Discover the stories and remember the lives of UCC
Old Boys who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.
Lance Corporal Roger Crook Pepler ’04
Died: January 24, 1915
Looking back over a course of years and recalling numbers of Old Boys who have left an interesting and honourable record behind them, one realizes how different are the accomplishments represented in a school like ours, and how varied human gifts and graces can be. We remember this one for his uncommon ability, another for his athletic prowess, a third for public spirit, a fourth for industry, a fifth for courtesy, and so on. But there are some whose memories we cherish because they always gave of their best to those around them, through gentleness and kindness making life possible for others, while at the same time they kept their own minds and hearts from wrong. There is some consolation in recalling any of these. Across the distance of the years they are shining in their places still. And among the number Roger Crooks Pepler holds an honoured place.
Roger Pepler was the eldest of five brothers, sons of the late F. E. Pepler, K.C., of Barrie, and all of them Old Boys of the College. The second brother, Eric, who is a graduate of Varsity and Osgoode Hall, is now in France as an Officer in the Canadian Engineers. Roger entered college as a boarder in 1900, at the age of fourteen, and during his four years’ residence worked his way up through the school, passing his examinations with credit, and closing a successful school career in the Upper Fifth Form. When he first came to the College he was rather a frail lad and never acquired enough strength to get a place on any of our first teams. But he played all our games, and enjoyed them all. In recalling his life here, any one will remember what a fondness he had for the out-of-doors. At odd times and in bad weather, when there were no games in progress, it was no uncommon thing to see him and his roommate, Billy Dobson, playing golf across the grounds, bareheaded, and Roger’s fair hair flying in the wind. This love of the open air never left him. After leaving College, when a member of the Imperial Bank staff in Calgary and Vancouver, he used to spend the summer camping within reach of his work, and every afternoon he was glad to leave the city and its crowded streets behind in order to spend the evening with friends in the country, beside the water and under the starry sky. And in the long course of training with his regiment in England, though the weather was often bad, and drilling and marching on the muddy ground must have been very unpleasant, he never complained of it in his letters but always spoke as if he enjoyed it all. It seems but natural that one who was so thoroughly at home in the open, either by day or night, should have been chosen as one of the company guides when his regiment was moved into the firing-line in France.
The rest of his life story is best told in a letter written to Mr. E. P. Brown, after Roger’s death, by Colonel Farquhar, the Commanding Officer of Princess Patricia’s Regiment. Those who knew Roger Pepler will recognize the simple truth in every word and it speaks much for the understanding of the writer that he was not slow to recognize true worth. The letter, and especially the last paragraph, has a most mournful interest now, on account of the fact that Col. Farquhar was killed a few days ago while leading his men against the enemy. Colonel Farquhar’s letter was as follows:
“I am, of course, only too glad to tell you anything I can of poor Pepler’ s death. I know that the Captain of his company wrote to Mrs. Allen, but I may be able to add something to his account. Pepler was one of the company guides, who lead parties and reliefs into the trenches. This is dangerous work and requires first-class, reliable men with a cool head and a good bump of locality, as on a dark night a mistake on the part of a guide may lead to the loss of a considerable number of men. I am very proud of the guides in this battalion, and your stepson was one of the best of them. He worked hard to perfect himself, and very successfully. In addition he liked the work with its additional risk and responsibility.
“He and his officer, Lt. Price, were killed in the same trench within a few minutes of each other. I have made a cemetery for the officers and men of the battalion as near as possible to the line of trenches that we habitually hold, as I think they would like to lie there together looking towards the ground over which their comrades have fought for so many days. When the war is over we mean to buy the ground, and have our little burial ground made as worthy as possible of the men in the regiment who have laid down their lives.
“I should like to say, in conclusion, that your stepson was a most popular man in the battalion and did most sterling work for us ever since he enlisted. It is the good influence of men like him that has enabled the battalion to do its duty since it has been in this country. I hope and trust, however, that, though we have lost a good many men who can ill be spared, their memory may remain as an inspiration and incentive to us all.”
College Times (Easter 1915) pg. 6-8
More information about Lance Corporal Roger Crooks Pepler ’04 may be found at:
The Toronto World , “Two Toronto Men of PPLI Reported Killed in Action” (February 08, 1915)