Henry Louis Norwest is one of the most famous Canadian snipers in the First World War.
Norwest was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, of French-Cree ancestry. In his nearly
three years of service with the 50th Canadian Infantry Battalion, the lance-corporal
achieved a confirmed kill record of 115. Norwest is one of only about 830 members of
the CEF to be awarded the Military Medal and bar.
Norwest enlisted in January 1915 under the name Henry Louie, and was discharged
after three months for misbehaviour. Eight months later, he signed up again,
under a new name and with a fresh slate. Ultimately, Norwest proved to be an
inspiration to his unit.
Norwest was an excellent marksman, but the thing that set him apart was his superb
fieldcraft. He was able to stay motionless for hours and his camoflaging technique
was unbelievable. Much of his time was spent in "No Man's Land", the area between
opposing forces. As well, Norwest and his observer often slipped behind enemy lines.
Norwest earned the Military Medal in 1917 at a peak on Vimy Ridge dubbed
"the Pimple". The Canadian Corps, part of an Allied offensive, was tasked with
capturing the Ridge. Although previous Allied attempts to take it had failed, the
elaborately planned Canadian assault succeeded. Most of the Ridge was taken on the
first day, April 9. Three days later, the two remaining enemy positions, including the
Pimple, were conquered.
According to his award citation, Norwest showed "great bravery, skill and initiative
in sniping the enemy after the capture of the Pimple. By his activity he saved a great
number of our men's lives."
The following year, Norwest was awarded a bar to his MM. It is not known why, and in
August 1918, his bravery was again evident. During the Battle of Amiens, in France,
Allied forces advanced 19 kilometres in three days. For his part, Norwest destroyed
several enemy machine-gun posts and achieved a sniping record that was a battalion high.
A week later, the 50th was moving into position for its next assignment when Norwest
held his final post. On August 18, three months before the war ended,
Norwest and two others were looking for a nest of troublesome enemy snipers. A sniper's
bullet hit the Métis marksman, killing him instantly.