On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW1 Soldier Who Returned To Tryon

April 24, 2021.  One of the joys in doing research for the On The War Memorial Trail research project is the opportunity to learn more about the families of our friends and neighbours.  Much of the focus is on those who served our country and lost their lives while in service.

Pieter with Mary Ferguson, daughter of Maynard Foy.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

However, the majority of military service personnel in WW1 and WW2 returned home.  We don’t often know much about their time in service, or what happened afterwards.  As families come forward with information, Pieter is trying to tell these stories. Recently we met with Mary Ferguson of Crapaud, who shared photos about her father.

Maynard Foy.  (Photo courtesy of Mary Ferguson)

WW1 veteran Maynard FOY of Tryon, Prince Edward Island was born December 22, 1886, the son of Theodore Seth Harding Foy and Almira Boulter. By the time he enlisted with the 105th Overseas Battalion on March 2, 1916, he already had served 8 years in the 82nd ‘Abegweit Light Infantry’ Regiment (which later became the PEI Highlanders.  For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prince_Edward_Island_Highlanders).

On July 25, 1916 he arrived in England aboard the SS Empress of Britain. On March 2, 1918 he was transferred to the 13th Reserve Battalion, then a month later to the 26th Overseas (New Brunswick) Battalion.

The medical case history sheet at Camp Hill Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia noted that Maynard was admitted on July 13, 1919 – straight from the hospital ship HMHS Araguaya. (See https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/ships/view.php?pid=3451) His injuries had occurred during the Battle of Amiens. (See https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-amiens

According to the medical file, during the battle Maynard “…was carrying a smoke bomb in his left trousers pocket in the attack of August 8, 1918 when a machine gun bullet struck the bomb, causing it to explode, burning his left leg from the trochanter major to ankle, and palms of both hands…”  The trochanter major is a bony prominence toward the near end of the thighbone ie the femur, the point at which the hip and thigh muscles attach.

In a report for the 2004 Foy Reunion, Maynard’s great-granddaughter, Melissa Gauthier wrote that “As a result of the explosion, Maynard’s leg caught fire. In Maynard’s attempt to put it out with his hands, they were burnt so bad he couldn’t straighten them. They greatly resembled claws….

The medical care history report explained that “… The bullet penetrated the thigh in upper third.  Has been in hospital since that time….” Maynard had been taken to England from a hospital in Rouen, France, then returned to Canada once he was stable enough to travel, and remained in hospital quite a while longer.  He wasn’t discharged until January 12, 1920.

Emma Howatt Foy.  (Photo courtesy of Mary Ferguson)

Once back on the Island, he settled in Tryon and ran a mixed farming operation.  “He married the love of his life, Emma Howatt, then proceeded to have 11 children…” said Melissa in her report. They had married in Bedeque on September 13, 1923.

The Foy siblings. Left to right, standing: Ralph, Mary, Cecil (+), Theo (+), Marion, Keith, Percy, Ruth (+), Lorne.  Seated, left to right: Louise, Betty (+) (Photo courtesy of Mary Ferguson)

Maynard’s leg never healed properly. Melissa recounted that “…my grandfather…Ralph Foy… often took Maynard to the doctors to have the bone fragments extracted from Maynard’s leg. As painful as it sounds, Maynard didn’t feel a thing for the explosion had left his leg numb….

Maynard died on April 18, 1957, and is buried at the Tryon People’s Cemetery in Tryon, Prince Edward Island. He’s never been forgotten by his family.  Mary Ferguson recalled that “… he was a very patient guy who never got cross.  Eleven kids and he never got cross!….

Thank you to Mary Ferguson for sharing photos and information about her father.  Maynard Foy was fortunate as he was able to return home from WW1. Three men from the same area were not as lucky in the Battle of Amiens, and are buried overseas:

If you have photos or information to share, please email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1. Please note that Pieter is still looking for a photo of James Cairns and Bazil Cormier. 

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The Search For A Photo Of Gordon Frederick Johnson

April 16, 2021.  Sometimes a soldier’s story is one that Pieter feels a personal connection to.  This was the case when he was asked by the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands for help in finding a photo of WW2 soldier Gordon Frederick JOHNSON.

That was back in 2017 when help was requested to find photos of 6 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment.  After going through Gordon’s service file, Pieter was determined to find a photo.  “….This was a responsible man, who took care of his men….” he said.

Gordon was born June 11, 1911 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, the son of James Gordon Johnson and Margaret Elizabeth de Wolfe. Later the family moved to Truro, Nova Scotia.  Sadly, he lost his father when he was only 3 years old. He had 6 brothers and sisters, and after his mother remarried to John McCarthy, had 6 half-brothers and sisters.

In 1935, Gordon married Hazel Pearl Williams and was employed as a machinist. On October 13, 1939, with WW2 underway, he enlisted with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

During the spring of 1945, it was clear to both sides that the war in Europe was nearing its end, but extreme resistance from the German army still resulted in many casualties during the liberation of The Netherlands.  By now a sergeant, Gordon was killed in action near Zutphen on April 8, 1945 while trying to retrieve an anti-tank weapon that one of the members in his platoon had left behind.  Going back to retrieve a weapon is exactly what Pieter would have done!

In ‘No Retreating Footsteps… the story of the North Novas’, Will Bird wrote that “A PIAT was left by the canal by someone in D Company and Sgt Gordie Johnson went back to get it.  He was killed by a sniper as he reached the spot. His passing was a sad loss…”  A PIAT is an anti-tank weapon.  (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIAT)

Grave of Gordon Frederick Johnson at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Gordon is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  Pieter had no luck finding family members, so in 2018 when we were in Nova Scotia, he made a stop in Truro and went to the Anglican Church that Gordon had belonged to.  Perhaps someone from the church office could help find family members, he thought.   He was told that no Johnsons were left in Truro, but that there were McCarthys and someone from the church would try to find someone who might have a photo.

Unfortunately, finding a photo has so far been surprisingly unsuccessful, given that he had 6 siblings and 6 half-siblings, plus a wife.

Now an appeal for a photo of Gordon Frederick Johnson has gone out on YouTube, which you can watch here:

A huge thank you goes to post-production editor Wendy Nattress, who made this YouTube video a reality.

Of the 6 soldiers for which photos were sought, family members and photos of three were found, but three remain outstanding.  In addition to Gordon Frederick Johnson, the other two members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for which a photo is on the wish list are:

  • Allan G. COUTTS of Alberta
  • Archibald Henry NELSON of Prince Edward Island

Can you help put a face to any of these men! If you have photos or information, please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.  As well, photos and stories are still being collected for the Atlantic Canada Remembers series, and for Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands.

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 9

April 15, 2021. More of the photos submitted by Atlantic Canadians of soldiers buried overseas are featured in Part 9. 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.

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

Alexis Daigle (Photo submitted by Gilberte Manuel)

After being contacted by Marc Comeau, President of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 45 in Tracadie, New Brunswick, Gilberte Manuel submitted a photo of Alexis D.  DAIGLE on behalf of “…Alfrida Richard, the niece of Alexis Daigle of Pointe-Sapin….

Born March 2, 1920 in Lower Spain, New Brunswick, the son of Dominique Daigle and Exelda Mazerolle, Alexis was a fisherman before enlisting in Fredericton on August 28, 1941.  After completing basic training, he was attached to the Canadian Army (Basic) Training Centre in Montmagny, Quebec on a Home War Established (HWE) basis as an engineer’s helper.

His service file noted that he was a “jack of all trades…” and could speak both French and English.  He was described as a “…quiet and non-talkative single young man of above average intelligence...”

In January 1945 he arrived in the United Kingdom and assigned to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).  A month later, on February 24, 1945, he was sent to continental Europe, and on March 1, 1945 transferred to Le Régiment de la Chaudière.

On April 6, 1945, while serving with Le Régiment de la Chaudière in The Netherlands, Alexis was killed in action (‘mort au champ d’honneur‘) near Zutphen, during the Battle of Zutphen.  (For more information on this battle, see https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/northwesteurope/zutphen.htm)

According to the Regiment’s war diary for April 1945, the Battalion had “…proceeded on foot to a concentrated area just past Almen, approximately 3 miles short of Zutphen…..”  where they rested until the start of an operation which began “…on the night 5-6 April…

The attack started at 4:30 am. “… Only slight opposition was encountered up to the outskirts of the town of Zutphen. The objective was C and D companies to seize the ground in between the main highway leading to town and the first row of houses….

Alexis was in D Company and it’s likely that he lost his life in what happened next.  “…. Between the starting line and the objective there was a canal on which both leading companies were stopped for almost two hours.  First opposition was then encountered from well-sited snipers, machine gun nests, and bazookas...

Alexis was one of 4 soldiers in the Regiment killed in that operation.  The others were:

  • V. PARE (D Company)
  • S. BOUCHARD (D Company)
  • E. PARADIS (C Company)

Alexis was temporarily buried in Almen, and later reburied in in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

(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 Mathieu MICHAUD. Born November 11, 1921 in Drummond, New Brunswick, he was the son of Achille Michaud and Fébronie Laforest.

Patrick provided a translated excerpt from a book, ‘Military Heritage – The Greater Grand Falls Region’, by Jean-Guy Plourde, which explained that “….wanting to emulate his older brother Laurent, he enrolled in the army on December 3, 1942, and received training in Fredericton. From March 10 to July 24, 1943, he was in Valcartier, Quebec before becoming a gunner. The authorities assigned him to Goose Bay, Labrador from August 1, 1943 to June 30, 1944. From November 30, 1944, he made a two week stay in Sorel, Quebec before embarking for the great adventure. On January 10, 1945, he made the crossing to the United Kingdom where he was stationed until March 1, 1945….

In the UK he was assigned to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).  On March 2, 1945 he left for Northwest Europe, and then transferred to Le Régiment De La Chaudière on March 21, 1945.

He was killed in action (‘mort au champ d’honneur‘) in The Netherlands while part of the Regiment’s Company C and died on April 8, 1945.  According to the Regiment’s war diary, the Battle of Zutphen had ended on April 7 but continued to encounter sniper fire.  Mathieu was one of two soldiers from Company C that died that day.  The other soldier was H. A. MARCHAND.

Like Alexis Daigle, Mathieu was temporarily buried in Almen, before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

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

Elbridge Wellington Miller. (Photo courtesy of Elbridge Wellington Miller Family)

Wilmot Tompkins submitted a photo, explaining that “…This is Elbridge Wellington Miller, my great-uncle, buried in Groesbeek. My wife found your interview and your blog while searching for the place my great-uncle lost his life…” Wilmot had seen a list of 28 men listed as having lost their lives in Keppeln, in a posting about a video plea for a photo of Frank McGovern.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/12/09/the-search-for-a-photo-of-frank-edward-mcgovern-moves-to-youtube/)

Elbridge Wellington MILLER was born in Deerville, New Brunswick, the son of David W and Elizabeth Miller, and was a labourer before enlisting on December 3, 1942 in Fredericton.  By April 4, 1943 he was in the United Kingdom. On August 19, 1943 he was transferred to the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment.

Serving with the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment, he landed in France on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and was wounded by shrapnel in the left thigh and right ankle during the Battle of the Scheldt on October 13, 1944, resulting in a recovery period in England before rejoining his unit a month later.

He lost his life on February 26, 1945 in Germany during the Battle of Keppeln, during Operation Blockbuster, the last part of Operation Veritable. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Veritable)

Eldridge was one of 28 men killed in action that day, as was explained in the posting about Frank McGovern. Another of these soldiers was Barney McGuigan.  (For his story, please see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-barney-reuben-mcguigan/)

Like Frank McGovern and Barney McGuigan, Eldridge was temporarily buried in the Bedburg Military Cemetery, and then later reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.

Alphonse Robert.  (Photo courtesy of the Robert Family)

Armel ‘Mel’ Lanteigne, President of the Caraquet branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, submitted a photo of Alphonse ROBERT on behalf of the Robert family.  Alphonse came from a family of “…9 children…” Mel wrote, “…one died at an early age.  His father Amédée was a veteran of WW1 and after returning to Caraquet, his job was lighthouse keeper on Caraquet’s island, where he lived with his family….

Born October 23, 1923 in Caraquet, Alphonse was the son of Amédée and Alma Robert, and was a fisherman before enlisting on August 23, 1943.

In January 1945 he was in the United Kingdom, assigned to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).  On March 28, 1945 he was transferred to North West Europe and was serving with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal when he lost his life on March 30, 1945 in Germany.

Alphonse was temporarily buried in Germany, and later reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.  NOTE:  For an update to this story, please see: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/10/12/on-the-war-memorial-trail-an-update-on-the-story-of-ww2-soldier-alphonse-robert/

Thank you to Marc Comeau, Patrick Côté, Armel ‘Mel’ Lanteigne, Gilberte Manuel, Alfrida Richard, and Wilmot Tompkins for sharing photos and anecdotes.  Atlantic Canadians remember their loved ones who are buried overseas.

More photos and stories in Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 10! To share photos or information, please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.

…..Want to follow our research?….

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:

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW2 Pilot Who Lost His Life In The Netherlands On Christmas Eve

April 3, 2021. Sometimes a story is so sad that it’s difficult to write.  That was the case during our Memorial Trail visit in Europe in 2017 when we fulfilled a request by Paul Schurman to visit the grave of a WW2 RCAF serviceman who was a flying instructor at the No. 9 Service Flying Training School RCAF in Summerside, and boarded at the home of Paul’s parents.

Leonard Arthur Unwin. (Photo source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Flight Lieutenant Leonard Arthur UNWIN, born January 2, 1917 in Sheffield, England, was the son of James Arthur Unwin and Minnie Goswin, who immigrated to Windsor, Ontario, where Leonard grew up. He was married to Evelyn Marie Paris.

Leonard enlisted on June 6, 1940 in Windsor, Ontario and was in the first RCAF class held at Windsor Airport.  In addition to being a flying instructor in Summerside, he was also an instructor in Moncton, New Brunswick, before going overseas in May 1943.  He served in England, France, and Belgium.

On December 24, 1944 he left from his base in Belgium and was shot down in The Netherlands.  According to the British Royal Air Force report, Leonard was one of the pilots in a section of 4 Typhoon planes “….on an armed recce in the Utrecht area. The section sighted and duly attacked three lorries moving along a road south east of Amersfoort….

The first two planes encountered “…little flak...” Leonard was in the third plane.  The pilot of the 4th plane reported that “…by the time F/Lt Unwin and himself attacked, there was quite intense light flak coming from fields on either side of the road.  They dived from approximately 7,000 feet and he observed F/Lt Unwin’s strikes on the way down….” 

Unfortunately, Leonard’s plane “….continued in the dive and blew up either on hitting the ground, or quite close to it….

Leonard is not buried in one of the Canadian War Cemeteries, but in a municipal cemetery in Woudenberg, one of two Commonwealth burials in a huge cemetery …. Leonard Unwin and a pilot from New Zealand.

We were looking for the typical Commonwealth headstone we’d seen in other cemeteries, but were unsuccessful.  Since the cemetery was so big, Pieter and I split up, hoping one of us would be able to spot it.  Nothing.

Pieter had disappeared in another direction, looking for someone to help us.  Just as I was about to give up, the groundskeeper came by on his bicycle.  I asked him if he could speak English and he said yes.  (It’s amazing to me how it’s never Pieter, who speaks the language fluently, who has these encounters!)

Luckily for me, the groundskeeper, who introduced himself as Theo Imminkhuizen, said yes, and I explained that I was looking for a Commonwealth grave.  Theo noticed I was holding a Canadian flag (plus a PEI flag, which he would not have recognized) and asked if I was looking for a Canadian grave.  Yes, I said, and he offered to show me where it was. 

Pieter came by when he saw me talking to someone, so we all went together.  We were very lucky to have encountered Theo as we would not have found the grave.  Instead of a Commonwealth stone, it was a grave in the Dutch tradition.  The only thing different was that the headstone was written in English, instead of Dutch.  This was the same for the pilot from New Zealand buried next to Leonard.

Pieter by the grave of Leonard Arthur Unwin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Paul Schurman had told Pieter that Leonard’s family had heard that when the plane crashed, Leonard’s body lay on the ground for days as the Germans refused to bury him, or to allow the Dutch to do so.  This was a warning of what happens to those who oppose the Germans, people were told. 

Pieter mentioned this horrible story to Theo, who confirmed it was true. He wasn’t buried until December 27.  If we didn’t mind to wait a few minutes, he had something to show us that he had in his office.

Commemorative plaque honouring Leonard Arthur Unwin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

While Theo went upstairs to his office, an older man came by and stopped for a chat.  He introduced himself as Wout Blokhuis, and explained that he was a retired funeral director who had been involved in many burials in the cemetery.  Now retired, he likes to walk the cemetery grounds on a daily basis.

Theo returned with a plaque honouring Leonard, and said it’s put out by his grave every Liberation Day, on May 5.  The plaque is in Dutch, but Pieter was kind enough to provide this translation:

Leonard Arthur Unwin

Canadian Leonard Unwin stopped his education in 1940 to volunteer for the Canadian Air Force.  At the age of 27, he died during an attack on German troops.

On December 24, 1944, during an attack on an enemy target in the province of Utrecht, around 16:00 hours, he attacked a convoy of three German trucks on the Stationweg in Woudenberg.  During the dive, the plane’s tailpiece broke off, the plane destabilized, and crashed. 

In 2012, Leonard’s family visited Woudenberg from Canada.  They visited the site of the plane crash, and his grave.  They brought with them a small bag containing Canadian soil, to be spread on Leonard’s grave.

At the Woudenberg Municipal Cemetery.  Left to right: Wout Blokhuis, Pieter with the plaque, Theo Imminkhuizen. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Thank you to Paul Shurman for bringing Leonard’s story to our attention, and a big thank you to Theo Imminkhuizen for his kindness in helping two Canadians find a grave.  If you have information to share about Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.  

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw

© Daria Valkenburg