Capitaine Paul Bion
This recording is part of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society Collection and comprises an address to its members
Capitaine Paul Armand Louis Bion was born in France on 25 Sept 1874 in Montigny Sur Abbe. He joined the French Army on 21st July 1895 at the age of 19. He rose rapidly through the ranks becoming a 1st class Private in February 1896, Corporal on September 1896 and Sergeant in September 1897. On 19 July 1898 he was transferred to the Reserve Army. On 12 July 1901 he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He studied Electrical Engineering and in 1906 he began working for the electrical department in Saigon, French Indo China.
The Bions sailed from Liverpool to St John, New Brunswick in May 1910 having purchased 160 acres on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Upon arrival he and his family lived in a small cabin while the main residence was being built. He started a poultry farm called Dogwood Poultry. Chickens and eggs were sold in Vancouver, while fruit and vegetables were sold locally. Shortly after his arrival on 27 October 1910 he was released from the Reserve Army.
At the outbreak of war with Germany on 4th August 1914 he was recalled to duty.
On arrival in France he was promoted to Lieutenant of Reserve effective 21 October 1914. He was posted to the 329th Regiment of Infantry where he was placed in command of a Company of very poor quality and one lacking military ways. His zeal and devotion to duty, along with his loyalty to the men under his command, transformed the company into one of the best in the Regiment.
The Regiment could always rely on his company to carry out their duties with courage and distinction. He was promoted to Capitaine on the 18th June 1915. He was wounded on 11th May 1915 in his right hand and again on the 26th September 1915, this time in his right leg.
In 1916 just prior to the Battle of the Somme he was transferred to HQ. 1st Army Corps and was placed in command of the 2nd Bureau. Under great difficulty, having just arrived, he organised the Department in a remarkable fashion. He provided accurate and intelligent information to the 1st Bureau and was cited for the award of Officer 1st Class on 15th December 1916. From this time until 2nd October 1917 he carried out his duties as Chef de 2ieme Bureau so well that his superiors wrote many accolades about his balance, enterprise, loyalty and devotion to duty, especially as he was a Reserve Officer and not a Regular Officer. In particular, during the last battle of Flanders, his work resulted in his being awarded the Chevalier De Legion D' Honneur on the 29th December 1916.
In October 1917 he was named as an advisor to the United States Army. He performed well in the United States, in spite of the fact he was unfamiliar with the ways of the United States Army. It was felt that it was his prestige, presence, grey hair and his extensive experience helped him greatly in his task.
It was written of him, at the time, he tried to teach too much at once.
After the Armistice on 11 November 1918 he returned to France and was demobilised on 31 January 1919 and was finally discharged on the 8th April 1923, at which time he was made an Honoury Officer. In addition to the Legion of Honour ha also received a Criox De Guerre with Palme, an Etoile D'Argent and an Etoile De Vermeil.
He returned to his farm in Canada, where together with General Wilkinson, he was instrumental in the building of a War Memorial on Salt Spring. Capitaine Paul Bion died in 1938.
Capitaine Bion's son served as aircrew in the RCAF in WW 2 and was decorated. He has 3 grandsons, one an eminent lawyer, one a senior academic in the BC education system and another a prosperous BC businessman. It is significant that the Salt Spring farm remains as a family asset, for it was in the attic of the house that a trunk containing all the Capitaine Bion personal military exhibits on show today, were found. Included with these exhibits was a collection of French military documents that detail operations of the 1st Corps of French Army, 1916 -1917. Many of these are marked "secret", as they were at the time, and these documents were used to orientate the US Army in its preparation for its combat in France.
Accession Number Interviewer Salt Spring Island Historical Society address Date May 9, 2007 Location SSIA Media digital recording Audio CD mp3 ID