February 4, 2023. After reading ‘Forgotten Soldiers’ by Fred Gaffen, Pieter came across the name John CULBERTSON, listed as a Sapper with the Royal Canadian Engineers, who lost his life on April 30, 1945.
The date of death triggered Pieter’s interest and he wondered if he had been killed in or near The Netherlands. When he learned that John Culbertson was buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands, he decided to research the service file and see if a family member could be found.
He was soon directed to John’s granddaughter, Diane McQueston (Culbertson). “…My grandmother kept his memory alive…” Diane explained. We were delighted to have the chance to meet Diane and her husband Rob.
…John was raised on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory …..
Born on November 21, 1911 in Oshawa, Ontario, John was the son of George Albert and Mary Ann (nee Smoke) Culbertson. His parents were from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ontario, and this is where John lived as a child. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyendinaga_Mohawk_Territory)
“…Mary Ann Smoke passed away at age 26 when John was 5 years old and his brother Gilbert was 3….” Diane noted. John’s father remarried. “…Mary Ann Pelling was George’s second wife and they had 4 children… John looked at Mary Ann Pelling as his Mom….”
After leaving school, John worked as a brass moulder at Corbin Lock in Belleville, Ontario for 10 years before enlisting.
Diane told us that “…my grandparents met at a dance in Belleville and married in 1930, when my grandfather was 19, and my grandmother was 18. My grandmother, Mabel Florence Brown, was from Middlesex, England. She never remarried. My father was their only child….” Diane’s father, John Harry, was born January 29, 1932.
…John enlisted with the Royal Canadian Engineers…
John enlisted with the Royal Canadian Engineers at No. 3-A District Depot in Kingston, Ontario on June 14, 1944, and was sent to the Canadian Engineer Training Centre (CETC) in Petawawa, Ontario. He qualified as a Moulder Group B on October 27, 1944 and was entitled to draw an additional Trades Pay.
On November 29, 1944, John left Canada for the United Kingdom, arriving on December 9, 1944, where he was assigned to the Canadian Engineer Reinforcement Unit (CERU). After undertaking further training, he qualified as a Driver Class III on March 24, 1945. This meant he was qualified to drive heavy trucks and armoured cars.
On April 11, 1945, John was sent to North West Europe, and then transferred to the 8th Canadian Field Squadron on April 18, 1845.
…John lost his life during the Battle of Edewecht…
On April 30, 1945, the 8th Canadian Field Squadron was in Edewecht, Germany, the scene of severe fighting during the last weeks of the Second World War. During the Battle of Edewecht, Canadian troops experienced fierce house-by-house fighting against fanatic German paratroopers and other soldiers.
In A Souvenir War History – 8th Canadian Field Squadron Royal Canadian Engineers 1941-1945 by Cpl John Kerr, the author noted that “…While maintaining a diversion, Spr Culbertson was killed….” Ironically, April 30, 1945 was the same day that Hitler committed suicide in Berlin.
…John was buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten…
John was temporarily buried in Ostercheps, Germany before being reburied on March 7, 1946 in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.
In March 1948, Tini Veldman of Ommen, The Netherlands sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs, asking that it be forwarded to the next of kin. She wanted the family to know that she had adopted the grave, a volunteer program that was organized by the Netherlands War Graves Committee. A note in the file advised that her letter was forwarded to John’s widow on March 31, 1948.
This was not an unusual occurrence. Many family members of soldiers that we have met over the years have been in contact with Dutch citizens whose families adopted a grave in the early post-war years.
John’s son, John Harry, followed in his father’s footsteps in serving his country, enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1954, retiring as an aviation technician 25 years later.
Thank you to Diane McQueston (Culbertson) for sharing photos and information about her grandfather, and to Shawn Rainville for searching through newspapers to help Pieter find family members. If you have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
…Indigenous soldiers featured on this blog….
To read about other Indigenous soldiers featured on this blog:
- Thomas Beresford BIG CANOE: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/10/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-thomas-big-canoe/
- William ‘Willie’ DANIELS: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/07/23/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-william-willie-daniels/
- Stanley Owen JONES: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/09/05/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-wwii-soldier-stanley-owen-jones/
- Philip LAFORTE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/03/22/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-philip-laforte/
- John ‘Jack’ Richard MARACLE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/07/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-john-jack-richard-maracle/
- Alfred Louis PITAWANAKAT: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/09/06/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-alfred-louis-pitawanakwat-pitwanakwat/
- Eli Ambrose SNAKE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/12/13/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-eli-ambrose-snake/
- Leo Francis TONEY: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/22/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-leo-francis-toney/
- Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/08/09/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-clarence-wilfred-wakegijig/
…Want to follow our research?….
Daria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats. For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg