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Alfred LaRoque

"The Canadian Zouave"

Alfred LaRoque

Alfred LaRoque was born on November 8, 1845. He was one of the first Canadians to join the Papal Zouaves and one of only two Canadians present at the battle of Mentana on November 3, 1867. He was severely wounded at the battle, the following is an account of his ordeal during from the the London Weekly


"He had been fighting for 2 hours when, ascending a narrow path which led to a small hill occupied by the Garibaldians, he received a bullet from the enemy which entered through his upper lip, followed the gum, broke his jaw and lodged itself on the left side. He retrograded with his company amid smoke and rumblings of angry tone, when the French, opened fire from behind, had one of their bullets enter his right shoulder and graze his collarbone as he was leaving.


This last blow knocked him down; but as soon as he recovered from the shock, he tried to get up, although at this moment the firing around him was terrible. A brave French soldier who was near him said that it was useless to get up and advised him to step aside, otherwise he would probably be hit again; and saying this, he stopped, took his handkerchief, tied it under his chin, to support LaRoque's bleeding jaw. But this act of charity was hardly finished when a bullet hit this poor soldier and he fell close to LaRocque; the pains this soldier endured for a short time before expiring were so severe that he begged LaRocque to shoot him.

When the fire had died down a little, LaRocque got up from the midst of the wounded and the dead, and dragged himself to the infirmary, which was nothing more than a layer of straw hastily spread around a small chapel leaning against the road to Rome.


The chaplain and surgeons were busy on the battlefield, and when LaRocque reached the chapel in the dark, it was only to spend the night there. There was no water anywhere nearby. The excruciating pain he had to endure that night from loss of blood and burning fever from his wounds must have been enough to want to take his life. In the morning he was taken to Rome, where he remained 3 weeks in the hospital"


LaRoque was on the brink of death, three surgeons from Paris had to come in to operate on his injuries. God willing though, he survived. For his actions during the 1867 campaign he was awarded the Mentana Cross, the Benemerenti medal, and was made Knight of the Order of Pius IX. His injury rendered him unable to fulfill the physical obligations of a soldier. So Bl. Pope Pius IX sent him back to Canada to help start a Papal Zouave recruitment campaign among the Canadian youth. 


A committee was formed to raise funds and manage the formation of this new Canadian contingent. LaRoque was tasked as the committee treasurer. His Grandfather Antoine-Olivier Berthelet became president of the committee, and from his own funds assumed the travel and maintenance costs for 20 Canadian Papal Zouaves. About 500 Canadians were recruited by the committee.

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