Presentation On ‘He Died That We Might Live’ Documentary

SCW_6868 Feb 20 2020 Pieter with Michel & Kaisha

Pieter with hotel manager Kaisha Talley on the right, and assistant manager Michel Settlemire on the left.  (Photo credit: Sandra Wallis)

March 21, 2020. When our documentary ‘He Died That We Might Live’ was made available on YouTube, we sent the link to people who had donated towards the memorial panel that was placed in Wons, The Netherlands on October 12, 2019.  (See “He Died That We Might Live” Video Is Now On YouTube) Some of the donors were our snowbird friends.  When we were together this winter in Florida, several asked for more information on the events in The Netherlands, and as more snowbirds learned about this event we found ourselves telling the story over and over again.

On February 20 we were invited to talk about the story behind the documentary and to show the documentary in our snowbird hotel.

Snowbird Speaker Series

Flyer advertising the presentation.

While there were a few Canadian snowbirds from Ontario and BC, the majority of the snowbirds that attended were American.  We were heartened and delighted at the appreciative and supportive response to a Canadian/Dutch story by our American friends.  The story of Halifax L9561 has no boundaries!

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Pieter, standing at far left, during the Snowbird Speaker presentation on the documentary.  (Photo credit: Sandra Wallis)

Towards the end of the presentation, Pieter told the audience about the Faces To Graves project in The Netherlands, which is looking for photos and stories about all WW2 Canadian war dead buried in Dutch cemeteries. He also mentioned that a similar project was underway at the American War Cemetery in Margraten.

It was a fun afternoon, sharing our story and research.  Afterwards, Mary Ann Greiner was kind enough to email us, saying “Thank you for all the work you did to honor these men! What a wonderful accomplishment! Your presentation was very moving and informative. There are so many stories from the war that we don’t know. Thank you for the research you did to bring this story to life. It was a most memorable afternoon. I look forward to reading more on your work on your blog.

Pieter is still looking for photos and information on the names listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion.  If you have an item to share please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The WW2 Soldier From Emerald Junction Who Lost His Life In Italy

March 10, 2020. Among the names listed on the Cenotaph outside of the Borden-Carleton Legion are 4 that died in Italy during WW2.  One of these men was Ernest Murray Norton (see The Last Valentine From A WWII Soldier).  This posting is about a young man who lost his life during the Battle of Moro.

George Alfred DUNN was born February 11, 1915 in Roseville, the son of Joseph J. Dunn and Mary Ellen Jones.  Dunn didn’t have an easy life.  His mother died when he was six.  His father died when Dunn was only 9 years old, and he was brought up by his uncle, William Dunn, of Emerald Junction.

A woodsman before enlisting with the Carleton & York Regiment in St. Stephen, New Brunswick on September 8, 1939, he received training in Woodstock, New Brunswick and then went to Europe with the first Canadian contingent, sailing to England on December 8, 1939 aboard the S.S. ‘Monarch of Bermuda’, and arriving on December 17.

Alfred Dunn

George Alfred Dunn. (Photo source: http://www.ancestry.com. Photo colourization: Pieter Valkenburg)

On May 8, 1941 he was temporarily attached for a month to the Guards Depot while at a Drill Instructors Course. Upon completion, he was sent to No.1 AFW RCOC in Aldershot for a few weeks while he completed a PT No. 32 Course. On October 18, 1941 he was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. (NOTE: RCOC refers to Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, a unit provisioning troops with the means to fight, such as uniforms, weapons and equipment.  AFW refers to Army Field Workshop.)

On May 16, 1942 he was promoted to Corporal, then on November 1942 he received another promotion, to Lance Sergeant, and was sent for more training.  On June 16, 1943 he was sent to Italy, and then, on August 25, 1943, he was promoted to Sergeant.

On December 6, 1943, Canadian forces, along with British, Indian, and New Zealand infantry divisions, began a series of large-scale assaults on major crossing points along the Moro River in Eastern Italy, with the objective of securing a large bridgehead along the defensive line. The intention was to breach the German Army’s Winter Line defensive system and advance to Pescara—and eventually Rome. (For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_River_Campaign)

According to the War Diary of the Carleton & York Regiment for January 1944, the unit was in Ortona, Italy on January 1.  The weather was “dull and cloudy all day with rain during the evening” the report read, which went on to summarize what happened on December 31, 1943.  “The transport finds the going pretty heavy on account of the mud.  ‘A’ Company, who suffered the greatest during the Battle of Point 59 was brought back to a rear position where ‘B’ Company was and ‘B’ Company was placed at the front.” One of those wounded on December 31, 1943 was Sgt Dunn.  According to the casualty report, he received “shrapnel wounds to the right leg and multiple wounds to the face” while in action.

On January 2, 1944, Dunn died of injuries received in action during the Battle of Moro (Point 59). He’s buried at Moro River Canadian War Cemetery in Italy.

grave stone Sgt. G.A. Dunn (find a grave)

Grave of George Alfred Dunn at Moro River Canadian War Cemetery.  (Photo source: http://www.findagrave.com)

According to his obituary in the ‘Charlottetown Guardian’ of February 3, 1944, page 5, Dunn was part of a family that was in service, with a brother who had died a few months earlier.  “…He was a true friend and had a kind word and a cheerful countenance for every one…” it said.

Obituary G.A. Dunn, Charlottetown Guardian 03 february 1944 page 5

Obituary from the Charlottetown Guardian of February 3, 1944.

No family of George Alfred Dunn has been found as yet, unfortunately.  If you have information or photos to share please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

The WW2 Volunteer Who Perhaps Should Never Have Enlisted

March 7, 2020. While researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion Pieter uncovered the sad story of a man who perhaps should never have joined the military during WW2… Ernest Ramey GALLANT.

A labourer living in Borden (now Borden-Carleton) before the war, on January 23, 1940 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve in Halifax as a stoker.  On his attestation paper he said he was born October 25, 1915 in Summerside, the son of John Peter Gallant and Mary Blanche Geneau. Gallant was assigned to H.M.C.S. Skeena on March 26, 1940.  On April 3, 1940, while the ship was in port in St. John, New Brunswick, he left the ship without leave and was arrested for being drunk and improperly dressed.  He was imprisoned for 60 days in Rockhead Prison in Halifax.

On June 3, 1940 he was removed from the Skeena and then discharged on August 1, 1940 ‘due to misconduct’ following a trial in Halifax on July 15, 1940.  According to the trial record, he was charged with damaging a screen door and resisting arrest by two officers.

That should have been the end of Gallant’s military service story, but on June 27, 1941 he enlisted with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in Kentville, Nova Scotia, using a birthdate of October 26, 1914 and a birthplace of Borden.  On his attestation paper he denied having previous military service.

He was sent by his unit to England but spent most of the time in hospital or detention.  On January 14, 1942 he was sentenced to 6 months detention for striking an officer.  On February 5, 1942, while in detention, he incurred a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his thigh and spent the next months in hospital.  On August 20, 1942 he was sent to the No.1 Neurological Hospital for assessment. On September 28, 1942, a Medical Board placed him in Category ‘E’ for “chronic alcoholism and mental deficiency”, according to his Hospital Discharge Notification.  The case history report stated that “the patient was admitted with a long history of drunkenness and since enlistment he has failed to adjust to army routine……. His army behaviour has rendered him a liability…” On October 1, 1942 it was determined that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. It was recommended that he be sent back to Canada as it is clear that no action taken will … influence the soldier’s future behaviour as he requires institutional care, and will probably continue to require it.

He was returned to Canada and placed in Ste Anne de Bellevue Hospital in Montreal on April 16, 1943.  On April 29, 1943 he was formally discharged due to being “unable to meet the required military physical standards”. However, Gallant “refused to sign Discharge Proceedings.  On May 20, 1943 he died of toxemia and septic throat while at the hospital and was buried in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, located in the borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, in Montreal.

grave stone Ernest Gallant

Grave of Ernest Ramey Gallant in Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal. (Photo source: http://www.findagrave.com)

Although Gallant died after being discharged, the military allowed that his death was “due to service”, meaning that he qualified for service medals and a military burial, giving a compassionate ending for this man’s family.  Unfortunately, no photo or family of Gallant have been found as yet.  If you have information or photos to share please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The WW2 Able Seaman Who Died Of Peritonitis

March 4, 2020. On the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion a few men lost their lives during wartime due to illness and are buried on home ground here on Prince Edward Island.  One of these men was John Daniel “Jack” FERGUSON.  He was born October 27, 1922 in Borden (now Borden-Carleton), the son of James Henry Ferguson and Margaret Ann Fraser.

When WWII broke out, Ferguson was anxious to serve and tried to enlist in Halifax but was refused due to his young age.  Instead he joined the Merchant Marines before successfully enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve on May 5, 1941.  He was then placed on patrol duty out of Halifax.

Unfortunately, he became ill while serving aboard the patrol ship ‘Ross Norman’, and sent to Camp Hill Hospital in Halifax from the sick bay at H.M.C.S. ‘Stadacona’ on August 19, 1942.  His temperature kept spiking and lowering, with no known diagnosis able to be determined, even after blood tests. According to the medical report “Each elevation in temperature was accompanied by a severe chill.

On August 30, 1942 he went into shock and at that point a diagnosis of peritonitis was made. (Per Wikipedia, peritonitis is inflammation of the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen and cover of the abdominal organs. Symptoms may include severe pain, swelling of the abdomen, fever, or weight loss.)  An operation was made, with two blood transfusions, and Ferguson appeared to improve over the next two days before worsening again.  Sadly, he died at 10:30 pm on September 6, 1942, just shy of his 20th birthday.

He was buried, with full naval honours, at St Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Seven Mile Bay.  A notice in the Summerside Journal, on 14 September 1942, page 2, recorded that “A detachment from H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte at Charlottetown attended and acted as pallbearers and guard of honor. Mr. Patrick Martin, president of the Summerside branch of the Canadian Legion, represented the veterans at the service.

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Gravestone for John Daniel “Jack” Ferguson at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Seven Mile Bay.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Unfortunately, no photo or family of Ferguson has been found as yet.  If you have information or photos to share about John Daniel “Jack” Ferguson please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg