August 7, 2020. In many cases it is very difficult to find a photo of a soldier from WW1 or WW2. 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) One of these soldiers, buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, was Bernard ‘Barney’ Reuben MCGUIGAN.
Over the past months, Pieter was lucky in finding photos from family members for:
- Joseph ‘Joe’ Edmund HENNEBERY (See On The War Memorial Trail…..A Face For Joseph Hennebery!) and
- James Walter AULD (See On The War Memorial Trail…..A Face For James Walter Auld)
One last soldier from PEI who is buried in one of the three Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands is still without a photo: Bernard ‘Barney’ Reuben MCGUIGAN, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. At 16 years of age when he lost his life, he is the youngest soldier in the cemetery.
Barney Reuben was born on May 14, 1928, the son of Thomas McGuigan and Sarah ‘Sadie’ Bisson, and baptized on June 17, 1928 at St. Paul’s Church in Sturgeon. Unfortunately his mother died in 1936 and he was brought up by his grandparents, Bernard McGuigan and Rose McGee.
On July 9, 1943 he enlisted in Charlottetown and claimed to be 18 years old, not his actual 15 years of age. He went on to say that he “…attended rural school in PEI, completing grade 7 at age 16 in 1941, but left school because no teacher was available in the district…” He stated that he was a fisherman at the time of enlistment. His grandmother Rose is listed as his foster-mother on his enlistment documents.
Under military rules, no one under 19 was to be sent overseas. As a supposed 18 year old, Barney was sent for training, first to a training camp in Aldershot, Nova Scotia. In January 1944, he was sent for infantry training in Vernon, BC. In November 1944, he was sent overseas, arriving in the United Kingdom on November 28, 1944.
On January 8, 1945 he left the United Kingdom for continental Europe, as part of reinforcement troops. On February 12, 1945 he joined the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. Then, on February 26, 1945 he lost his life in Germany, just over the Dutch border, during Operation Blockbuster, the last part of Operation Veritable. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster) He was only 16, not 19, years old.
He was initially buried in the Bedburg Military Cemetery, and then later reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.
After Barney’s death, his father wrote to the Canadian Military, asking why his son had been sent overseas when he was underage. At the time of enlistment Barney was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 133 pounds. The military replied to his father, explaining that since Barney had said he was born in May 29, 1925, he was sent overseas based on that information. Until his father wrote, unfortunately after Barney’s death, no correction to acknowledge his actual date of birth had been made.
In October 2019 we visited the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek and Pieter laid down flags at graves of Islanders, including Barney McGuigan. (See On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Groesbeek)
With no luck finding a photo, Pieter was recently interviewed by Angela Walker for CBC Radio’s Mainstreet PEI about his quest… Link to interview:
Following the interview, he was contacted by Regina Faithfull, Barney’s cousin. She had a photo of her father, in which Barney could be seen behind a door in the background.
Also listening to the CBC broadcast was Charlotte MacAuley, reporter for the ‘Eastern Graphic’ newspaper. As Barney was from the area the newspaper covered, she was interested in doing a story. Perhaps that might generate a photo in which Barney could be seen more clearly?
Pieter agreed to an interview, which you can read here: (EAG-A12-080520.K War researcher looking to connect with family of Barney McGuigan).
So…. the search for a photo continues…will Pieter be able to fulfill his quest? If anyone has more information or a photo for Barney Reuben McGuigan, please contact Pieter at email@example.com or comment on the blog.
Thank you to Angela Walker of CBC PEI Radio and Charlotte MacAuley of the ‘Eastern Graphic‘ for helping to publicize this search. Thank you also to Regina Faithfull for submitting a photo of the McGuigan family, Jane Scott for the link to the radio interview, and to Father Art O’Shea, diocese archivist at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown, for confirmation of the date of birth and baptism for Barney McGuigan.
© Daria Valkenburg