October 8, 2017. Following a restful night in Caen, we made our way to the final cemetery we were visiting in France, the Calais Canadian War Cemetery in Leubringhen, 14 km from Calais, where Lt. James Arthur AFFLECK is buried. This is the second WWII grave we visited in France.
Calais was liberated by the Canadian 1st Army early in September 1944 as they advanced up the French coast into Belgium, in pursuit of retreating German forces. Most of the burials in the Calais Canadian War Cemetery are from this period of fighting. There are 704 Commonwealth burials from WWII, of which 30 are unidentified. 594 of these burials are of Canadian soldiers. There also are 6 Czech and 19 Polish war graves.
After the earlier struggles we had getting to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in France, this cemetery was surprisingly easy to find. It was the first one we were at that had a sign on the highway, and it was conveniently located right off of the highway exit to Leubringhen, a village that’s halfway between Calais and Boulogne. There was even a parking area!
James Arthur Affleck was born April 15, 1920 in Bedeque, the son of Robert Bruce Affleck and Mary Eliza MacCallum. A farmer before he enlisted with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders on March 3, 1942, he was killed in action by artillery shells on September 17, 1944, during the first day of the Battle of Boulogne (Operation Wellhit), in a 5 day battle to take the port of Boulogne from German control.
In ‘No Retreating Footsteps: The Story of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders’, published in 1954, author Will Bird tells what happened on September 17, 1944 on pages 222 and 223:
“… L/Cpl K. L. Miller was with Sgt. P. J. Whalen as A Company went up to attack. They rode almost over the crest of the first hill, then began crawling inside a hedge and used it for cover until they came to a gap and some large craters. There was barbed wire around a number of buildings, and a far one seemed to have been used for a garage. Direct bomb hits had crashed the first two buildings to wreckage. The next was a pillbox but heavy mortar fire descended and forced everyone to take shelter in the craters. Sgt. Whalen was killed and before the barrage let up three others had lost their lives. Miller worked along a distance toward the pillbox and was told the officer, too, had been killed…. The officer killed during the heavy shelling was Lt. Affleck and it was his first battle….”
The path from the parking area to the cemetery is lined with trees and is hauntingly beautiful and gives the appearance of the peace that those who died in battle deserve – well, except for the fierce wind. It was a reminder of the windy areas back on Prince Edward Island!
The sky was black but the rain held off long enough for Pieter to plant flags by Lt. Affleck’s grave.
As we were going back to the car, however, the downpour began! Luckily, we were only 74 km from our destination of De Panne, a coastal town that would be our base in Belgium.
In the next blog entry we return to the WW1 war memorial trail, this time in the area around Ypres, Belgium. Do you have photo or info on J. Arthur Affleck? Comments or stories? You can share them by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by commenting on this blog.
© Daria Valkenburg