b. 11/11/1894 Faribault, Minnesota, USA. d. 27/02/1977 Errington, BC, Canada.
Raphael Louis Zengel (1894-1977) was born on 11th November 1894 in Faribault, Minnesota, United States. While he was still very young, he and his mother, Mary, moved from the United States to a homestead in Plunkett, Saskatchewan, Canada. Zengel enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in December 1914. He served overseas with the 5th Infantry Battalion, CEF, taking part in several raids on German trenches. For his role in one of these raids, near Passchendaele in Belgium in 1917, Zengel received the Military Medal.
On 9th August 1918, Sergeant Zengel was leading his platoon forward during the second day of the massive Allied offensive against the German lines around Amiens, in France. When he noticed a gap on the flank of his platoon and an enemy machine gun firing on the advancing Canadians at close range, he quickly decided to deal with the machine gun position himself. Rushing 200 metres ahead of his platoon, Zengel charged the German emplacement, killing two of the machine gun’s crew and compelling the rest to flee. Later that day, when the progress of the 5th Battalion was blocked by heavy machine gun fire, he demonstrated great tactical skill in directing the fire of his platoon to eliminate the enemy resistance. Sergeant Zengel’s courage, leadership and disregard for his own safety inspired his men, and were important factors in enabling the advance to continue. For his conduct on this day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The VC was gazetted on 27th September 1918, and after the war, Zengel lived in Calgary, Alberta, where he joined the Calgary Fire Department in 1919 and served until 1927. In 1936, the government of Canada chose to name a lake in northeastern Saskatchewan in Zengel's honour. Inexplicably, the feature became Zengle Lake, and so it remains today. In 1951, one of the mountains of the Victoria Cross Range, in Jasper National Park, was named in his honour. Mount Zengel is visible from Highway 16, east of Jasper, Alberta.
Sergeant Zengel spent most of the rest of his life in the town Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, where the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has been named in his honour. He died in Vancouver, British Columbia on 27th February 1977, and after his body was returned to Alberta, he was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Rocky Mountain House. He donated his Victoria Cross to the Rocky Mountain House Legion where it is kept in a safety box, and only a replica of his Victoria Cross along with the rest of his medals are on display.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE LEGION, ALBERTA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: PINE CEMETERY, ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE, ALBERTA, CANADA.
Raphael Zengel's replica medals on display at the Rocky Mountain House Legion. His original medals are in a safety deposit box.