On The War Memorial Trail…..A Mariner Named Arsenault Who Drowned In South America

Cenotaph outside Borden Carleton Legion by Pieter Valkenburg

Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

July 18, 2020.  When Pieter first began researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, he had a lot of slogging to do to figure out who these names represented.  There were no records, Legion minutes that might have shed light on how the names were selected were missing, and no newspaper accounts could be found that identified the names.

With a lot of hard work digging through war diaries, and reading of soldier records found at Library and Archives Canada, and the cooperation of the families of several  of these men in providing photos and letters written by them, 45 of the 46 names originally listed on the Cenotaph were identified.  Along the way, 2 more names that were inadvertently missed were added.

The one missing name, an F. Arsenault, remained a question mark.  No soldier could be identified as a possibility, so Pieter turned to records from the Canadian Merchant Navy.  There was one likely possibility…. Joseph ‘Francis’ ARSENAULT, born May 15, 1928 in Tignish.  At the time of his application for a Merchant Seaman’s Identity Certificate in Halifax on November 19, 1945, both he and his father Basil were listed as living in Albany.  His mother, Angeline Pire, had died in 1929 in Palmer Road.

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Image of Francis Arsenault from his Application For Merchant Seaman’s Identity Certificate

With the help of Donna Matthews of Veterans Affairs, the story was pieced together.  Francis Arsenault’s first voyage was on the ‘Asbjorn’, as a U/Boy (Utility boy), serving between November 27 and December 7, 1945.

He then was sent to the ‘Argyle Park’ as a mess boy on December 7, 1945, sailing to St John, for two voyages and leaving the ship in St John on January 17, 1946.

On January 23, 1946 he transferred to the ‘Hampstead Park’ as an m/boy (mess boy), and was discharged on May 18, 1946.

His next voyage was aboard ‘Noranda Park’, as a galley boy, sailing on May 20, 1946, arriving on July 29, 1946 in Port Alfred, South Africa.  The ship was then renamed ‘Oceanside’ and he signed on for another voyage from Port Alfred to Georgetown, Guyana.  While on ‘Oceanside’ he was promoted to second cook.

According to the website Fort Ships of WW2, “…the ‘Park’ ships were run by the Park Steamship Company and were named after well-known national, provincial or municipal parks in Canada.  The Company became a Canadian Government Crown Corporation in 1942 to own, manage and operate the ships allocated to it for the purposes of the war…. The appointed Canadian managers were responsible for the hiring of crew and officers as well as supplying the ships with fuel and supplies.  They had little control over the routing of the vessel, or the cargo as war materials took precedence… After the war the fleet was gradually disposed of…” (See http://fortships.tripod.com/Parks%20A-N.htm)

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Unfortunately, ‘Oceanside’ was his last ship.  On August 12, 1946, while the ship was in Mackenzie City (now part of Linden) on the Demerara River in Guyana (in South America), he drowned after he fell out of a small boat while returning to the ship ‘under the influence of drink’, according to the Department of Transport Central Register of Seamen.

A large mining camp established by the Aluminum Company of Canada (later nationalized as the Guyana Bauxite Company) was in this area. Bauxite mined here would have been brought to Mackenzie City for processing and then loaded onto oceangoing vessels.  Most likely, this was why ‘Oceanside’ was in Guyana.

According to the Official Log of ‘Oceanside’ for August 12, 1946, the Captain wrote that “…This is to certify that the Chief Steward reported to me that at 00:30 this morning that F. Arsenault 2nd Cook, had fallen out of a boat when returning to the ship, very much under the influence of drink, and was drowned. He was not seen after he left the boat, he sank like a stone. J. Hilliard, who was with him, jumped after him to attempt to rescue him, but after swimming around for some time without finding any trace of him he gave up the attempt, but with others from the ship who saw the accident continued the search with flashlights along the beach in both up and down stream from the spot he fell in, hoping they may find him clinging to something. This search went on until 01:45, when the men returned to the ship, and the 3rd mate reported with regret that they were unsuccessful….

It was a mystery why Arsenault was considered a veteran when he died more than a year after WW2 ended.  Donna Mathews explained that “…Per the Canada Remembers Section of Veterans Affairs, Arsenault was added to the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance and Canadian Virtual War Memorial.  The cut-off date to include those that died during the Second World War was December 30, 1947…

Thank you to Donna Mathews for her assistance in researching this merchant mariner’s story.  If anyone has more information or a photo for Francis Arsenault, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail…..A Face For James Walter Auld

July 7, 2020.  Last year, a request was made for photos and information on PEI soldiers from WW2 who were buried in The Netherlands.  (See Photos and Info Requested For WW2 Soldiers From PEI Buried In The Netherlands)

It’s been a slow and difficult quest, but in the past few months two photos have been found, one for Joseph Edmund HENNEBERY (See On The War Memorial Trail…..A Face For Joseph Hennebery!) and now one for James Walter AULD.

The story of how Auld’s photo was found has several twists and turns.  Pieter had zero luck in finding anyone related to this WW2 soldier, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom in The Netherlands, until we met Helen MacEwen, who had invited us to see a WW1 era map her father-in-law had sent to the Island in 1918.  (See The WW1 Era ‘Course Of The Rhine’ Map of Germany)

We brought along a ‘wish list’ of photos and after looking at the list, Helen suggested that Pieter contact Allison Ellis, as his wife Melba came from the same area as Auld.  “…Allison is a retired politician…” Helen explained, “...and knows a lot of people…”  (See http://www.peildo.ca/fedora/repository/leg:27520)

It was a long shot. Lots of people over the years have suggested names, which turned out to be a fruitless exercise, but this time Pieter found a kindred spirit.  Allison remembered a Walter Auld and it was soon determined that this was the same person.  “…. I’ve been to his grave in The Netherlands….” Pieter was told. Allison didn’t have a photo, but thought he knew who to ask.  “…Leave it with me…” he said. A week later, we were sitting in the home of Allison and Melba, and Pieter had a photo that Auld’s niece, Judy Bartlett, had provided.

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Left to right: Melba Ellis, Pieter, Allison Ellis.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

James Walter Auld

Walter Auld. (Photo courtesy of Judy Bartlett Family Collection)

James “Walter” AULD was born October 21, 1923 in Glenwood, the son of James and Margaret Auld of O’Leary Station, and was a garage mechanic with Corney Brothers in Summerside.  After enlisting in Charlottetown on February 20, 1942, he was sent for basic training as a rifleman.

A note in his service file indicates he was unhappy with this placement and noted he had been promised a position as a driver or mechanic when he enlisted.  His mechanical knowledge was assessed as ‘superior’ and the recommendation was made that he be transferred to a position where his skills could be used.

In May 1942 he was transferred to the Princess Louise Fusiliers (Motor Division), and by October 1942 he was on his way to England. In August 1943 he was transferred to the Algonquin Regiment.  In July 1944 he was with his unit, first in France and then as they moved into The Netherlands.

According to the War Diary for the Algonquin Regiment, on November 1, 1944 they were under the command of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division, and in action to try and take the town of Welberg, The Netherlands.   This was part of Operation Suitcase, which began on October 20, 1944, and as part of the bigger Battle of the Scheldt operation.  (See https://canadianbattlefieldtours.ca/operation-suitcase/)

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The war diary entry for November 1, 1944 recorded that “… Zero hour was at 19:00 hours…. We had 17 SP (self-propelled) tanks in support to deal with the enemy SP tanks…. Shortly after the kick-off, ‘A’ Company reported that one SP had bogged down and was holding the Company up  and before they got going again ‘D’ Company reported they were 300 yards from Welberg.  At 20:45 hours ‘A’ Company reported that one of the SPs had been hit and was burning.  At 21:00 hours ‘A’ Company reported another SP burning and that the situation was very confused due to heavy shelling of their positions by enemy SPs….

At some point in this battle on November 1, 1944, Auld lost his life, aged 21. On November 6, 1944, he was buried in a cemetery in Steenbergen, not far from where he died.

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Map with a black arrow showing the approximate location where Auld lost his life near Welberg. The unit had come from the area of Moerstaten. He was initially buried in Steenbergen, then later in Bergen Op Zoom. (Map courtesy of Michelin)

In October 1946 Auld was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom.  We were there in October 2019 and Pieter placed Canadian and PEI flags by his grave.  (See On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Bergen Op Zoom for an account of our visit.)

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Pieter by the grave of Walter Auld at the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Thanks to the combined efforts of Allison and Melba Ellis, Judy Bartlett, and Helen MacEwen, a photo of James Walter Auld is on its way to the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom. If you have information to share about Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The WW1 Era ‘Course Of The Rhine’ Map of Germany

July 3, 2020.  It’s always a pleasure to hear from readers.  After reading about Harold Keith Howatt’s travels to WW1 Germany as part of the post-occupation forces, Helen MacEwen contacted us about a map that her father-in-law sent to his future wife in 1918.  “I have been reading with interest your reports about the WWI Veterans and wondered if I could bring further information about my father-in-law’s last tour after the German surrender. His name was Sgt. Herbert ‘Herb’ S. MACEWEN from Stanley Bridge…

Helen went on to describe the map.  “…I have a copy of the ‘COURSE OF THE RHINE: From Mayence to Cologne’. It is a fold-out map of the Rhine River within a hard-cover. It is very fragile but does mention the different towns that you mentioned in your stories…” (You can read Howatt’s account at The WW1 Soldier Who Went To Post WW1 Germany)  Today we know Mayence as Mainz.

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Herbert MacEwen.  (Photo courtesy of Helen MacEwen collection)

Howatt was in the 8th Canadian Siege Battery during WW1, while MacEwen was in the 2nd Canadian Siege Battery.  Both batteries were later attached to the 2nd Brigade, the only Canadian Heavy Artillery Brigade that went to Germany.

We were intrigued and made arrangements to meet Helen and see the map.  It turned out to be a surprise, as it was a foldable, panoramic map in full colour, showing the area along the Rhine River between Mainz and Cologne.  To complete the surprise, the map was written in English, but published in Germany.  It was clear that this had to be a map that pre-dated WW1 and was designed for tourists!

20200614_144359 Jun 14 2020 Pieter & Helen MacEwan with panoramic map of Rhine River

Pieter and Helen MacEwen with the foldable, panoramic map. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Ralf Gräfenstein, a historian in Berlin, found a document that might explain why a map published in Germany over 100 years ago would be in English. “These maps were made in English for tourists from Britain and Overseas, who came before the beginning of WWI and after the war to the German Rhine area…” he explained.

Ralf referred me to a 2006 dissertation written by Thilo Nowack of the University of Bonn, entitled ‘Rhein, Romantik, Reisen. Der Ausflugs- und Erholungsreiseverkehr im Mittelrheintal im Kontext gesellschaftlichen Wandels (1890 bis 1970)’ and gave a reference to the chapters that would be of interest. (Translation of the dissertation: ‘Rhine, romance, travel. Excursion and recreational travel in the Middle Rhine Valley in the context of social change (1890 to 1970)’).

In the dissertation, it was explained that “… the Tourism Society of the Rhine Area was founded in 1904… with the goal “to promote and make traveling and the stay on the Rhine and its side valleys pleasant’…” in response to the view that “… the Rhineland had lost its attraction as a travel destination since the late 19th century…”  As part of the tourism promotion effort, “… posters, brochures and other booklets were used to advertise in German, English, French and Dutch…” and placed “…in train stations at home and abroad…”  Tourist promotion was economically important as “… the invention and expansion of steam shipping and railroads enabled an enormous increase in travel on the Rhine…

It seems likely that Herbert MacEwen could have found the map in a shop or train station someplace in Germany, most likely Cologne.  It’s clearly a tourist map, with key destinations identified along the Rhine, with brief explanations and diagrams.

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An excerpt from the map, showing illustrations and descriptions.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Helen noted that “…Herb had sent this map to his girlfriend in Stanley Bridge. They married in 1921.  He states that they stayed near Mehlem-on-Rhine…

At the top of the map Herb had written “… Arrived at the Rhine on December 12th, 1918.  I have marked the bridge on which we expect to pass over. We are at present guarding the bridgehead from this site…”  This confirms the entry in Harold Howatt’s account, which stated that they had arrived in Cologne on December 12.

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Herb MacEwen’s note at the top of the map.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

A bridgehead is the strategically important area of ground around the end of a bridge over a body of water.  (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgehead)

On December 13, Harold Howatt had noted that “….the Canadian troops marched across the Rhine, reviewed as they crossed the bridge by General Plumer and General Currie…” The bridge crossed was the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohenzollern_Bridge)

To our amazement, Pieter found a video from the Imperial War Museum of this march across the Hohenzollern Bridge: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060008233.

Herb MacEwan was discharged on May 18, 1919.   His daughter-in-law Helen told us that “…He would be 21 years old.  He apparently, ‘conveniently,’ put his birthdate down as older than fact when he joined the Army…

The individual stories of our soldiers enrich the sometimes dry facts of history, and it was wonderful to learn of the shared history of Herb MacEwen and Harold Howatt.

For more information on the post WW1 occupation of the Rhineland, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_the_Rhineland

For more information on General Sir Herbert Plumer, who commanded the Army of Occupation, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Plumer,_1st_Viscount_Plumer

For more information on General Sir Arthur Currie, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Currie

Thank you to Helen MacEwen for sharing the story of Herb MacEwen and Course Of The Rhine Map from the early 20th Century.  If you have a story to share, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

Canada Day In Tryon

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The Canadian flag flies proudly! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

July 1, 2020.  Happy Canada Day! On July 1, a Canada Day ceremony to inaugurate a new flagpole and bench at the Tryon Cenotaph at the Tryon People’s Cemetery was attended by several members of the community, including Pieter and myself.  This event was coordinated by the Tryon Women’s Institute, Tryon People’s Cemetery, and Merry Pop-Ins Childcare Centre, with funding for the flagpole and bench provided by Heritage Canada.

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Pieter by the Tryon Cenotaph. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Three names from WW1 that are listed on the portion of the Tryon Cenotaph shown in the photo above are also listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion.  Over the years, their stories have been told in this blog:

Dignitaries attending today’s event included:

  • The Honourable Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque
  • The Honourable Jamie Fox, Minister of Fisheries and Communities and MLA for District 19
  • The Honourable Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition and MLA for District 17
  • Reverend Doctor Karen MacLeod-Wilkie, Minister of South Shore United Church
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Peter Bevan-Baker plays ‘O Canada’ as the flag is raised. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Tom Albrecht raises the flag on new flagpole.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Of course there were Canada Day cupcakes!  Left to right: Jamie Fox, Fran Albrecht, Helen Green, Jack Sorensen.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Standing by the Tryon Cenotaph, left to right: Wayne Easter, Peter Bevan-Baker, Jamie Fox. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Barb Clement was kind enough to send a short video made while ‘O Canada’ was played. See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vLQOBYtgnnOET7gAdi88C-9Z4HHf3BQr/view?usp=sharing

Thank you to the organizers of this Canada Day event, and to Barb Clement for sharing the video. If you have a story to share about any of the names on the Tryon Cenotaph, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg