August 4, 2018. This blog concentrates on the names listed on the Cenotaph Research Project. We provide a summary of the research results, talk about our trips to monuments and cemeteries, and the families that we meet. We occasionally mention interaction with other archives, and the information on the names listed on our Cenotaph that we’ve shared.
For example, when we were in France, we left information and photos on WW1 soldiers John Lymon WOOD and Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT with the site manager at Vimy Ridge (See Visiting The Canadian National Vimy Memorial) In Belgium, we left information and photos on WW1 soldiers Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL at In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres. (See Sharing Information at In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres) Information on WW1 soldier Vincent CARR was sent to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Passchendaele. (See On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area)
In The Netherlands, we did the same for WW2 soldiers William Douglas SHERREN and George Martin MCMAHON, buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Holten Canadian War Cemetery) and George Preston SMITH, buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. PEI Soldiers Buried In The Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek) In addition, we’ve shared information with various university archives and regimental archives.
In this blog entry we’d like to feature a project in The Netherlands, the Canadian War Graves Netherlands Foundation. In this project, which is of special interest to Pieter because of his Dutch roots, the foundations for the three Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands have banded together to create a digital monument for ALL Canadian war graves in their country. Almost 6,000 Canadian WW2 soldiers are buried there! When Pieter was asked to help find families, stories, and photos, he didn’t hesitate.
Over the past few years, he’s put out a call for help through the various PEI legions. Several families submitted information directly to The Netherlands, others sent information and photos to Pieter for forwarding. The families of Carman GILLCASH and Daniel Peter MACKENZIE chose to go through Pieter, and recently the Comeau family in Nova Scotia shared information about Joseph Ambrose COMEAU. All three are buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery. We’ve not met any of these family members, perhaps one day.
A few weeks ago, however, Pieter received a request from Alice van Bekkum, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion in The Netherlands, and a tireless advocate for remembering the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in liberating The Netherlands. Her request was to track down an article entitled ‘A Journey of the Heart’, about a pilgrimage made by the family of William “Willie” Alfred CANNON of Mt. Mellick, who was killed in 1945 in Germany (the article incorrectly says The Netherlands) and is buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. Pieter had placed flags at his grave last fall, so the name was not unfamiliar.
With the help of Jocelyne Lloyd, news editor at The Guardian, the article, written by Mary MacKay and published on November 8, 2008, was found and a digital copy was soon on its way to The Netherlands. (See article: Journey From The Heart Cannon article from 2008)
The real story came when Pieter got in touch with Cannon’s nephews Carl and Alfred Cannon, and niece Irene Doyle to inquire about the possibility of them donating photos for the Dutch Project. “Did we want to come to the place where ‘Uncle Willie’ grew up and meet them?” he was asked. This soon became a story of remembrance……
Carl Cannon now owns the homestead, and we expected to meet him and his brother Alfred. But we were in for a surprise! They invited their sister, Paulette Duffy, and their brother Anthony. Cousin Bill Cannon came over from Nova Scotia. Cousin Irene Doyle, who was featured in The Guardian story, also arrived. It was a full house, and a happy occasion, filled with stories of Uncle Willie that they had heard from their parents and grandparents.
All of the Cannon nieces and nephews had been born after his death, which made this visit remarkable. Paulette explained that “memory was kept alive as the family always talked about Willie.” Bill said that his father Harry, who served in the Navy during WWI, was the closest to Willie. “They were hellions as children, so the stories were so interesting!” laughed Pauline.
“Andy Cannon, Willie’s cousin who was in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, was with Willie the night before he died” said Bill. “Did you want to talk to his son Garry in Sarnia?” So another Cannon shared some memories, over a cell phone.
The Cannon family shared photos, letters, and many stories, which are making their way to the digital archive set up in The Netherlands. Our last stop before heading home was to visit the Cenotaph by St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Church in Vernon River, where Willie Cannon is mentioned. “Every Remembrance Day I bring a photo of Uncle Willie” Alfred explained. And sure enough, Uncle Willie’s photo came along on this visit too.
If you have photos or stories to share about other WW2 soldiers buried in The Netherlands, and haven’t already sent them to one of the cemeteries there, please help them build up their digital archive so that these soldiers will always be remembered.
If you would like Pieter to come and speak about the Cenotaph Research Project, or how Islanders can help with the Canadian War Graves Netherlands Foundation Project, he is open to receiving invitations. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos are still needed for many of the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion. Please dig out those old albums and take a look. You can share your photos, comments, or stories by emailing us at email@example.com or by commenting on this blog.
© Daria Valkenburg
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