On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW2 Soldier From Indian River

March 29, 2021. In January, our first Atlantic Canada Remembers special feature included a photo of WW2 soldier Charles ‘Charlie’ Borden TUPLIN of Indian River, Prince Edward Island, submitted by the Perry family of Nova Scotia.   (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-1/)

Charles Borden Tuplin

Charles Borden Tuplin. (Photo submitted by Gary Richard Perry)

Shortly afterwards we received another submission on Charles Borden Tuplin, this time from June Gillis.  “…Charlie Tuplin was our neighbour in Indian River when I was growing up, and he went overseas with my older brother, Bruce Gordon. Bruce survived the war, but Charlie didn’t...” she told us.  June’s late husband, Dr Wilfred R. ‘Bunny’ Gillis, grew up on a family homestead in Indian River, and also knew the Tuplin family.

CIMG5087 Mar 18 2021 Visit with June Gillis and Murphy

Pieter with June Gillis and her dog Murphy.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Born March 13, 1910 in Indian River, Charlie was the son of William and Minnie Tuplin, and worked as a fisherman and a miller prior to enlistment.  His father, who died in 1944, was a miller.

 “…The Tuplin family members were very musical...” June recalled, “…and Charlie played the violin….

On September 3, 1939, Charlie enlisted with the PEI Highlanders, but was discharged in July 1940 after falling ill with tonsillitis.  In September 1940 he re-enlisted with the PEI Light Horse Regiment, with the rank of Sergeant, and became an instructor at the Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre #62 in Charlottetown.

In 1943 he was in Aldershot, Nova Scotia, taking advanced infantry training.  His service file notes that in an interview he was “…anxious to proceed overseas…

In June 1944, he requested a demotion to Corporal so that he could serve overseas.  This was granted on June 25, 1944, and he left for the United Kingdom the next day. On August 18, 1944 he was in France with the PEI Light Horse Regiment.  On October 13, 1944 he was transferred to the Black Watch Regiment’s D Company, Platoon 18.

The Perry family had written that…He was shot on December 7, 1944, was taken as a POW but died the next day…” This matches what is in Charlie’s military service file, but an account by the late William McNally of Summerside, who was interviewed by Charlie’s cousin Ann Tuplin Nunes, gave a different version of how Charlie lost his life.

According to William McNally, as per an account by Ann Tuplin Nunes that June Gillis shared with us, on December 7, 1944, he and Charlie “…were stationed by the Maas River in Holland. In order to enable Canadian soldiers to cross the river, a makeshift bridge was made by putting planks over little boats...

While crossing the bridge, the two men were talking to each other, and crossed to the other side safely.   “….They got to the other side and went a quarter mile along the river when they ran into the German army….

The officer in charge, Major E.W. HUDSON, had decided upon a “…hit and run raid to try to get prisoners and find out from them what was going on in the German lines….” The Canadian soldier contingent drove the Germans back “….one-half mile. By then it was the middle of the night.  They came to a village where there were three houses which stood out from the others….

McNally, Tuplin, and two other soldiers “…headed for these houses because there was a lot of shooting coming from that direction…”  The men thought German soldiers were in the houses, and they wanted to “…knock out the machine guns….

Unfortunately, the men were being shelled with mortar bombs.  “…Charlie was to the right of McNally and ten or twelve feet ahead of him. McNally saw Charlie falling.  He hit the ground and never moved...

McNally ran to check on Charlie, but he appeared lifeless.  After turning him over, McNally noticed that “…there was blood on his neck...”  He may have been wounded in more than one place, as McNally believed that “…if he was wounded only in the neck, he should have showed some sign of life….”  There was speculation that he may have been “…shot in the lower stomach and killed instantly….

Stretcher bearers were sent for, while McNally and the other men continued on their mission.  “…The next day, McNally inquired as to what had happened to Charlie and was told that, when the soldier with the stretcher bearers returned, Charlie’s body could not be found….

The Black Watch war diary entry for December 7, 1944 indicates that the unit was just east of Mook, a town along the Maas River.  The following casualties were reported:

Killed: A/Sgt Leonard John KING, Pte Joseph S R PELLAND, Pte James Bissett WATT

Missing: Lt Thomas Wilson MACKENZIE, Pte Robert Albert MARTIN, Cpl Charles Borden TUPLIN, L/Cpl George Frederick ELLIOTT, Pte Joseph Edward WALKER

In addition, 14 men were wounded. According to research by the Groesbeek Airborne Friends, this December 7, 1944 event was named ‘Operation Mickey Finn’.

Pieter decided to look at the service files of the other soldiers reported missing, to see if more clarity about what happened and the exact location could be determined.  He discovered that all of the missing had died, and, with the exception of Charlie Tuplin, had been temporarily buried in the area.

The service file for Lt MacKenzie had an account that differed in some respects from William McNally’s recollections.

On December 14, 1944, a ‘Questionnaire On A Missing Officer Or Soldier’ included testimony by Major Hudson in which he stated that Lt MacKenzie was last seen by “…Pte C A CHARRON and Pte W J STEPHENS…” With them was “… Cpl C B TUPLIN…

MacKenzie was leading his men in an attack when he was “…wounded on the enemy position.  Attempts were made to evacuate him but the men carrying him were also wounded.  One man managed to evacuate himself and told the stretcher bearers that Lt MacKenzie was wounded, but they were unable to find him...

Both Pte Stephens and Charlie Tuplin were wounded.  Pte Charron was the soldier able to escape and go for help.  His statement recorded that “… At approximately 20:15 hours on December 7, 1944, I was with Lt T W MacKenzie about 10 yards from house 25.  I heard Lt MacKenzie call out for help, saying he had been hit...

After learning that MacKenzie had been hit in the back and was paralyzed, “... Cpl C B Tuplin and I tried to drag Lt MacKenzie out as we were too exposed walking.  After going about 15 feet we found we couldn’t manage so called to Pte W J Stephens to help us.  Before he got to us Cpl Tuplin was hit.  Lt MacKenzie and Cpl Tuplin told us to go for a stretcher bearer…

Stephens and Charron left, but “… after going about 15 yards, Pte Stephens was hit, so I kept going and told two of the stretcher bearers where I had left Lt MacKenzie and Cpl Tuplin. They made a search of the ground but were unable to find either of the wounded men….

MacKenzie and Tuplin were missing, but Stephens was found and hospitalized.  Like Charlie Tuplin, Lt MacKenzie was initially recorded as a prisoner of war. MacKenzie’s body was later found buried in a temporary cemetery, near where he lost his life.

According to Charron’s testimony, Charlie Tuplin was alive after being hit.  Perhaps William McNally came across Charlie Tuplin after Pte Charron left to go for help.  In the dark and under mortar fire attack, it’s very likely that he would not have seen Pte Stephens or Lt MacKenzie.  It’s also possible that William McNally found another soldier that he mistook for Charlie.

Map Goch to Mook

Map shows area of the action on December 7, 1944, and the location in Goch where Charlie Tuplin’s body was initially buried. (Map source: https://www.viamichelin.com)

Although the official records state that Charlie died while a prisoner of war on December 8, 1944, McNally believed that “…he died the night of December 7th and was never a prisoner….

What happened to Charlie Tuplin?  After the war ended, Charlie was identified, through his dental records, as a soldier buried in a public cemetery near Goch, Germany.  This is not near where he was hit, and he is the only one of the missing men identified in the war diary that was not initially buried near the location where they fell.

Therefore, the information in his service file is likely correct.  He was picked up by German soldiers while still alive, died shortly afterwards, and was buried by the Germans.

Lt MacKenzie was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, as were the other missing men.  Charlie Tuplin was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

CIMG3207 Oct 3 2019 Holten Charles Tuplin

Grave of Charlie Tuplin in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Thank you to June Gillis for sharing information about Charles ‘Charlie’ Borden Tuplin.  If you have information to share about Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, or memories to share about Charles Borden Tuplin or the other soldiers mentioned in this posting, please email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

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© Daria Valkenburg

The Search For A Photo Of Leigh Hunt Cameron Moves To YouTube

Pieter during Leigh Hunt Cameron video

Pieter during the filming of the YouTube video ‘Photo Search – WW1 Soldier Leigh Hunt Cameron’ (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

March 24, 2021.  When Pieter began his research to find out about the men listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, his hope was to have a photo of each man, to go with the stories he was able to unfold.

He always thought that finding a photo of a soldier who died without ever leaving the Island wouldn’t be difficult to find.  However, this has not been the case for WW1 soldier Leigh Hunt CAMERON.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2019/04/29/the-ww1-soldiers-who-never-left-canada/)

Born in Albany, PEI on May 6, 1898 to Anna Jane Cameron, Leigh was raised by his grandparents, Alexander Walter Cameron and Phoebe Ann Murray.

In 1907, Anna Jane married Arthur Edwards from Ontario, and they moved to Carman, Manitoba. They had 3 daughters and 1 son.

Leigh enlisted on March 2, 1916 with the 105th Battalion, but shortly afterwards caught measles and developed pneumonia.  He died of these causes on May 5, 1916, and is buried in the cemetery of the Free Church of Scotland in Cape Traverse, PEI.  While visiting his grave, Pieter wished he knew what this young man looked like.

Pieters saying

After several years of an unsuccessful search for family or friends, he’s taken his appeal for a photo to YouTube, in the hope that a viewer might come forward:

Thank you to post-production editor Wendy Nattress, who made this YouTube video a reality. If you have photos or information to share about Leigh Hunt Cameron, please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

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© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The Fisherman Who Lost His Life In France While A WW1 Soldier

March 21, 2021. In researching the stories of the names listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, it’s become a mystery why some from the local area were NOT included on the Cenotaph.  Over the years, two names have been added to the original 46 names… that of James Ambroise CAIRNS and Joseph Arthur DESROCHES.

In the village of Victoria-By-The-Sea, two men listed on a memorial at the Victoria Community Hall, built in 1915, (which is also the home of the Victoria Playhouse) are on the Cenotaph: Arthur Leigh COLLETT and Percy FARRAR

When Pieter went to see the memorial, he wondered why WW1 soldier Heath Ward MACQUARRIE was not.  Brenda Boudreau, of the Victoria Historical Society, explained that Heath Ward MacQuarrie was her grand-uncle, “….my grandfather’s brother...

CIMG4912 Nov 11 2020 Brenda Boudreau & Pieter by Victoria WW1 monument

Brenda Boudreau and Pieter Valkenburg by the memorial at Victoria Community Hall on November 11, 2020.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

No soldier buried overseas should be forgotten...” Pieter reminded me, after learning that this WW1 soldier had died in France. 

Heath MacQuarrie in uniform

Heath MacQuarrie. (Photo courtesy of Greg Gallant of the PEI Regiment Museum.)

Born in Victoria-By-The-Sea on March 28, 1891, according to his baptismal record, Heath was the son of William Archibald MacQuarrie and Charlotte Mallett.   A fisherman before enlisting with the 105th Overseas Draft Battalion on February 19, 1917, Heath was married.  He and his wife, Bertha May Francis, were the parents of a son, William Richard ‘Dick’ MacQuarrie.


Olympic in dazzle at Pier 2 in Halifax, Nova Scotia painted by Arthur Lismer (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Olympic#First_World_War)

On June 1, 1917 he left Halifax aboard the ‘Olympic’, one of the ships used to transport troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Britain. As of 1917, the ship had 6-inch guns and was painted in a ‘dazzle’ camouflage in brown, dark blue, light blue, and white colours, in an attempt to make it more difficult for observers to estimate her speed and heading. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Olympic#First_World_War)

The dazzle camouflage worked as Heath safely arrived in England on June 10, where he was transferred to the 13th Reserve Battalion.  Then, on November 23, 1917, he was transferred again, to the 23rd Reserve (New Brunswick) Battalion, and sent to France a day later.

His brother Glen had enlisted in 1914 and was in France as well but it’s unknown if the two brothers ever met up with each other.  Glen survived the war, but Heath did not.

On August 8, 1918 he lost his life, aged 27.  According to the stark account in the Circumstances of Casualty form in his service file, Heath “…was so severely wounded in many parts of his body by enemy fire while taking part in operations at the Sunken road in front of Guillaucourt, that despite the fact he received first aid promptly he succumbed shortly afterwards.

He was buried at Wood Cemetery in the village of Marcelcave, 24 kms east of Amiens in the Department of the Somme in France. He’s one of 50 WW1 burials in this cemetery – 41 from Canada and 9 from the United Kingdom. 

Heath’s wife Bertha never remarried. Their son Dick attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, majoring in geology.  His work took him across Canada before he returned back to Victoria-By-The-Sea with his wife Marion Raynor, before passing away in 1975, at the age of 60.

Richard Dick MacQuarrie

Dick MacQuarrie in Victoria-By-The-Sea on May 14,1929. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Boudreau.)

Thank you to Brenda Boudreau for providing information of her grand-uncle.  If you have any further information to share, please let Pieter know.  You can email him at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1

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On The War Memorial Trail….. Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 8

March 16, 2021. More of the photos submitted by Atlantic Canadians of soldiers buried overseas are featured in this posting. Pieter is ensuring that every email is acknowledged, and that the photos of soldiers buried in The Netherlands are forwarded to the appropriate cemetery for their digital archives.  Thank you to the members of Royal Canadian Legions in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for their help.

Soldiers buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands

Fryday published in Toronto Newspaper

George Albert Fryday.  (Photo submitted by Marion Fryday-Cook.)

Marion Fryday-Cook, President of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Nova Scotia/Nunavat Command, submitted a photo of George Albert FRYDAY, explaining that “I am a relative of Rifleman George A. Fryday, Service Number B/136751, who is buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Netherlands.  He was born in Toronto, Ontario. Thank you for honouring our fallen….” 

At the age of 15, George joined the Merchant Marine, and later the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve.  However, once it was established that he was under age, he was discharged.  At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Canadian Army and was sent overseas in December 1944.  He was serving in the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment when he lost his life on May 4, 1945, aged 19. 

Frederick Joseph Tait

Frederick Joseph Tait. (Photo submitted by the Grand Falls branch of the Royal Canadian Legion)

Patrick Côté of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 21 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, submitted a photo of Frederick Joseph TAIT, born April 26, 1921 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, the son of Herbert Henry Tait and Louise Emeline Leclair.

Patrick referenced a book, ‘Military Heritage – The Greater Grand Falls Region’, by Jean-Guy Plourde, which explained that “…. Prior to the war, he worked in a grocery store…”  Before enlistment on February 1, 1943 in Fredericton, he served in the New Brunswick Cadet Corps, and had been an Instructor in Infantry Training with the 2nd Carleton & York Regiment since 1940.

According to the Personnel Selection Record of his service file, he was fluent in both French and English and was assessed as “…good NCO instructor material…”  (NCO refers to Non-Commissioned Officer.)  He had a “…confident bearing…” and “…stability above average….” Unfortunately, his educational background was “…not high enough for commissioned rank…” 

After being deployed overseas in December 1943 he served in Sicily, where he fell ill and was hospitalized for 8 months.  After being released from hospital, he “…went on leave to England….” Over Christmas 1944 he was able to meet his brother Clair, also with the Canadian Army.

Clair survived WW2 but Frederick didn’t.  While serving with the Carleton & York Regiment as the unit advanced to the Apeldoorn Canal in The Netherlands on April 15, 1945, he lost his life and was temporarily buried in Posterenk, near Zutphen.

CIMG9297 Sep 25 2017 Edwin and Pieter with CYR list

Edwin van der Wolf and Pieter in Posterenk in 2017.  Pieter holds up a list of the 6 Carleton & York Regiment soldiers who were temporarily buried in the village.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In September 2017, Pieter and I visited the village of Posterenk with Edwin van der Wolf, one of the research volunteers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  Edwin explained that “… the Carleton & York Regiment came from Italy to Marseilles, and then into The Netherlands where, on April 13, 1945, the village of Posterenk was liberated.  Six soldiers from the Regiment were buried here temporarily….” 

Edwin gave us a list of the 6 soldiers from the Carleton & York Regiment who were temporarily buried in the village.  Frederick Joseph Tait was one of these men!

Posterenk list of 6 CYR members

List of 6 Carleton & York Regiment soldiers temporarily buried in Posterenk in 1945.

Soldiers buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands

Photo Burgess Porter

Burgess Allison Porter.  (Photo submitted by Everett Dalton)

Everett Dalton submitted a photo of Burgess Allison PORTER, writing that Burgess was “…the son of Annie ‘Laura’ (nee Porter) McCall…Born October 2, 1922 in Grafton, Nova Scotia, his mother died when he was 2 years old.  Although his biological father, Reg McCall was still alive, it was his mother’s wish that her son be raised by “…Frank Oscar and Lennie Alma (nee Pineo) Porter….”  

While not formally adopted, he was raised by them and was known by the surname Porter. His service file identifies Frank and Lennie Porter as his grandparents. 

Born October 2, 1922, Burgess was from Grafton, Nova Scotia, and a store clerk before he enlisted in Halifax on April 14, 1941.  On January 20, 1942 he arrived in the United Kingdom as part of the Artillery Holding Unit, and in April 1942 was attached to the 4th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery as a bombardier. 

On July 7, 1944 his unit landed in France, and unfortunately Burgess was killed on February 21, 1945 in Germany and was temporarily buried in Bedburg, Germany.

Soldiers buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom, The Netherlands

Clayton Wilfred Shannon virtual war memorial BoZ

Clayton Wilfred Shannon.  (Photo from Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Patrick Côté of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 21 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick sent the link to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial page for Clayton Wilfred SHANNON, who had served with the Calgary Highlanders and lost his life on September 22, 1944.

Patrick referenced a book, ‘Military Heritage – The Greater Grand Falls Region’, by Jean-Guy Plourde, which explained that Clayton, born August 2, 1920 in Grand Falls, the son of Frederick Herman Shannon and Bertha Mulherin, “…was musically inclined… playing guitar and singing.  Before his army service, he had even made a couple of records….

In 1940 “…with his cousin, Adrien Mulherin, he left home to enlist in the Carleton & York Regiment….”   After serving 4 years in Canada, he went overseas “…in July 1944, with the Calgary Highlanders…. While in combat near the border of Holland and Belgium, Clayton was killed, only a few weeks after arriving in Europe…

Clayton lost his life in Belgium during the Battle of the Scheldt, and was initially buried in Wommelgem, on the outskirts of Antwerp, one of 11 members of the Calgary Highlanders buried there before being reburied in Bergen Op Zoom.  (For more information on what happened in Wommelgem, see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/02/13/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-soldiers-who-died-in-wommelgem-belgium-in-fall-1944/)

Gregory P. A. McCarthy (2)

Gregory Philip Anthony McCarthy.  (Photo submitted by the Grand Falls branch of the Royal Canadian Legion)

Patrick Côté of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 21 in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, submitted a photo of Gregory Philip Anthony MCCARTHY, born February 28, 1922 on a farm in California Settlement in Grand Falls, son of Thomas and Agnes McCarthy. 

Patrick referenced a book, ‘Military Heritage – The Greater Grand Falls Region’, by Jean-Guy Plourde, which explained that Gregory “…was the youngest of 11 children….He had …. helped on the farm for 8 years and also worked in lumbering prior to his enlistment…. On 26 March 1941 Gregory enlisted in the Canadian Army at Woodstock, NB…

After completing his basic training, he was “… transferred to the 1st Battalion New Brunswick Rangers….on 19 May 1941….”  After a promotion to Lance Corporal on December 1, 1941 he went to Labrador as a Driver Mechanic. 

On September 10, 1943 he left for the United Kingdom “… where he completed a mortar course and remained until his deployment to France with the 10th Independent Machine Gun Company, NB Rangers, arriving on 22 July 1944….

His commanding officers described him as “…dependable, reliable, and well-thought of in his unit….”  While serving in Germany and The Netherlands, he was a member of a mortar detachment responsible for engaging the enemy. On January 19, 1945, near Waalwijk in The Netherlands, their own mortar misfired and exploded, causing 3 members of the team to be seriously wounded, with fatal consequences for Gregory.  He was initially buried in Tilburg.

Thank you to Patrick Côté, Everett Dalton, and Marion Fryday-Cook for sharing photos and anecdotes.  Atlantic Canadians remember their loved ones who are buried overseas.

More photos and stories in Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 9! To share photos or information, please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following the blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com or email me at dariadv@yahoo.ca and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Missed the previous postings in this series? See:

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On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW2 Soldier From St Stephen Who Was A Teacher

March 7, 2021.  Last fall, the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands sent Pieter a photo wish list of 6 soldiers from the Cape Breton Highlanders who had died in the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  (For more information on the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket, see https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/northwesteurope/delfzijlpocket.htm)

Len Boudreau of the Cape Breton Highlanders Association was able to provide photos of 3 of the men,  Pieter found one on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website, leaving 2 to try and find:  Philip Hubert LONG of Nova Scotia, and Norman J. NIXON of New Brunswick.

A radio interview with CBC’s Maritime Noon about Philip Long resulted in family contacting Pieter immediately, and a photo was soon provided.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/11/01/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-face-for-philip-hubert-long/)

In trying to find family of Norman Nixon, Pieter sent a letter to the editor of the St. Croix Courier newspaper.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/10/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-continuing-the-search-for-soldiers-killed-in-action-in-ww1-and-ww2/)  Legion member Kent Caldwell sent a photo and story from the New Brunswick Military Service Recognition booklet.

It was a rare occasion that every photo request on a list could be fulfilled, but it happened! But then, the grandson (and namesake) of Norman Nixon contacted us.  “….We have quite a bit of information…..” he said.  Did we want to meet?

CIMG4775 Oct 25 2020 Pieter sorts through material compiled by the Nixon family

Pieter goes through the information saved by the Nixon family. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Normally that would not be a problem, but with Covid-19 restrictions, we had to think twice.  The Atlantic Bubble was still open, so Pieter said a firm YES! and we made the trip to Harvey, New Brunswick to meet Norman Nixon and his wife, Kelley Gowan.

CIMG4560 Lt Norman Nixon

Norman James Nixon. (Photo courtesy of Nixon family)

Norman James Nixon was born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, the son of Edward A. Nixon and Winnifred Trafton, and lived in nearby Mayfield.  A well-regarded schoolteacher before his enlistment, he married Berla Mae Lowery on July 29, 1940.  In 1941 they welcomed the birth of their son, Vernon James.

20201024_160813 Norman and Berla with son Vernon

Norman and Berla Mae Nixon with their son Vernon, circa 1943.  (Photo courtesy of Nixon family)

On July 20, 1940 Norman had enlisted with the Reserve Unit of the Carleton & York Regiment, but was discharged due to illness.  On February 6, 1942 he re-enlisted, this time with the Active Unit of the New Brunswick Rangers, and served with this unit in Labrador, and Canada from February 6, 1942 to July 12, 1944, and England from July 13 to August 21, 1944.

In 1944 he transferred to the Cape Breton Highlanders, and served in Italy from August 22, 1944 to February 19, 1945, and Northwest Europe in France and The Netherlands from February 20 to April 30, 1945.  He was known as ‘Nick’ by his fellow soldiers.

CIMG4767 Oct 25 2020 Pieter and Norman with cap and badges

Pieter and Norman Nixon.  Norman holds his grandfather’s cap and a number of the badges that Lt. Nixon had earned during his service.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

After surviving action in Italy and France, Lt Nixon’s luck ran out near the end of WW2, when he was killed by shrapnel on April 30, 1945 during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.

A May 6, 1945 letter to Bella Mae, from Norman’s Commander, Lt Colonel R B Sommerville, explained what happened.  “…Nick was killed in action at night by shell fire during a counter attack on his platoon position.  He died instantly.

At the time he was hit he was encouraging his men who were being hard pressed by fire from the part of Delfzijl on the Ems estuary….

He was initially buried in the village of Wirdum, as Lt Col Sommerville explains further in his letter.  “…his example and devotion to both his troops and duty won for him the affection and respect of officers and men alike….. At a little service in the village of Wirdum near Groningen with a brother officer and 17 of our men he was buried the next afternoon.  We will all miss him….”  The other officer mentioned as being buried was Lt B H NUNN of Halifax.

On May 10, 1945, Major P J Stephen also wrote a letter to Bella Mae, providing more details on how her husband lost his life.  “…On the evening of the 30th of April we were holding a position which we had taken the night before.  Things were quite bad as we were being heavily shelled. The men were getting jittery from loss of sleep and constant hammering.  

After each shelling Nick would jump from his trench and stroll about the platoon area as if he were in his own garden, joking with the men, caring with a smile for all their needs, setting the example to them of a first class soldier and leader.  During one of these tours Nick was fatally wounded by shrapnel from a shell which burst a few yards away. 

It was impossible to save him although we gave him medical aid immediately.  Nick passed away without regaining consciousness…

20201024_194850 Grave of Norman J Nixon in 1945

Initial burial of Norman Nixon in Wirdum. Photo sent by Lt Stackhouse.  (Photo courtesy of Nixon family)

On August 19, 1945, Lt Ron V Stackhouse wrote to Bella Mae. “…I was with ‘Nick’ on the last night about an hour before he was killed as we had both had supper together at Company Headquarters and he and I walked back to our platoons together as our platoons were right alongside of each other….”   In a postscript he mentions enclosing a photo of the grave.

After WW2 ended, Lt Nixon was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

nixon, norman james from Holten Cemetery sent by Edwin

Grave of Norman Nixon at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. (Photo sent by Edwin van der Wolf.)

Visiting with Norman Nixon and Kelley Gowan and learning about Norman’s grandfather was a privilege.  But they had a surprise for us.  Norman’s father Vernon and Vernon’s wife Donna came from Grand Manan Island to meet us.

CIMG4779 Oct 25 2020 Norman and Vernon Nixon

Norman and Vernon Nixon, grandson and son of Lt Nixon. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

More memories and stories were shared, including that Vernon’s mother, Bella Mae, owned a dress shop, ‘The Hat Box’, in St. Stephen.  She was an independent woman, and never remarried after her husband’s death.

CIMG4781 Oct 25 2020 Pieter & Daria with Vernon & Donna Nixon

A final photo before we left to go back home.  Pieter and I with Vernon and Donna Nixon.  (Photo credit: Kelly Gowan)

With both the son and grandson of Lt Nixon together in one place, we asked if they wanted to share a few thoughts for a video to be sent to the Info Centre at the cemetery in Holten.  Here is the result, entitled ‘In Remembrance of Lt. Norman J. Nixon’:

It’s always an honour to meet the families of the soldiers that Pieter researches, and we hope to meet more families as travel restrictions get eased.

The 6 soldiers from the Cape Breton Highlanders on the photo wish list were:

  • Philip H. LONG, born Pictou, Nova Scotia, died April 30, 1945.
  • James Bernard MACINNIS, born Rotherfield, Sussex, England, died May 1, 1945.
  • Olen B. MARSHALL, born Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, died May 1, 1945.
  • Norman J. NIXON, born St. Stephen, New Brunswick, died April 30, 1945.
  • Ford H. SPIDLE, born Parkdale, Nova Scotia, died May 1, 1945.
  • Robert B. THOMAS, born Louisburg, Nova Scotia, died May 5, 1945.

The family of Ford Hilton Spidle participated in the Atlantic Canada Remembers series of postings, and you can read his story here: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-1/

Thank you to Norman Nixon and Kelley Gowan for their warm hospitality and for sharing information about Lt Nixon, and thank you to Vernon and Donna Nixon for making the trip from their home to meet with us and share memories about Vernon’s father.  It’s very clear that Lt Nixon was deeply loved and respected, and his death, so close to the end of the war, was an immeasurable loss.

Heartfelt thanks go to post-production editor Wendy Nattress, who made the YouTube tribute to Lt Nixon a reality.

20 members of the Cape Breton Highlanders lost their lives in the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  If you have information or photos to share on any of these men, please email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

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On The War Memorial Trail….. A WW1 Era Letter From A German Soldier Was An Anti-War Song!

March 4, 2021. Once in a while, when we do a story about a soldier, we find more information than we ever expected.  This was the case when we were contacted by Earle Davison of Kensington, Prince Edward Island, and told the story of his uncle, William Earle DAVISON, a WW1 soldier who lost his life in France while serving with the Sixth Canadian Siege Battery.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww1-soldier-william-earle-davison/)

CIMG4858 Oct 28 2020 Irene & Earle Davison

Irene and Earle Davison beside a box that contained Earle’s uncle’s effects, including the German anti-war poem. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

When Earle contacted us, he mentioned a box containing the last possessions of his uncle.  One of the items he identified was “… a copy of a letter taken from a German soldier…”  We were confused by the word ‘copy’ and wondered what kind of letter it could be.

When we saw the actual document, it was clear that it was not an original letter.  It appeared to be a published leaflet, as the heading at the top of the page was typeset, with handwriting reproduced below it.  Someone, perhaps Earle Davison himself, had written a brief translation in English of the title ‘Eine Stimme vom Grab’ (‘A Voice From The Grave’).

Was it a letter or a poem????

Davison German letter full view

The German ‘letter’ found amongst WW1 Soldier Earle Davison’s possessions. (Courtesy of Earle Davison & Family.)

The handwritten portion was in an old German script and appeared to be a poem.  Our only clue was that in English was written “…Copy of a letter taken from a German soldier to his people, telling them of the real conditions at the front…”  However, the first word in German…. ‘gedicht’ …. indicated this was a poem, not a letter.

The full heading was translated as:  “… A Voice From The Grave…. Poem from the diary of a German soldier who was a victim of Imperial domination….

We didn’t know what to make of it, so a copy of the document was sent to Berlin historian Ralf Gräfenstein.  Was he able to read the handwriting and tell us what it was all about?

Ralf replied that “… It is not a letter of a German soldier, but the handwritten text of an old German Anti-War song….”  A song?  That was a surprise twist!  “…The text of the ‘letter’ differs slightly from the ‘official’ version of the song. I think that this document is part of war propaganda to increase the war-weariness of German soldiers. Maybe the Allied troops found the ‘letter’ (the handwritten copy of the song) on a dead German soldier and later they used it for their propaganda? …

Ralf found a YouTube version of the original song, which you can listen to here…

He went on to explain that “…This song was published in 1870 and came from the German Socialist labour movement which was part of the German and international labour movement at that time….

Ralf’s investigation brought up two interesting points.  The poem was based on an actual German song, and his suggestion that it was used for war propaganda seemed valid as it was a published leaflet.  Two key questions remained…. Was it taken from an actual diary of a German soldier?  If it was war propaganda, who distributed it…. the Germans or the Allies?

The German Embassy in Ottawa joins the investigation

At this point, the document was sent to the German Embassy in Ottawa, where Chief Warrant Officer (German Army) Patrick Butzlaff, Assistant to the Defence Attaché, delved into this mystery.

Mr Butzlaff agreed that “…. the version of the poem printed on the letter is not entirely identical to the original.  It seems that the writer once heard it and independently recomposed the parts of the text that he could not remember 100%….

Like Ralf, Mr Butzlaff noted the date of the poem, but had more information about it.  “…The original poem dates from 1870 in the Kingdom of Saxony (an ally of Prussia) and was written at the time of the 2nd Franco-German War…

I’d never heard about this war, so was happy that he went on to explain that “… France declared war on Prussia because of claims to the throne which the Hohenzollern wanted to register in Spain. France felt surrounded by Hohenzollern here, when their claim to power now also reached their own country’s borders in the south.

The Germans successfully repelled a French attack and were able to win the war relatively quickly. Apparently this was not enough for the Prussian king, however, so he ordered an attack on France, thus triggering the 2nd Franco-German War.

The workers’ movement, which was growing stronger and stronger in all parts of Europe back then, protested against this war and tried to influence events by writing protest letters and distributing anti-war poems to soldiers going to the battlefields….

Mr Butzlaff explained that “…the motto of this movement was ‘Proletarians of all countries unite’, which can also be read between the lines of the poem...

What does the poem say?

So what did the poem in the leaflet that WW1 soldier Earle Davison saved actually say?  Identifying all the words in the handwriting was problematic.  While Ralf was able to transcribe most of the text, a few phrases defeated him.

Mr Butzlaff came to the rescue. “…The poem is written in ‘Suetterlin’, the old German handwriting. I asked a friend of my late grandmother, who is now 96 years old, to take a look at the text and solve the riddle of the unclear words.  She replied that the writer seems to have written quickly, which means that the letters do not always look as they should…

By now, I was very eager to know what the poem said.  A translation, prepared by one of his colleagues, was provided by Mr. Butzlaff: Translation of German Anti-War Poem

Who distributed the leaflet?   German or Allied Forces?

We now had a translation of the poem and an explanation of the origin of the poem.  Where did the leaflet come from? Ralf found a reference to the poem in a 1936 book by Hermann Wanderschreck entitled ‘Weltkrieg und Propaganda’ (World War I and Propaganda).

Hermann Wanderschreck (1907-1971) was an editor and lecturer in the National Socialist Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, theatre critic, and a playwright. His dissertation (1934) and book mention that British troops dropped leaflets with the title ‘Eine Stimme vom Grab’ (A Voice From The Grave) from aeroplanes, over the front in Western Europe as propaganda.

I suspect that neither the British propagandists during the First World War (1914-1918) nor Wanderschreck knew that the text under the title ‘A Voice from the Grave’ was originally from a song of the German Socialist labour movement…

A translation Ralf provided from Wanderschreck’s book added more clarity. “The English dropped leaflets in varying sizes. Often, poems taken from the diaries of German soldiers were released. Once, under the title ‘A Voice From The Grave’, the accusation of what was purported to be a dead man from the grave was reproduced…

This likely explains how Earle Davison came into possession of the leaflet.  It dropped from the sky, and perhaps someone explained the context of the leaflet, which he wrote down in English.  It also seems clear that the handwritten portion of the leaflet was taken from a diary of a German soldier.

As a theology student, Earle Davison would most probably have agreed with the anti-war sentiments, as was suggested by Mr. Butzlaff.  “Perhaps the soldier was aware of the meaning of the poem and agreed in his conviction of the senselessness of war.  There were many soldiers on both sides in WW1 who took part in it because they had to, but were inwardly opposed to it….

Thank you to Earle and Irene Davison for sharing the leaflet with us. Uncovering the amazing story about the leaflet’s history and translation of the contents was only possible due to the diligent research and help of Berlin historian Ralf Gräfenstein and Chief Warrant Officer (German Army) Patrick Butzlaff, Assistant to the Defence Attaché at the Germany Embassy in Ottawa.  A huge thank you goes to them for the time and effort they put into this piece of WW1 history.

If you have effects from a WW1 soldier, take a look and see if you have a copy of this leaflet!  If you do, please email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

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