 1944. He is buried in the Cesena War Cemetery, in the Italian province of Forli.
During the war, William and Christina sold the Peace Country farmstead and relocated to Vancouver Island, where much of the family remains today.
The application to have Gibb Lake adopted as the official name for that lake was made by a member of the Clear Hills Watershed Initiative in September 2009. The proposal was supported by the Municipal Council of Clear Hills County and the local MLA. After considerable research, the proposal was presented to the Board of the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation during their December 3, 2011 meeting in Calgary, at which they agreed to accept the name. On January 31, 2012, the Minister of Culture and Community Services concurred with the board’s decision and the adoption of the name became official. Notification of the adoption of the name Gibb Lake was published in Alberta Gazette on February 29 and it was added to the Canadian Geographical Names Database, ensuring the name appears on new maps of the region produced by the federal and provincial governments.
This has been a very interesting naming proposal to work on. The name was made official following nearly two years of research. Since the name was officially adopted and media stories began to appear, new information has been received. Keep checking back to this blog, updates will be posted about the Gibb family’s record of service to their country as more information is discovered and verified.
Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator
For location information and a list of additional resources:
National Topographic System Map Sheet: 84 D/7 – Eureka River
Latitude/Longitude: 56° 22′ 59″ N & 118° 31′ 41″ W
Alberta Township System: Sec. 22, 23 Twp. 85 Rge. 4 W6
Description: Approximately six km NNE of Hines Creek (village).
Additional information about the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Savio Bridgehead engagement can be found in the following resources:
Macleod, Rod. “Regimental History,” The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum, accessed 26 March 2012, available from http://www.lermuseum.org/en/regimental-history/.
Nicholson, G. W. L. The Canadians in Italy: Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume II, Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 1956), electronic version available from the Department of National Defence Directorate of Heritage and History, http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/his/docs/Italy_e.pdf.
– The Savio Bridgehead engagement is described on pages 585-593.
Stevens, G. R. A City Goes to War: [History of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment (3PPCLI)], Edmonton: The Edmonton Regiment Associates, 1964.
– The Savio Bridgehead engagement is described on pages 323-326.