Paul Pineau grew up on a farm in Bloomfield, PEI in a family of eleven children.
He volunteered with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in April 1916 at the age of 21. He was sent overseas with the 78th Battalion, 4th Division (Manitoba Regiment), and very likely saw action at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and Hill 70 in August 1917, near the city of Lens, France.
On 2nd September, 1918 the Canadian forces launched a massive attack on the heavily fortified Drocourt-Queant Line in a successful attempt to break through the German defences. During the initial attack, Paul Pineau was struck by shrapnel and killed. He is buried in the Dury Mill British Cemetery, France.
Paul Pineau was the son of Paul Pineau and Veronica Gullant, Acadian farmers. He was born in Bloomfield PEI on December 12, 1895. As one of the younger children in a family of eleven, he attended school in Bloomfield, assisted his father on their small farm and eventually became an active member of the militia. In April of 1916 he volunteered his services for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force and shortly thereafter shipped out to England.
In due course he was attached to the Manitoba Regiment (78th Bn) which engaged in many serious enemy encounters in France in 1917 and into 1918, the last year of the Great War. Throughout the winter of 1917/18, he was with the Canadians who defended the trenches near Lens, where nearly 700 men were lost.
In March 1918 the Germans launched their last major offensive with Canadian Cavalry and motorized machine gun units being utilized to plug the line around Amiens. The Canadian Corps was then withdrawn into reserve to rest and refit until August. Towards the end of that month they returned to the Arras area again in an attempt to break through the Drocourt-Quéant line.
On September 2, 1918, General Arthur Currie launched a massive assault on the Drocourt-Quéant Line with infantry and armoured tanks advancing behind a massive barrage of artillery to storm the enemy's main defensive line of trenches and barbed wire. The 4th Division, which Paul Pineau's battalion was attached, found themselves advancing towards the front trenches of the D-Q line which were situated along the forward slope of the long hill of Mont Dury.
The attaching infantry had to advance up an open incline in full view of enemy machine guns. At they neared the crest they came under increasing fire and shelling from German artillery. It was one of these shells that exploded near Paul Pineau, who was struck by shrapnel and killed instantly. It was on this same day and in the same battle, that seven Canadians earned the Victoria Cross.
After the battle, the Canadian forces regrouped and a few weeks later attacked across the Canal du Nord, forcing the Germans to fall back and open the road to Cambrai, which was captured on 9 October 1918. From mid-August to mid-October the Canadians suffered over 30,000 killed, wounded or missing.
Paul Pineau served his country with honour, as did his older brother, Urban, who was badly wounded in France but survived and returned to Bloomfield to marry and raise a family of 9 children. Urban died in 1965.
Paul Pineau is buried in the Dury Mill British Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, mid-way between Arras and Cambrai and not far from where he was killed. The cemetery, enclosed by a low brick wall stands in an open field and is planted with scarlet and white thorns and flowering shrubs. The trees are Manitoba Maple. The cemetery contains the graves of 324 soldiers from Canada and 11 from the United Kingdom. The majority lost their lives on September 2, 1918.
This account of Paul Pineau's story was provided by his nephew Paul LeFaivre. On three occasions, 1969, 1981 and 2000, Paul visited his uncle's grave in the Dury Mill British Cemetery in northern France, not far from the Dury Memorial that commemorates this famous and decisive battle of the First World War.