A Face For WW2 Soldier William Weatherbie

September 27, 2019. A few months ago, a request was made by Dutch researchers trying to gather photos for the thousands of WW2 Canadian soldiers buried in Dutch cemeteries, as part of their Faces To Graves Project.   (See Photos and Info Requested For WW2 Soldiers From PEI Buried In The Netherlands)  While not part of the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project, Pieter has been trying to help these researchers.

Faces To Graves Chair Alice van Bekkum, who was recently honoured with the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers, explained that “the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has given permission to place photos by the graves, for a two week period in May 2020, at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, in commemoration of the 75th Liberation of Holland.

20190831_110157 Alice van Bekkum

In August, The Governor General of Canada presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers to three Dutch recipients who have worked to preserve the memory of Canadian soldiers who served in World War II, and a Meritorious Service Medal to a Dutch captain for his service alongside the Canadian Armed Forces. Left to right in back: Albert Hartkamp, Captain Paul D. Schouten (Dutch military), Marc Fraser. Left to right in front: Canadian ambassador to The Netherlands, Her Excellency Sabine Nölke, Alice van Bekkum, Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada. (Photo: courtesy of Alice van Bekkum)

One of the names of soldiers from PEI for which a photo was requested was William L. WEATHERBIE, born in Charlottetown, was with the Royal Regiment of Canada.  He died on March 8, 1945, aged 18, and is buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.  We had placed flags at his grave in 2017.  (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. PEI Soldiers Buried In The Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek)

CIMG9032 Sep 16 2017 Groesbeek Cemetery grave of WL Weatherbie

Grave of William Weatherbie at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The route to a photo of Weatherbie was a circuitous one, illustrating how many Islanders are helping Pieter in this quest.  It began with Jack MacEachern at the Royal Canadian Legion in Charlottetown, who knew some of the Weatherbie family members.  This led to a phone call with Gloria Weatherbie, who explained that her maiden name was Cameron and that she had grown up in Augustine Cove, not far from where we live.  She confirmed that Weatherbie was the older brother of her husband Winston.  “He was always known as ‘Buddy”, she said.  “My husband and his younger brother Roger never knew him, as they were born after Buddy died.

William Weatherbie from Winston Weatherbie

William ‘Buddy’ Weatherbie. (Photo: Winston Weatherbie family collection. Photo colourization: Pieter Valkenburg)

CIMG3079 Aug 26 2019 Gloria Weatherbie with Pieter

Gloria Weatherbie and Pieter hold up the photo of William Weatherbie. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

When Pieter met with Winston and Roger, they explained that “Buddy had been injured and was scheduled to be repatriated back home after being discharged from hospital in England.  He refused to leave his unit, so he went back, and two weeks later was killed in Germany.

CIMG3082 Aug 26 2019 Roger Weatherbie Pieter & Winston

Pieter (centre) with Roger (left) and Winston (right) Weatherbie. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Not long after our visit, Gloria called us back.  “We found a letter from a nurse that looked after Buddy in England” she said.

The letter, dated August 30, 1945, from Marie Cave of Colchester, was written to Buddy’s parents, after she learned of his death.  “I have had the pleasure of meeting your son whilst he was here in England in our Military Hospital.  He was a son any mother could feel proud to own.  I think he was a very nice boy and was sorry to hear he has since lost his life…..  I send you my deepest sympathy in your loss.

Miss Cave goes on to explain that she met Buddy through his friend “George Shelfoon, who wrote and told me about his death.” Shelfoon survived the war and returned back to Prince Edward Island, always carrying a photo of Weatherbie in his wallet, until he himself passed away.

Thank you to the Weatherbie family and to Jack MacEachern for helping to put a face to the name of this young soldier.  If anyone can provide more information on William Weatherbie, or any of the other Canadian soldiers from WW2 who are buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg



The WW2 Soldier Who Had An Allergic Reaction

September 22, 2019.  How many of you have an allergy, perhaps to a food, insect, or medication?  These days, people can be treated with the aid of an EpiPen, or by avoiding the item causing an allergic reaction. During WWII, when antibiotics first came into use, researchers and medical personnel soon learned that they were not the miracle drug for all. Adverse reactions to pain medication and anesthesia also happened.

While researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, Pieter learned of a few instances where soldiers on active duty died, not as a result of war, but due to a medical condition.  Such was the case for Harrison William CRAIG, born January 3, 1909 in Cape Traverse, the son of John Russell Craig and Mary Ellen Howatt.  Unlike most of the servicemen listed on the Cenotaph, Craig was married and a father.

blog color photo Graig

Harrison William Craig. (Source:https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29137050/harrison-william-craig. Photo colourization: Pieter Valkenburg)

A farm labourer before enlisting with the PEI Highlanders in Summerside on February 23, 1940, Craig spent several months in a military hospital in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia before being sent to Valcartier, Quebec for training on June 3, 1941. In July 1941 he ended up in a military hospital again for several weeks, before leaving for Newfoundland on July 31, 1941.

Unfortunately, he again landed in and out of hospital in Betwood and Gander, with a final admission to the RCAF Hospital in Gander on December 1, 1942.  While being prepared for a tonsillectomy operation, he suffered an anaphylactic reaction and died a day later, leaving behind his widow, Mildred Smith, and four children, who were living in Central Bedeque.  The youngest child had been born 8 months earlier, on April 2, while the oldest was only 7 years old. Craig was buried in Gander Military Cemetery, Newfoundland.

An obituary in the ‘Summerside Journal’ of December 17, 1942, page 4, column 1 noted that:

The community of Bedeque was deeply saddened by the news that on Wednesday, Dec. 2nd, Pte. Harrison Wm. Craig of the P.E.I. Highlanders, had passed away in the Military Hospital at St. John’s, Newfoundland, while on active service there. He was buried with full military honors in the Protestant Cemetery at St. John’s on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., December 4. Pte. Craig joined the P.E.I Highlanders in March, 1940, and trained at Dartmouth, N.S. and in July 1941 went on active service to Newfoundland.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Mildred Craig, and their four children at Central Bedeque, P.E.I., his father and brother Heath at Chelton, P.E.I., and five sisters: Mrs. Stanley Jack, Glace Bay, C.B.; Mrs. Wm. Heckbert, Summerside, P.E.I.; Mrs. Charles Robertson, Carleton, P.E.I.; Mrs. Simpson Affleck, Halifax, N.S.; and Mrs. Alfred Waite of Sherbrooke, P.E.I. His Commanding Officer, Col. C. C. Thompson, wrote of his faithfulness and fidelity to duty and his splendid record of service.

The sympathy of the whole community goes out to the family in their sorrow and loss.

Craig’s death left the family in financial straits, as stated in a declaration made by his widow on January 4, 1943 before magistrate Earle. D. Leard.  Mrs. Craig wrote “I have a small house and lot on a quarter acre of land.  My husband had no insurance.  I have been paying for this place since he joined up and have no money.  I want to give my children an education.  I had quite a bill of expense when the last child was born and have no money at all laid aside.  I have to buy everything, including fuel.”  Craig’s military service record does not indicate if the declaration resulted in financial assistance.

If anyone can provide more information on Harrison William Craig, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

CBC Radio Interview With Pieter Valkenburg & Elmer MacDonald

September 20, 2019. Regular readers of this blog are aware of the project to put up a memorial panel in Wons, The Netherlands, to honour WW2 pilot from Cape Traverse, Elmer Bagnall MUTTART, and the crew of Halifax L9561.  (See The Elmer Bagnall Muttart Story and On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Harlingen General Cemetery and On the War Memorial Trail ….. At The Politiek Farm In Wons)

This special commemoration event will occur on October 12 of this year. A radio interview with Pieter and Elmer MacDonald, one of the Islanders who will be travelling to The Netherlands and whose parents were close friends of Elmer Muttart, recently ran on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet PEI with interviewer Matt Rainnie.

CIMG3145 Sep 12 2019 Matt Elmer Pieter

At the CBC PEI studio in Charlottetown. Left to right: Interviewer Matt Rainnie, Elmer MacDonald, Pieter Valkenburg. Pieter is holding the invitation issued by the Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

From the CBC Mainstreet PEI website:

Two Islanders are travelling to the Netherlands next month for the unveiling of a memorial panel in honour of World War 2 Flight Sergeant Elmer Muttart of Cape Traverse. The memorial came about because of Pieter Valkenburg’s extensive research and Elmer MacDonald i Muttart’s namesake.


Thank you to CBC PEI for forwarding the link to this broadcast so that it can be shared.  If you have a story to share about a WW2 soldier buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

 © Daria Valkenburg

Liberation 75 Commemoration Event At Province House


September 17, 2019. The Netherlands was fully liberated in 1945 (part was liberated in 1944), and next year marks their 75th year of commemoration.  In recognition of the role Canadians had in their liberation during WW2, the Dutch are donating 1.1 million ‘Liberation 75’ tulips to remember the 1.1 million Canadians who served in WW2. 750 bulbs will go to each Lieutenant Governor, the Governor General, and the Territorial Commissioners.  In addition, 1,100 schools will receive 75 bulbs each, plus an educational program to explain the role Canada played in liberating The Netherlands.

The first stop on this cross-country launch was in Prince Edward Island, when Ambassador of The Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada, His Excellency Henk van der Zwan, presented Her Honour The Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, with a box of tulips at a special event at Province House.  Invitees included WW2 veterans, and members of PEI Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, and Branch #1 Charlottetown Legion.  As a retired member of the Dutch Diplomatic Service and the Dutch Air Force, Pieter was also invited.  He was honoured to be included, given the work he is doing with the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project.


One of the WW2 veterans we spoke to before the event began was 95 year old Blanche Bennett, who we had met two years earlier, at the Senate of Canada 150 Medal Ceremony.  (See Recognition)  Mrs. Bennett quickly reminded us of that prior meeting, and told us about her trips to The Netherlands.  She explained that during the war, she had joined the Canadian Army and was stationed in Halifax, working as a switchboard operator.  “I’d do it again if I could” she said.

CIMG3157 Sep 16 2019 Liberation 75 Blanche Bennett Barbara Spence with Pieter

Blanche Bennett, seated, with her daughter Barbara Spence, and Pieter. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In his remarks, Ambassador Van der Zwan explained that “the people of The Netherlands wanted to commemorate the role Canada played in liberating The Netherlands and in providing the Dutch Royal Family a safe haven in Ottawa.”  Crown Princess Juliana stayed in Ottawa with her children during the war.   Why Ottawa? Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and the wife of the Governor General of Canada were cousins.  After the war ended in 1945, the Dutch Royal Family donated 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a thank you gift.  Since then, The Netherlands has presented Canada with 20,000 bulbs annually.

CIMG3162 Sep 16 2019 Liberation 75 Ceremonial Planting

Ceremonial planting at Province House with Lt Gov Antoinette Perry, Ambassador Van der Zwan, WW2 veterans, and Legion members. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

After a ceremonial planting at Province House, Lt Governor Perry explained that the new bed for the Liberation 75 tulips was carefully chosen so that it pointed towards The Netherlands!

Ambassador Van der Zwan shared a story about his mother’s experience with Canadian troops on April 15, 1945.  “My mother was born in 1933 in Leeuwarden, and remembered Canadian troops driving through the city.  It’s when she had her first taste of chocolate and chewing gum!”  Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland, was liberated by the Royal Canadian Dragoons.  (See https://www.intelligencer.ca/news/local-news/royal-canadian-dragoons-celebrate-liberation-of-leeuwarden-with-dutch-ambassador-to-canada/wcm/7dea7e30-e6bd-42c4-9491-ae5552e497ae and http://www.petawawapostlive.ca/stories_site/april2019/april18/leeuwarden.html#)

The official part of the event over, everyone had time to visit and chat with each other.

CIMG3169 Sep 16 2019 Liberation 75 Pieter John Ambassador Duane

Left to right: Pieter, John Yeo Chair of PEI Command Royal Canadian Legion, Dutch Ambassador Henk van der Zwan, Duane MacEwen President of PEI Command Royal Canadian Legion. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG3172 Sep 16 2019 Liberation 75 Pieter with Lt Gov Perry

Pieter with Lt Governor Antoinette Perry. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you have a story to share about the Liberation of Holland, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.   Please note that we are still looking for photos of 10 names listed on the Cenotaph from WW1.  See Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties! for more information.

 © Daria Valkenburg

The Parallel WW1 Experiences of John Lymon Wood & Clifford Almon Wells

September 16, 2019.  Sometimes we learn more about a particular soldier’s experience by reading about a soldier in a similar situation.  This was the case when I read “From Montreal To Vimy Ridge and Beyond: The Correspondence of Lt Clifford Almon Wells”, edited by his step-father, Pastor G.G.S. Wallace of a Baptist Church in Montreal, and published in 1917.  Wells was not an Islander, but he enlisted in the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry 4th University Company, as did John Lymon WOOD, whose story has been told previously in blog postings.  (See WWI Soldier John Lyman Wood’s Connection With Acadia University and Learning About The Two Names On The Vimy Memorial)

Wells enlisted in September 1915, Wood on October 12, 1915.  At the time of enlistment, Wells was doing graduate work towards his PhD in archeology at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland while Wood was a second year engineering student at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Photo Lyman Wood

Photo: John Lyman Wood shortly after enlistment in October 1915. (Photo courtesy of Gene Rogerson collection)

Lt Clifford Almon Wells in 1916

Clifford Almon Wells in summer 1916. (Photo courtesy of “From Montreal To Vimy Ridge and Beyond: The Correspondence of Lt Clifford Almon Wells”)

On October 19, 1915, in a letter to his brother, Wood explained that he was packing his trunk in preparation for leaving Wolfville for Montreal. Like so many university educated men, an officer’s commission had been suggested by the recruitment office. “….I wish I had gone in the heavy artillery at Charlottetown now, but I’ll get a commission as Lieutenant if I can.  A man stands a far better chance of coming back if he goes in the artillery, but I suppose that is not the right way to look at it though.  The men are needed more in the Infantry, so I suppose it is only right to go where you are the most needed and where you can do the most good….I never hated to leave a place so bad as I do Wolfville this time.  But I must be doing what is right for there seems no other way out of it.” (Excerpt of a letter on page 157 of ‘Remember Yesterday: A History of North Tryon Prince Edward Island 1769-1992 Volume 1’, published in 1993)

Both Wells and Wood were in Montreal, preparing for being sent abroad.  In a November 2, 1915 letter, Wells wrote that “… the 4th University Company, bring recruited overstrength already, has received orders to be ready to sail on the 11th. Thousands of troops sail from Montreal every month without anyone being any the wiser.  Trains come in at night, stop on the wharf alongside the transports and by daybreak the men are on the way.  So it will be with us… The city just swarms with soldiers at present, as two full battalions have been sent back from the camp at Valcartier, which is closed for the winter…

There was a delay in leaving Montreal, as in the end they didn’t leave until November 26, 1915, by train enroute to Halifax.  In a November 26, 1915 letter, Wells noted that “… We did not leave Montreal until nearly 11 o’clock, as we waited for several carloads of troops from Winnipeg to join us.”  He explained that sentries were posted at the train doors, and no one except officers and platoon sergeants were allowed to pass from car to car without special permission.

They arrived in Halifax in the afternoon of November 27, 1915, and Wells sent a brief letter to his mother, saying that “...We reached Halifax two hours ago, and came aboard the ‘Lapland’ almost immediately.

On November 28, 1915 the SS Lapland, which had arrived from New York, sailed from Halifax, arriving in Plymouth, England on December 7.  During the voyage, Wells wrote several letters.  On December 3, 1915, he made the observation that “….There are about 2,000 other troops aboard.  The 37th Battalion from the West, the 92nd Highlanders, units of the A.S.C. Cyclists, etc.”  Wells went on to explain that they had to be alert for U-boats.  “Today we are fairly in the danger zone.  Our company’s machine gun is mounted aft, while other guns are mounted forward.  The decks are lined with men armed with rifles.  So we are all ready for submarines.  Tonight every man must sleep on deck by the life-boat or raft to which he has been assigned.  All portholes are darkened at night and every precaution is taken to render the ship invisible.

Upon arrival, they were both sent to the 11th Reserve Battalion, stationed at St. Martin’s Plain in Shorncliffe, near Folkestone, for infantry training for needed reinforcements to the Canadian Corps in the field.  In a December 9, 1915 letter, Wells wrote about the culture shock he’d experienced.  “It has rained steadily, with an intermission yesterday, ever since we reached Plymouth Sunday morning until now.  The camp is one sea of mud – such mud as I never dreamed of before.  I never shine my shoes now, as the first step out of the hut buries them in 3 or 4 inches of slime.  We are quartered in huts which hold about 40 men each….

He then explained that “The streets in Shorncliffe are very dimly lighted by night on account of the danger from Zepps, and every window in every hut is covered with a blanket when the lights are switched on.  Outside it is pitch dark and one wallows in mud and water when compelled to go out at night.

Like Wood, Wells soon found out that while the British were interested in troops as ‘cannon fodder’, a system of discrimination already existed to prevent them from becoming officers, contrary to what they were told when they signed up.  He discussed this in a continuation of his December 9 letter:  “I have bad news in one respect.  An order has been passed by which no more Canadian soldiers are given commissions in the Imperial Army except when a Colonel applies to have a certain man as an officer in his command.  There is consequently a good deal of dissatisfaction in our company, as many of us were practically promised commissions when we enlisted.”  Wells began working his contacts to get a commission.

In a December 29, 1915 letter, Wells wrote that “…It is reported that a carload of Christmas mail for soldiers was accidentally burned….”  He wondered if this could be why he had not received mail.  On January 7, 1916, he wrote that he’d heard that “two carloads of mail from Canada were accidentally burned.”  One can imagine the disappointment that he and his fellow Canadians felt when no letters or parcels arrived for Christmas!

Still trying to figure out how to get a commission, in the same letter, Wells explained that if he wasn’t successful in his quest while in England “…. I may go to the front as a Corporal or even a private, as I understand that NCOs like myself, who have never seen active service, lose one or more of their stripes when they first go to the trenches.  I should expect, of course, to regain them in a short time, but I do not like the idea of making any retrogressive steps...

In January 1916, Wells did become a Lieutenant, and on January 16, wrote to his mother that “I have been wonderfully lucky in being commissioned with the Canadian and not the Imperial Army.  This is how it happened.  A sudden shortage of officers occurred in the division, and the various battalions were asked to recommend for promotion NCOs not below the rank of Sergeant. The 11th Reserve Battalion was asked to recommend four.  I was one of the four.”  Like so many other Canadian soldiers, Wood never got promoted beyond Private.

While Wells stayed healthy and went to the Canadian Military School for a Bombing Course, Wood ended up in hospital as of January 21, 1916 with appendicitis, then gastritis, and measles. In a March 4, 1916 letter, Wells mentioned the measles outbreak.  “There are a number of cases of measles in the camp, and as soon as one hut is released from quarantine, one or two more have to be quarantined.

Wood was discharged on April 15, 1916 to the 39th Battalion, where he was sent for training as a Signaller.  In August 1916, Wells was transferred to the 8th Battalion of the 1st Canadian Division and sent to France.  Wood arrived in France on December 22, 1916, as part of the Second Infantry Battalion.

Both men survived the Battle of Vimy Ridge, with Wells describing the day in an April 20, 1917 letter to his mother: “The Huns were completely surprised, and made little resistance.  Our artillery barrage was wonderful beyond description, lifting forward from objective to objective with clocklike precision, and practically obliterating the German trenches as it passed them.  The men followed the barrage steadily and fearlessly, and prisoners were streaming back five minutes after we went ‘over the top’.  Most of the prisoners were entirely cowed, and thankful to be prisoners….  I came through it without a scratch.”  Unfortunately, before his mother received the letter, she was officially notified of his death on April 28, 1917, at the age of 25.

Wood’s luck ran out on May 3, 1917, when he was killed in action during the Battle of Arras, in the third battle of the Scarpe near Fresnoy, at the age of 19.  In “Hell Upon Earth: A Personal Account of Prince Edward Island Soldiers in the Great War, 1914-1918”, published in 1995, author J. Clinton Morrison, Jr. explained that Wood, a Signaller, “was killed in the Fresnoy darkness while repairing telephone communications during the pre-dawn attack.”  His body was never recovered and his name is engraved on the Vimy Memorial in France.

While it’s not known if Wells and Wood ever met each other, their military lives had many parallels and they died within 5 days of each other in France.  If anyone has more information, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.   Please note that we are still looking for photos of 10 names listed on the Cenotaph from WW1.  See Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties! for more information.

 © Daria Valkenburg



The Three WW1 Soldiers Who Were Buried Together At Passchendaele

September 1, 2019.  The very first story uncovered by Pieter, when he began researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, was that of WW1 soldier Vincent Earl CARR, who lost his life on October 30, 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.  (See The Cenotaph Research Project Begins)  Why Vincent Carr?  His was the first photo provided for the project by Vincent’s nephew, Delbert Carr of Tryon, and his wife Helen.

CIMG3083 Aug 31 2019 Pieter with Helen & Delbert Carr

Pieter with Helen and Delbert (seated) Carr of Tryon. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Carr was born May 3, 1894 in North Tryon, son of Robert Carr and Catherine McLeod.  On June 2, 1914, he enlisted in the 55th Battalion in Sussex, New Brunswick, and recorded his trade as labourer.  On October 30, 1915 his unit sailed to England aboard the S.S. Corsican, arriving on November 9, 1915.

shorter photo of vincent carr

Photo: Vincent Carr in 1915, in the uniform of the 55th Battalion. (Photo courtesy of Delbert Carr collection. Photo colourization: Pieter Valkenburg)

On April 6, 1916 he was transferred to the 36th Battalion, and then 2 months later, on June 23, 1916, he was sent for training at the 86th Machine Gun Battalion, later re-designated as the Canadian Machine Gun Depot.  On July 28, 1916 he became part of the 1st (also called “A”) Canadian Motor Machine Gun Battery and arrived in France with his unit the next day.

In an excerpt from the November 1, 1917 Operation Report for October 28-31, 1917 by Lt C.P. Gilman, Acting Officer in Charge, of the “A” Battery of the First Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade wrote:  … “On the evening of the 29th ….were in position to fire on targets given for the Zero hour, which was 5:50 am morning of the 30th.  As soon as we opened fire, we were subjected to an intense bombardment of our positions, and we were forced to retire 6 hours later, after sustaining 28 casualties…..

Carr was one on those casualties, and is buried in Cement House Cemetery.  When we visited it in 2017, Pieter noticed that the graves on either side of him were Canadians from the same Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade unit as Carr, and that they died on the same day.  We took a photo of all three graves: R. Bellas, our Vincent Carr, and J. B. Willson.  (See On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area)

While we were in Passchendaele, we picked up a brochure ‘Did Your Granddad Fight in Passchendaele 1917?’ from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, inviting people to submit names and photos. The brochure went on to say that “in return for your cooperation you will receive a copy of a trench map with the approximate place where he was killed.  With this comes a short report based on the war diaries of his unit.”  We already had the war diary report, but a trench map was something unique, so we sent in the information, along with the observation that Bellas and Willson were buried near Carr.  Maybe they were in the same trench?

We waited for the trench map with great anticipation and ….. nothing happened.  Almost two years later, though, long after we’d forgotten about the inquiry we’d made, we received an email from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, with the long promised trench map and more information on what happened on October 30, 1917.

On that fateful day, researchers discovered that Vincent Carr, Jack Bingham WILLSON, and Robert BELLAS were all killed by the same high explosive shell on Abraham Heights. This is what we had expected after seeing the graves side by side in Cement House Cemetery, but to our surprise we learned that they had been buried in the same grave on Abraham Heights.


Trench map showing the coordinates where Carr, Willson, and Bellas were originally buried on Abraham Heights. (Map: courtesy of Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917)

map of passchendaele showing abraham heights

You can see Abraham Heights towards the bottom left corner of the map. (Map: courtesy http://www.darrellduthie.com/maps/)

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 wrote us that: “According to the War Diary of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, three machine gun companies were in the field around October 30. ‘A’-Battery from the 28th till the 31st of October, ‘B’-Battery from the 29th till the 31st of October and the ‘Eaton’-Battery from the 30th October till the 1st of November. Although the positions on Abraham Heights (28.D.15.b.7.4.) were abandoned on the 29th to take up new positions just north of Tyne Cot Cemetery (28.D.16.b.6.9.), many runners were sent to the supply stores behind the front to resupply the machine guns on the front line. It’s likely that the men were killed by shellfire while hauling equipment between the gun positions and the back areas.” (Note: The numbers and letters you see in brackets beside Abraham Heights and Tyne Cot Cemetery are the GPS coordinates.)

Private Jack Bingham Willson was born January 17, 1897 in Plattsville, Ontario.  Sgt Robert Bellas was born August 1, 1886 in Morland, Cumbria, England, but had immigrated to Canada.  Both Willson and Bellas enlisted in Toronto.

A 1939 report of exhumation and reburial to Cement House Cemetery confirmed that Carr, Willson, and Bellas were recovered from one grave.  Unlike many soldiers who were never identified, they were identified by the ‘titles’ on the shoulder of their uniform identifying them as Canadian, and the identifying discs that they were still wearing.  The report indicates that two unknown British soldiers had been recovered from the same grave at Abraham Heights.


A metal shoulder title was worn by Canadian soldiers on both shoulder straps of the khaki service dress uniform. (Photo credit: courtesy of https://www.warmuseum.ca)

We thank the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 for the information they sent. If anyone can provide a photo or more information on Vincent Carr, Jack Bingham Willson, or Robert Bellas, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.   Please note that we are still looking for photos of 10 names listed on the Cenotaph from WW1.  See Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties! for more information.

 © Daria Valkenburg