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.
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/)
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.
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.)
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 email@example.com or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg