The WW2 Soldier Who Drove On The Wrong Side Of The Road

August 28, 2019.  Many years ago, while on the North island of New Zealand, I drove to a meeting with a colleague from the South Island.  Driving in New Zealand means driving on the side of the road opposite to the way we are used to driving.  Usually I did well with remembering which side of the road to drive on, but sometimes the brain cells reverted to their default setting.  That happened one evening after we stopped at a gas station.  After pulling back out onto the road, we were listening to music and having a great conversation when all of a sudden I noticed a big truck coming towards us.  “What is he doing?” I asked my passenger.  He didn’t reply.  A quick glance showed him looking terrified and gripping the door handle.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  Finally, he very quietly whispered, “In this country, we drive on the other side of the road.” Oops!  I quickly switched lanes and the truck safely passed us, but not without a few angry toots on the horn.  An angel was sitting on our shoulders that evening!

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Austin Boulter. (Photo credit: Augustine Cove Women’s Institute 1800-1973 Centennial history project)

I remembered this event after learning from Pieter’s research what happened to WW2 soldier Austin Harry BOULTER, whose driving experience didn’t end as happily.  According to his attestation papers, Boulter was born on October 4, 1920 in Freetown, the son of Roy Boulter and Blanche Leard.  There is a discrepancy as the Military Service Record’s Declaration and Statement of Relatives records his date of birth as October 4, 1922 in Tryon. A check of the June 1921 census does not record him, indicating that he wasn’t yet born.  It’s pretty clear that he fudged his attestation paper during his enlistment on May 27, 1940 in Woodstock, New Brunswick to make sure he wouldn’t be rejected as being too young!  At the time of enlistment the family lived in Cape Traverse, but Boulter was working as a lumberman for J. Craig in Stanley, New Brunswick.

While Boulter enlisted with the Carleton and York Regiment, he was transferred to the Canadian Signal Training Corps on September 9, 1940.  On May 18, 1941 he was transferred to the 3rd Canadian Division Signals and sent to Debert Camp, Nova Scotia. It was with that group that he left Halifax for England, arriving in Avonmouth on July 31, 1941.  The unit was in England to train for deployment to Western Europe.  (This was the first Canadian division to fight in the Normandy Campaign, landing at Juno Beach on D-Day on June 6, 1944.)

Boulter never left England, as around 10 pm on January 14, 1943, while not on duty, he borrowed a motorcycle ‘without authority’, according to a court of inquiry into his death.  He was “carrying a civilian passenger on the back of the motorcycle”.  Unfortunately, he forgot which side of the road to drive on, and crashed into a 4X4 Ford driven by Private M J. O’Grady, between Storrington and the Royal Winnipeg Rifle Lines.

At the court of inquiry, O’Grady stated that after seeing the motorcycle in his lane, O’Grady started to pull over to the left, but Boulter “came straight on, striking his front right bumper and fender and catching on the corner of the box directly behind the cab.”  O’Grady stopped immediately and he and his passengers jumped out.  He stated that he “saw a soldier on the ground a short distance beyond the bike and saw a lady further away on the ground.” Boulter was dead, but his passenger was hurt.  O’Grady “posted a guard on the truck and told the other two men to take over while he ran into Storrington to get help.”  O’Grady testified that he was “travelling about 15 mph” and that the motorcycle “appeared to be travelling too fast”.

The finding of the court indicated that Boulter “was not wearing a crash helmet”.  The registry of death noted that he died instantly from severe head injuries incurred during the crash.

It’s unknown why Boulter was with a civilian passenger so late at night, and why he took a motorcycle without permission.  No testimony by the passenger was recorded in the court of inquiry and she was not identified. He was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Sussex, England.

The Summerside Journal of January 18, 1943 recorded his obituary:

Bedeque Soldier Dies Overseas

A Prince Edward Island soldier, Sigmn. Austin Harry Boulter of Bedeque, was listed under died overseas in the 252nd Canadian (Active) Army overseas casualty list last night. His next-of-kin was given as his mother, Mrs. Blanche Boulter of Bedeque.

If anyone can provide a photo or more information on Austin Harry Boulter, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

 

Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties!

August 18, 2019.  Over the past few years, Pieter has been diligently researching the 48 names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion here on Prince Edward Island.  Along the way he’s met many family members of these men, and we’ve visited a number of the graves.  However, in some cases, either no family members have come forward, or the family members themselves have no photos and little information.

In an attempt to achieve the goal of putting a face to each name on the Cenotaph, we’re asking for your help with these WW1 casualties for whom no photo has been found as yet.

Please see the attached PDF which provides information on the person’s name, service number, place of birth, unit served in at the time of death, and date of death.  (See Appeal For Relatives of Soldiers)  As well, the names are summarized below.

Can you help with photos????

Names still without faces from WWI

  • James CAIRNS, born in Kinkora
  • Leigh Hunt CAMERON, born in Albany
  • James Lymon CAMERON, born in Victoria
  • William Galen CAMPBELL, born in Wellington
  • Bazil CORMIER, born in Tignish
  • Joseph Arthur DESROCHES, born in Miscouche
  • James Graham FARROW, born in Argyle Shore
  • Charles LOWTHER, born in North Carleton
  • Arthur Clinton ROBINSON, born in Tryon
  • Harry ROBINSON, born in Augustine Cove

If you have information and photos to share on any of these names listed on the Cenotaph, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The WW2 Flight Officer Whose Plane Went Down While On Patrol Near The Arctic Circle

August 17, 2019.  In researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, normally Pieter encounters one of four situations:

  • family members who have a photo but know little or nothing else about the soldier.
  • family members who are aware of the soldier but have no photo and little or no information.
  • family members who know nothing about the soldier, have no photo, and aren’t at all interested. This situation tends to occur with WW1 soldiers, who died at a young age, with no spouse or children. “It happened over 100 years ago! That’s ancient history!” one woman told Pieter.
  • family members who have a photo and have saved letters or cards written by the soldier or about him, and may have his medals. These family members have a general idea of what happened to the soldier and may have visited his grave or a memorial listing his name.

In researching the story of Flight Officer Joseph “Joe” Charles MCIVER of Kinkora, Pieter encountered a fifth situation …… family members so dedicated to preserving his memory that they did extensive research on their own!  Not only were there photos and documents, but one nephew, Alan A. McIvor of Kelowna, BC, wrote a book on his uncle called ‘United In Effort..Flying Officer Joseph Charles McIver…Royal Canadian Air Force…1940-1944’ and was kind enough to send it to Pieter.

Cover of Alan McIvors book

Cover of Alan McIvor’s book.

But the story begins here on Prince Edward Island with Alan McIvor’s sister-in-law Joyce Philips and her husband Gordon, who invited us to visit them at their home.

CIMG2545 Aug 28 2018 Pieter with Gordon & Joyce Philips

Left to right: Gordon Philips, Joyce Philips, Pieter Valkenburg. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Joseph Charles McIver was born July 26, 1916 in Kinkora, the son of Peter D McIver and Margaret Anne McKenna, “the sixth of fourteen children” as noted in Alan McIvor’s book ‘United In Effort’. Before enlisting with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Charlottetown on November 15, 1940, he was a warehouse foreman for the PEI Potato Growers Association.  McIvor goes on to explain in his book that his uncle enlisted “as an Aircraftsman 2nd Class.  In the area on his application form where it asked for the reason he wanted to join he declared ‘Wanted to help Win the War.’

Joseph Charles McIver

Joseph Charles McIver. (Photo: The Canadian Virtual War Memorial – Veterans Affairs Canada)

McIver didn’t qualify as a pilot, but was trained for the position of Observer/Navigator in Ontario.  On June 16, 1941 he married Helen Elizabeth McNeill, “a nurse from Summerside”, in Trenton, Ontario.

UNCLE JOE & HELEN McIvor from Alan McIvor

Helen and Joseph Charles McIver. (Photo courtesy A. McIvor family collection)

In January 1942, McIver was posted to England to train with the British Royal Air Force in Coastal Command.  RAF Coastal Command, a formation with the Royal Air Force (RAF) had a mandate to protect convoys from German U-boats and Allied shipping from aerial threats from the German Air Forces.  Squadrons operated from various bases and McIver soon found himself in the Arctic Circle. (For more information on Coastal Command see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Coastal_Command_during_World_War_II)

On September 4, 1942, McIver was in the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) 455 Squadron with a group flying to the Soviet Union as part of ‘Operation Orator’, a search and strike force to operate over the Barents Sea.  The plan was to fly on a course to reach Norway, cross the mountains in the dark, overfly northern Sweden, in violation of Swedish neutrality, Finland and land at Afrikanda air base, at the southern end of Murmansk Oblast (an oblast is similar to a province). The flight to Afrikanda was expected to take five to eight hours, depending on the weather and German opposition. After refuelling, the group McIver was in was to fly the remaining 190 km to Vayenga, following the Kandalaksha–Murmansk railway northwards.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Orator for more information on Operation Orator and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrikanda_(air_base) for more information on Afrikanda.)

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Map shows the location of the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway, and the surrounding seas and islands. (Map created by Norman Einstein, 2005. Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Orator#/media/File:Barents_Sea_map.png)

McIvor’s ‘United In Effort’ explains what happened to his uncle’s plane after making it to Afrikanda…. “after several attempts at landing in the mist their fuel position became critical.”  The pilot flew towards Kandalaksha to find an emergency landing spot.  “All he could find was an area where the silver birch trees had been cut down, leaving tall thin stumps.”  The plane landed intact and no one was hurt, but containers of tools brought by a ground crew passenger “were strewn along the crash path as the bomb bay had been torn open.”  In trying to retrieve the containers, “a bullet smashed into the ground at his feet.”  The ground crew passenger returned to the plane very quickly!  “Eventually a troop of Soviet soldiers arrived and thinking the crew were the hated Nazis, treated them roughly.  They were taken to an underground interview room where an English speaking Soviet Commissar was able to understand they were allies.”  They were then reunited with the rest of the Squadron at Afrikanda and the next day escorted to Vayenga.  Over the next months McIver and his crewmates flew 35 flights, 30 of them Operational Patrols.

In September 1943 McIver was promoted to Temporary Flying Officer, transferred to No. 1 Torpedo Training Unit, and sent to the United Kingdom for further training, followed by a stint as an instructor.  In May 1944 he was given Special Leave and allowed 30 days back in Canada with his wife and relatives before returning to the United Kingdom.

In August 1944 McIver was transferred to RAF No. 53 Squadron, which flew Liberator planes.  These planes were important in the war effort as they “doubled the reach of Britain’s maritime reconnaissance force.  This added range enabled Coastal Command patrols to cover the Mid-Atlantic gap, where U-boats had operated with near impunity.

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B-24 Liberator flown by Squadron No. 53. (Photo courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Maxwell_B-24.jpg)

In September 1944, the Squadron, along with McIver, was posted to Reykjavik, Iceland. At 1:10 am on November 18, 1944 he was part of the crew of aircraft EV895 that took off on anti-submarine patrol looking for a suspected U-boat off Gardskagi, Iceland ….. and “were never heard from again.” When the plane was overdue back at base, a search began, with wreckage and floating debris seen at sea.  “A surface vessel is dispatched and recovers a nose wheel that appears to be from a Liberator and other flotsam floating on the surface.”  Among the items recovered were clothing identified as belonging to the pilot,  wireless operator, and gunner, suggesting that the plane had sunk.  “There were no surface ships reported missing or overdue from that time frame.  No German U-boats operating in the area were reported missing.

A fire spotted at 2:47 am by another aircraft in the Squadron “was not very far from Iceland and EV895 was very early into its patrol.  It would have been loaded with enough fuel for 14 hours of flying. It would take some time for that amount of fuel to burn off and it would create quite a heat.  It was not uncommon for some Liberators to fly into the water.  It was a big heavy aircraft and flying at night 100 feet above the ocean was potentially risky business.

No one to this day knows what happened, but the likeliest explanation is that the plane flew too close to the ocean and couldn’t pull back up.  The B-24 Liberator was nicknamed ‘The Flying Coffin’ because the only entry and exit from the bomber was in the rear, making it almost impossible for the flight crew and nose gunner to get from the flight deck to the rear when wearing parachutes. Plus, the roller-type bomb bay doors retracted into the fuselage, creating a minimum of aerodynamic drag to keep speed high over a target area.  (See https://sites.google.com/site/willowrunvillage/b-24-bombers)

Reported missing in action were:

  • Captain W.C. PAYNE
  • 2nd Pilot L. A. WINDRESS
  • 1st Navigator J. C. MCIVER
  • 2nd Navigator A. PALMER
  • Warrant Officer R.A. SCOTT
  • Warrant Officer J. G. CHAMBERLAIN
  • Warrant Officer H.A. STEPHEN
  • Warrant Officer Mechanical K. J. SPACKMAN
  • Air Gunner J. BASSETT
  • Flight Engineer G. M. COCKBURN

Although McIver’s plane disappeared on November 18, 1944 he was not officially declared dead until September 1945.  At the time of the disappearance his wife Helen was pregnant, and gave birth to a son Peter Joseph Charles in March 1945.  Helen died in 1978 and son Peter passed away in 2007.

While there is no memorial to the crew in Iceland, there is one in Runnymede, England. As well, McIver has a commemorative stone at the Air Force Heritage Park in Summerside, located at the entrance to the former Canadian Armed Forces Base.

IMG_20190807_101038750 McIver Commemorative Stone Summerside

Commemorative Stone at Air Force Heritage Park, Summerside, Prince Edward Island. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Today, McIver’s medals are on display at the community centre in Kinkora since 2014.  Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the original medals are unknown.  As explained in ‘United In Effort’, “In 2013, through the combined efforts of Joe McIver’s last remaining sibling, Mary Ita Smith and the author, we have had all his medals reissued, including a new one called The Arctic Star for his time spent in the Arctic Circle with RAAF Squadron 455.

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Shadow box with medal of Flight Officer Joseph Charles McIver in the community centre in Kinkora, Prince Edward Island. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Thank you to Alan McIvor and Gordon and Joyce Philips for sharing so much information.  If you have information and photos to share on Flight Officer Joe McIver, the other crew members on that last flight, or any of the other names on the Cenotaph, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

 

In Memoriam

In_memoriam

August 14, 2019.  Over the past years, the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project has been telling the stories of the soldiers listed on the cenotaph.  Along the way, we’ve also introduced you to the families who have contributed photos and stories of these men.

Sadly this summer, three participants in the project have passed away.  We’d like to acknowledge their help and support by honouring their memories.

Harry Norton & Pieter

Harry Norton, left, with Pieter Valkenburg. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

On May 18, 2019, Harry Norton, brother of WW2 soldier Ernest Murray NORTON, passed away in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. (See link to obituary: https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/obituaries/harry-hv-norton-24050/) The poignant story of Ernest Murray Norton, who was killed in Italy, was told in the blog posting The Last Valentine From A WWII Soldier.

CIMG9470 Oct 24 2017 Follet home in Ajax Terry Greta Pieter

Terry and Greta Follett with Pieter. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

On July 17, 2019, Greta Follett, daughter of WW2 soldier  Everett Samuel FRANCIS, passed away in British Columbia.  The story of how her father, on his way to meet baby Greta for the first time, lost his life when his ship, the SS Caribou, was torpedoed off the coast of Newfoundland, was one of the first that Pieter researched.  (See The Cenotaph Research Project Begins)  At the time of that first article, we didn’t have a photo of Everett Samuel Francis. That changed once Greta learned about the project, and later we were able to visit and meet her and husband Terry.  (See The Face of Everett Samuel Francis)

CIMG9481 Oct 25 2017 Pieter with Helen Elgin & Don Coutts in Toronto

Pieter (standing left) with Elgin Coutts (seated), Elgin’s wife Helen (centre) and son Donald (standing right) during a visit in 2017. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

On August 7, 2019, Elgin Coutts, brother-in-law of WW2 pilot Elmer Bagnall MUTTART, passed away in Toronto, Ontario. (See link to obituary: https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/obituaries/elgin-coutts-24809/) The story of Elmer Bagnall Muttart, who died after his plane was shot down over The Netherlands, has unfolded over the years, and began with this posting: The Elmer Bagnall Muttart StoryThis October, a memorial panel to honour Muttart and his crew will be placed near the crash site in Wons, The Netherlands.  (See Update For Those Intending To Go To The Netherlands For The Memorial Panel Unveiling In Wons To Honour the Crew of Halifax L9561)

We extend our condolences to the families of Harry Norton, Greta Follett, and Elgin Coutts, and thank them for their participation in and contributions to the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project.  If you have information and photos to share on the names on the Cenotaph, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg