On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Airman Robert ‘Bob’ James Dickie

July 27, 2021. Several weeks ago, as Pieter was jogging back home after a long run through our neighbourhood, he was stopped by Wayne Quigley.  “…Pieter, I’ve got a story for you!...” Wayne said. “…My great-uncle, Bob Dickie, died in a plane that crashed off the English coast during WW2. The plane was returning from a bombing sortie in Germany...

With an intro like that, Pieter couldn’t resist learning more.  That evening, we visited with Wayne and Janet Quigley of Augustine Cove.

CIMG5248 Jun 14 2021 Wayne Pieter Janet

Pieter, centre, with Wayne and Janet Quigley.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Born October 13, 1921 in Carleton (now Borden-Carleton), Robert ‘Bob’ James DICKIE was the son of John William Dickie and Mary Ann McClure.  His sister, Marion Waddell, was Wayne’s grandmother.

At the time Bob was born, the family lived on Dickie Rd in Carleton, so named because the family had been the first to build a house on that road.  Wayne thought that Bob’s father worked “… at the CNR yard in Borden….”  (CNR refers to Canadian National Railways.)  “…There used to be a railway crossing that went right through the road...

CIMG5249 Jun 14 2021 Dickie Rd in Carleton

Dickie Rd in Borden-Carleton was named after the Dickie family.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The railway is long gone, but the street is still called Dickie Rd.  “…The family moved to Charlottetown ….” where Bob’s father worked for the CNR.

As Wayne didn’t have a good photo of Bob Dickie, he contacted his cousin, Betty Lou Wood, whose father, John Thomas, was the brother of Bob and Wayne’s grandmother Marion.

Betty Lou recollected that before the family moved to Charlottetown, her grandfather “...worked as a lobster fisherman during lobster season, an ice-boatman during winter, as well as operating a family farm year round…”   The ice boat stopped running in 1917, when it was replaced by a ferry operated by the CNR.

20210712_153936 Bob Dickie

Robert ‘Bob’ James Dickie.  (Photo courtesy Betty Lou Wood)

… Uncle Bob was always the hero of the family….

When we met with Betty Lou and her daughter Louann, Betty Lou told us that her uncle “…was always the hero of the family.  His picture is always displayed from late October to Christmas in my house...

CIMG5262 Jul 12 2021 Pieter with Betty Lou Wood at Tim Hortons Ctown

Pieter with Betty Lou Wood.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Betty Lou’s granddaughter, Eve Johnson, did a Heritage Fair Project on Bob Dickie.  In her project, she wrote about his youth and hobbies.  Eve wrote that “…he was an excellent skater and swimmer and he also loved to dance….. As a young man he was recognized as having saved two young boys from drowning...”

After graduating from high school, he “…enrolled in a business course, and family legend is that he said he eventually wanted to study to become a lawyer….

… The training received in the RCAF was extensive….

On October 25, 1940, Bob enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in Charlottetown.  A month later his training began, first in Brandon, Manitoba at the RCAF Training Facility No 2 Manning Depot.  (For a photo of the building, see   http://pastforward.winnipeg.ca/digital/collection/berman/id/2366)

20210712_154649 1940 train photo

Group photo taken in front of the train in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, which was enroute to the RCAF Training Facility in Brandon. (Photo courtesy Betty Lou Wood)

NOTE:  The back of the back photo identifies the men.  Back, left to right: Leonard BERRIGAN, BANKS, Jim ROSSUMS, John HANSON, Foster FISHER, Bob DICKIE, Charles WOODSWORTH.  Front, left to right: WRIGHT, Prentis ANDREW, Bill MACDONALD, Rolf BOYLE.

A month later he was sent to the No 7 Equipment Depot in Winnipeg for additional training.  On January 27, 1941, he went to Regina, Saskatchewan to the No 2 Initial Training School (ITS) for 4 weeks before returning back to Brandon on March 10, 1941. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_Commonwealth_Air_Training_Plan_facilities_in_Canada)

On April 27, 1941 he was sent to the No 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta for training as a wireless operator.  He was entitled to wear a Wireless Operator’s Badge (called Wings) as of September 14, 1941, according to his training report.

On September 12, 1941 he was sent to the No 3 Bombing and Gunnery School in MacDonald, Manitoba to train as an air gunner.  On October 13, 1941 he was authorized to wear an Air Gunner’s Badge (called Wings).  The chief instructor noted that he was ‘responsible and conscientious’.

20210712_154126 1941 Boys from PEI left Bob Dickie centre Cliff Campbell

Three from PEI: Bob Dickie, far left, after receiving his Air Gunner’s Badge.  Centre: Cliff Campbell of Charlottetown.  Right: unknown. (Photo courtesy Betty Lou Wood)

… Bob is assigned to the RAF….

On October 14, 1941 he was posted to the No. 1 ‘Y’ Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the embarkation point for leaving Canada for the United Kingdom the next day.  Upon arrival in England on November 2, 1941, he was assigned to the RAFTP (Royal Air Force Trainees Pool).

He was first at the No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre in Bournemouth.  On January 20, 1942 he was sent to the No 22 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF Wellesbourne in Mountford, Warwickshire, which trained aircrew for night bombing raids in Wellington aircraft.

By June 1942 he was participating in bombing runs with No 115 Squadron, RAF.  On June 27, 1942, during a bombing run to Bremen, the plane was attacked by a German nightfighter.  Records indicate that the bomb aimer and Bob were wounded, but rear gunner Sgt Bill MCCANN was killed.

Eve Johnson recorded in her Heritage Project that “…Uncle Bob came home to Charlottetown to recover from his wounds…”  It wasn’t a long stay as by August 9, 1942 he was back in England and participating in more flying missions.

On November 11, 1942 he was sent to the Bomber Development Unit.  Then, on September 17, 1943 he was assigned to No 97 Squadron, RAF.  This was a Pathfinder unit, whose responsibility was to locate and mark targets with flares, which a main bomber force could aim at, increasing the accuracy of their bombing.

Pathfinders had to fly at a lower altitude than the main bomber force, making their sorties more dangerous than if they could fly at a higher altitude.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathfinder_(RAF) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._97_Squadron_RAF)

After flying in a number of aircraft, by October 1943 Bob’s squadron was using Lancaster aircraft.

… The last flight of Lancaster JB312….

20210712_154508 Group photo Bob on right

Crew beside Lancaster JB312.  Bob Dickie is on the far right.  (Photo courtesy Betty Lou Wood)

Just after midnight on February 21, 1944, the crew of Lancaster JB312 left RAF Bourn Airfield for Stuttgart, Germany. It was Bob Dickie’s 37th sortie and his last flight, one that he and the rest of the crew did not survive.  (It’s unlikely that the photo above was taken just before this last flight, as crew would fly the same plane several times.)

According to the crash report, while over Stuttgart, the plane “…collided with another aircraft and probably received flak damage. The H2S blister was torn away, the fuselage was badly damaged, and flaps also received damage.

By a miracle, the plane did return to England.  However, on return to the base, the plane “…crashed on approaching runway, presumably as the result of the damage received over the target…”  All of the crew members lost their lives.

The crew members for this last flight of Lancaster JB 312 were:

  • R. S. EMERSON, Captain
  • A. J. NEWELL, Flight Engineer
  • J. WORTH, Navigator
  • J. A. BARTHOLOMEW, Air Bomber
  • Robert ‘Bob’ James DICKIE, Wireless Operator
  • W. G. DUNCAN, Mid Gunner
  • G. W. WOOD, Rear Gunner

Bob was buried at Cambridge City Cemetery on February 24, 1944, along with other comrades who lost their lives. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_City_Cemetery)

CIMG5269 Bob Dickie original grave marker

Original grave marker for Bob Dickie.  (Photo courtesy Betty Lou Wood)

Although Bob’s original grave marker said Warrant Officer, he had received a promotion to Pilot Officer the day before his death. His permanent Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone indicates this.  (See https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/32378762/robert-james-dickie)

Thank you to Wayne and Janet Quigley, Betty Lou and Louann Wood, and Eve Johnson for the photos and information about Bob Dickie.  Thank you also to Historic Interpretation/Museum Planner Don Smith, who helped with plane identification and the planes used in RCAF training schools, as well as clarifying the Pathfinder role of No 97 Squadron and the final flight of Lancaster JB312.

If you have information to share about Bob Dickie and the other airmen mentioned, or can help in identification of the men in the various photos, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a 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.

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© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Soldier William (Willie) Daniels

July 23, 2021. Over the past months, Pieter has been diligently working his way through photo wish lists from Dutch researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  Two names on the lists were members of First Nations: William ‘Willie’ DANIELS, a Cree Nation member from Saskatchewan, and Stanley Owen JONES, a Haida Nation member from British Columbia.  Both men are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

Pieter had no luck in finding family so, as he has done over the past years, he turned to the media for help, this time from APTN, where he was interviewed by Brett Forester.  (To read the article, see https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/dutch-born-p-e-i-man-on-a-mission-to-find-photos-of-first-nations-soldiers-killed-overseas-in-wwii/)

CIMG5084 Mar 17 2021 Pieter Valkenburg

Pieter on a Zoom interview with Brett Forester of APTN.  (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

Several readers of the article came forward to share photos and information about Indigenous soldiers, and these will be featured in future postings as Pieter completes his research.  (The story of Leo Francis TONEY was told previously.  See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/22/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-leo-francis-toney/)

… William Daniels was a member of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation…

What about the two soldiers mentioned in the article?  A photo of William ‘Willie’ DANIELS was sent by Dakota Ballantyne on behalf of Vince Daniels, with a note saying that “Willie Daniels from Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan was his uncle….

William Daniels

William ‘Willie’ Daniels. (Photo courtesy of Vince Daniels)

The son of John Daniels, Willie was born March 20, 1925 on the Big River Reserve in Depton, Saskatchewan.  On September 24, 1941, he enlisted in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, stating that he was born in 1922.  He was sent for training as a Sapper with the Royal Canadian Engineers, until it was discovered he was underage. He was discharged in March 1942 for being “…under 17 years of age at date of application….

On October 19, 1943, Willie re-enlisted.  According to his military records, his parents were dead and he listed a brother, Narcisse Daniels, as his next-of-kin.  He also noted that he spoke English and Cree. This time he was allowed to stay in the army, but on Canadian soil as soldiers under 19 years of age were not to be sent overseas.

It wasn’t until May 1, 1944 that he left for the United Kingdom, arriving on May 8 for additional training.  On July 7, 1944 he was transferred to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles as a Rifleman and sent to Northwest Europe.

… The Royal Winnipeg Rifles were in Germany and The Netherlands in 1945…

The war diary of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles gives an indication of what Willie Daniels and his fellow soldiers experienced in 1945. By January 1945 the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were in The Netherlands, and spent the New Year in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.  The war diary for January 1, 1945 states that “…the Germans precipitated the New Year by opening up with considerable SA and mortar fire a few minutes before midnight.  Our artillery answered directly at midnight…..

On February 1, 1945, the war diary recorded that the Regiment was informed of the part that the men “…would play in Operation Veritable…” This would take them into Germany. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Veritable)

The Regiment arrived in Millingen, Germany on February 9, 1945.  The weather was uncooperative “…cloudy with rain….” and led to flooding.  In one area, the water rose “…another six feet, the only high ground in the area being in and near Keeken…

They were ordered to move further back, but some of the men were stranded due to a shortage of equipment to get them out, or because the equipment itself got “…bogged down or diverted for other purposes….

By February 16, 1945 the Regiment was based in Essen, Germany, as they cleared German positions in flooded areas of the Rhine flood plain and the Reichswald forest, which is close to the Dutch-German border.

On March 11, 1945 the Regiment began moving back towards ‘s-Hertogenbosch.  “…The whole day was spent in building the new camp….”  There were some peaceful days and time for training before the men moved back towards a base in Essen to participate in Operation Plunder. (See https://canadianbattlefieldtours.ca/operation-plunder/)

The war diary for March 27, 1945 reported that “…Orders to move came through in the early hours of the morning ….. and after many starts and stops we finally crossed the Rhine River at 1700 hours…

On April 10, 1945 the war diary noted that the Regiment “….would take over from the Regina Rifle Regiment…” and returned to The Netherlands, this time based in Almelo.  Then, on April 18, they were ordered to Groningen.

Map showing Appingedam

Purple arrow on the map indicates movement from Groningen towards Delfzijl, and Appingedam, where Willie Daniels lost his life.  The map also indicates the location of Loppersum, where he was initially buried.

On April 21, 1945 the Regiment was ordered to move towards Appingedam.  The war diary noted that on April 21, 1945 “…civilian reports claim mines set in cement….Blown bridges, snipers, and machine guns make the going very difficult.  Our casualties are becoming very heavy….

At some point on April 22, 1945, a few weeks after his 20th birthday, Willie Daniels lost his life.  The movement of troops through Appingedam was the very beginning of the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  Willie was initially buried in Loppersum General Cemetery in Groningen.  After the war Willie was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

initial gravemarker for Willie Daniels

Initial burial marker for Willie Daniels.  (Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, service file for William Daniels)

In March 1948, Mrs. W.G. Verbeek-Hermans of Enschede sent a letter to Veterans Affairs, asking that her letter be forwarded to a family member of Willie.  She wanted to let the family know that she had adopted Willie’s grave, a volunteer program that was organized by the Netherlands War Graves Committee. A separate letter for the family was enclosed, explaining that she was the mother of 4 children and felt it was her duty to look after the grave.  She also offered to send a photo of his grave.

This was not unusual. Many family members of soldiers that we have met over the years have explained that their families had been in contact with Dutch citizens who adopted a grave.

In 1995, the Stefanus Church in Holwierde placed a plaque to commemorate Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  Willie Daniels was one of the men commemorated.

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde, The Netherlands.  (Source: https://www.tracesofwar.nl/sights/40531/Herinneringsplaquette-Stefanus-Kerk.htm)

Current grave of Willie Daniels

Grave of Willie Daniels at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo courtesy of Canadian Virtual War  Memorial)

Thank you to Dakota Ballantyne and Vince Daniels for sharing a photo of William ‘Willie’ Daniels.  Thank you also to Brett Forester and APTN for the article on the search for photos of Indigenous soldiers buried in The Netherlands.

If you have information to share about William ‘Willie’ Daniels or other Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

…Help needed to find another photo …..

Your help is needed to find a photo of Stanley Owen JONES of the Haida Nation in British Columbia.

…Other soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket …..

For previous stories on soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket, please see:

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.

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© Daria Valkenburg

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

July 17, 2021. The four year search for a photo of WW2 soldier Gordon Frederick JOHNSON of Truro, Nova Scotia, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands is over!  (To read the original story about the search, see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-gordon-frederick-johnson/)

CIMG3304 Oct 3 2019 Holten Gordon Johnson

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

… A letter to the editor proved successful….

On June 24, 2021, Pieter’s letter to the editor was published in the Truro News. The first we knew of it was when the phone rang one Sunday.  The caller, Claudia Putnam, said a neighbour had dropped off the article while she was at church.  Her father, Clyde McCarthy, was a half-brother of Johnson, and her brother Randy had a photo.

Letter about GF Johnson in Truro News Jun 24 2021 with border

Pieter’s letter to the editor in the Truro News.

Thanks to the opening of the Atlantic Bubble and a medical appointment in Halifax, we were soon able to meet Claudia and Randy, and learn more about this remarkable soldier.

20210705_131112 Gordon Frederick Johnson

Gordon ‘Gordie’ Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

Randy explained that “…our father Clyde was very close to Gordon, who was known as Gordie…

Randy McCarthy & Claudia Putnam with Pieter Masstown Market

Pieter, centre, with Randy McCarthy and Claudia Putnam.  (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

Randy and Claudia’s father was one of the children born to the second marriage of Gordon’s mother, Margaret.  Randy explained that “…Gordon’s father was a miner working in Missouri when he got black lung from working in the mines.  Margaret brought him back to Truro and he died in 1914, when Gordon was 3 years old...

Gordon’s brothers, George Johnson and Clyde McCarthy (Randy and Claudia’s father), also served in WW2. Thankfully, both survived the war.

In researching further, Pieter learned that Gordon had joined the militia in 1927 and received an Efficiency Medal and Clasp in 1939 for 12 years of service.  On October 13, 1939 he enlisted for active service with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

20210705_131129 Gordon Frederick Johnson

Gordon ‘Gordie’ Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

He served many years as an instructor in the use of mortars in England, with the rank of Warrant Officer, and took a demotion to Sergeant in order to join his regiment in Italy.  Instead, he was demoted and sent back to Canada as an instructor.

….’He had a very strong sense of duty’….

Gordon filed a grievance.  “...He had a very strong sense of duty to his unit...” remarked Pieter. In early August 1944 he was back in the United Kingdom. On September 29, 1944 he rejoined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in France.

20210705_131316 Gordon Frederick Johnson on a motorcycle

Gordon Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

On April 8, 1945, Gordon was killed in action near Zutphen while trying to retrieve an anti-tank weapon that one of the members in his platoon had left behind.

…It’s worth repeating what had been said about him by a fellow soldier…” Pieter said. 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…

Gordon’s mother died at the age of 93.  His wife Hazel Pearl stayed in touch with the family but as the older generation passed away, contact between the families faded.

Thank you to Claudia Putnam and Randy McCarthy for sharing information and photos.  Do you have photos or information about Gordon Frederick Johnson to share?  Please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

…Help needed to find two more photos …..

Your help is needed to put a face to two more members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for which a photo continues to be on the wish list:

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

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.

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© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 10

July 11, 2021. More of the photos submitted about Atlantic Canadian soldiers buried overseas are featured in Part 10. Pieter continues to ensure that photos of soldiers buried in The Netherlands are forwarded to the appropriate cemetery for their digital archives. 

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

Armand Gionet and family from Mel

Armand Gionet, far right, and his family.  (Photo courtesy of Edmonde Lanteigne)

Armel ‘Mel’ Lanteigne, President of the Caraquet branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, submitted a photo of Armand GIONET of Middle Caraquet, New Brunswick, explaining that he had found “…a picture for Armand Gionet, taken in front of the family farm and house.  From left to right: Lazare Gionet, Nicholas Hébert, Paul-Aurèle Gionet, Hectorine Gionet, Analda Gionet and at the end Armand Gionet, no name for the dog, sorry. 

Armand was a fisherman and a farmer. I took the house’s picture and did the leg work and phone calls.  I got the family’s picture from Edmonde Lanteigne, she is the daughter of Hectorine and Nicolas.  The house is owned by Victoria and Nicole, the daughters of Paul-Aurèle Gionet, Armand’s brother...

After the photo was submitted to the researchers at the Information Centre at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, journalist Jan Braakman, one of the researchers at the Centre, wrote us that the photo “…has a very special meaning for me. Armand Gionet died in my town of birth (Laren, province of Gelderland) at the same place, same time and same way as my grandmother, Dina Koeslag. They were caught in flames after their hiding place had been hit by a German pantzerfaust (according to the cause of death as noted by my grandmothers’ doctor.)...” A pantzerfaust is a bazooka.

I have never had a chance to know my grandmother (nor my grandfather, who had been arrested and was killed in a concentration camp near Hamburg). But every once in a while I find pieces of her life and death. This is such a piece. Thanks very much for forwarding this photo to the Information Centre….” 

Armand was born April 26, 1924 in Middle Caraquet, New Brunswick, the son of Lazare Gionet and Laura Hebert.  One of 8 children, he worked on his parents’ farm.  He was also in the Reserve Labour Pool for the port of Halifax, and worked as a freight handler at the port on an as needed basis.

On March 25, 1944 he enlisted. After basic training he was sent to England, arriving on December 25, 1944.  By February 1945 he was in continental Europe and assigned to Le Regiment de Maisonneuve.

At the beginning of April 1945, the Regiment was in The Netherlands.  On April 4, the Regiment prepared to cross the Twente Canal near Almen for an attack from the bridgehead towards the village of Laren. The battle began at 8 pm and went throughout the night.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twentekanaal)

The Regiment’s war diary for April 5, 1945 simply stated that: “…During the attack last night, we had 23 casualties and we captured 40 prisoners…” 

In a translated excerpt of a Dutch language article written by Jan Braakman, he summarized what happened. “…  Among the 23 casualties (wounded and killed) was Armand Gionet. During the fighting he ended up at a group of farms along the Zutphenseweg, just outside the church of Laren. Many civilians hid there from the violence of war. When Gionet and his mates arrived, the inhabitants were convinced that they had been liberated. They emerged from their hiding places in a euphoric mood.

Civilians and soldiers were festive on the road when suddenly fire was opened again by German soldiers. In panic everyone ran to a safe place. Armand Gionet took a position in the Klein Veldkamp farm, where many civilians… were looking for a safe place. But after a while the danger proved too great to stay there. The farm was on fire. Everyone had to go outside.

Fear reigned. In total chaos, everyone ran in one direction. Civilians were sent back by a wounded Canadian soldier as they walked towards the German fire. In the end, the neighbours found a makeshift shelter in a cowshed. Canadian soldiers sat upstairs.

The sky didn’t clear until late in the afternoon when Canadian jeeps pulled into the yard…..

In the aftermath, among the casualties were Armand Gionet and Jan Braakman’s grandmother, who both had perished at the Klein Veldkamp farm.  (To read the original Dutch article, see https://wp.janbraakman.nl/armand-gionet-kon-zijn-ambitie-niet-waarmaken/)

Armand is buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  He was 19 years old. 

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

gilles lanteigne WWII

Gilles Lanteigne. (Photo courtesy of Dan Lanteigne)

Armel ‘Mel’ Lanteigne, President of the Caraquet branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, submitted a photo of Gilles LANTEIGNE, explaining that the photo came from “….Dan Lanteigne’s private collection.  He does research on the Lanteigne family…

Born March 27, 1924 in Caraquet, New Brunswick, the son of Ella and Prospère Lanteigne, Gilles was a labourer before enlisting on February 10, 1944.  On July 19, 1944 he arrived in the United Kingdom as a member of the Canadian Infantry Reserve Unit.  On August 12, 1944 he arrived in France and transferred to Le Regiment de Maisonneuve.

While serving with Le Regiment de Maisonneuve, he was severely wounded on March 8, 1945, and taken to a field hospital.  A day later, on March 9, 1945, he “…died of wounds…” received in action in Germany.  He was initially buried in Bedburg Military Cemetery before being reburied a year later in the Canadian Military Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

Mariner Lost At Sea

William Arnold Johnston

William ‘Bill’ Johnston.  (Image courtesy of Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Don Coutts wrote that “…I have been enjoying your articles.  My grandmother, Annie Bagnall Muttart, came from a large family, a total of nine boys and girls.  One of her brothers was Andrew Bagnall.  Andrew and his wife, Gussie, had four children: Kay, Eleanor, Ted, and Dick.

Kay married William (Bill) Arnold JOHNSTON on June 16th, 1940. He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy. His ship, the HMS Itchen, was torpedoed … and he lost his life. 

The Bagnall Family encountered two deaths of young men (Elmer in October 1941, and Bill in September 1943) during WWII….”  Don’s uncle, Elmer Bagnall MUTTART, has been previously featured on this blog.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/the-elmer-bagnall-muttart-story/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71Rzg07kPw0&list=PLaJcEVojJra-ZwR6rvb-THj8Zr2QbUXLT&index=2)

Born November 25, 1918 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Bill was the son of Frank Ariel and Eudaviela Waters Johnston, of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  On May 17, 1937 he enlisted in the Militia in Charlottetown, and remained a member over the next few years, while employed as a teller at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Charlottetown.  On June 17, 1940, a day after his marriage, he was enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve.

On December 13, 1941 he was appointed to serve aboard HMCS Charlottetown.  Unfortunately, the ship was torpedoed and sunk on September 11, 1942 in the St. Lawrence River along the northern shore of Gaspé Peninsula, while returning to base from convoy duty.  Bill was one of the survivors.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMCS_Charlottetown_(1941)#Sinking)

After a stint of survivor’s duty at HMCS Stadacona in Halifax and short training courses, he was assigned to HMS Itchen on April 19, 1943, which was involved in anti-submarine warfare exercises off the coast of Scotland until September 1943, when it was assigned to convoy escort duty. 

While in the Atlantic Ocean, several ships in the convoy were attacked, beginning on September 19, 1943.  On September 20, HMCS St Croix was sunk.  81 survivors were picked up by HMS Itchen. 

HMS Itchen (K227)

Red dot shows location of sinking of HMS Itchen.  (Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Itchen_(K227))

Just after 2 am on September 23, 1943, HMS Itchen was torpedoed, causing the frigate to blow up, with a loss of 230 lives, including Bill. He was 24 years old.

Two people from HMS Itchen and one from HMCS St Croix survived and were picked up by a Polish steamer. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Itchen_(K227) and https://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/3079.html)

Don Coutts noted that “…Kay and Bill had a son Tom who was born on March 18, 1943. Tom died a number of years ago. Kay married a Bob Mills from Nova Scotia…they split their time between Port Royal, NS (late Fall/Winter/early Spring) and Stanhope, PEI (late Spring/Summer/early Fall)...”

As his body was never recovered, Bill’s name is listed on the Halifax Memorial in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

To read previous stories about other mariners listed on the Halifax Memorial, please see:

Thank you to Jan Braakman, Don Coutts, Armel ‘Mel’ Lanteigne, and Edmonde Lanteigne for sharing photos and anecdotes to ensure that Atlantic Canadians who are buried overseas are not forgotten.

More photos and stories in Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 11! 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 the Atlantic Canada Remembers series? See:

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On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW1 Letters Of Arthur Clinton Robinson

July 4, 2021. In 2017 we visited the grave of Arthur Clinton ROBINSON, a WW1 soldier with the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion, from Tryon, Prince Edward Island, who is buried in Belgium, (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-in-belgium-and-a-visit-to-la-laiterie-military-cemetery/)  Up to today, we have not found of a photo of him, and neither has his family.

In June 2018, Arthur’s nephew, Arthur ‘John’ Robinson and his wife Hazel visited the grave with their son, dentist Dr. Alan Robinson, and Alan’s son, William Robinson.

2018-06-16 Arthur C Robinson grave (1)

At La Laiterie Military Cemetery in Belgium.  Left to right: Dr Alan Robinson, William Robinson, Hazel Robinson.  (Photo credit: John Robinson)

While no photo has yet been found, the Robinsons were able to find two letters that Arthur wrote to his aunts. 

In an August 30, 1915 letter to his aunt, Robbie Blanchard, written in England just before travelling to France,  he describes the composition of men in his platoon from the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion: … You should just see the bunch of men … in this 26th alone. They are a magnificent body of fellows….and this Platoon I am in is a corker… there are, I don’t know how many different nationalities in it… Indian, French, Russians, Belgians, English, Irish, Scotch, Americans and Canadians.  Some mob, eh? You can hear nearly any language around here any time of day….” 

While in England, Arthur saw injured troops arriving back from the front and reflected that “…when you see the hundreds of maimed soldiers, some far worse off than if they were dead, and when nearly daily train loads of freshly wounded men pass right before your eyes, it makes you wonder at the ups and downs of this human life…” 

It was a miracle that the August 30 letter arrived in Canada, as the ship the mail had been travelling on, the Hesperian, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Plymouth, England on September 4, 1915! Luckily it was one of the items salvaged from the wreckage. (See https://www.rmslusitania.info/related-ships/hesperian/ for more information) 

In a September 16, 1915 letter, written in France to his aunt, Carrie Robinson, he outlines life in a trench: …I am quite comfortable here in our cosy little dugout, out of reach of all the Germans in Europe.  I must tell you about the nice dugout and the 4 fellows who are in it with me.  It is a kind of a tunnel running into the side of a loamy hill, with rubber sheets and blankets hung over the mouth of it….” 

There was no electricity in the trench, as Arthur goes on to mention that …We have niches in the back, where we keep our equipment, and we put candles in them at night so we won’t be too lonesome…” 

He then describes how the equipment is turned into a bed for the night. “…On the floor we have straw, stolen from a stack near by, and all over our kits, which make excellent beds, when you know how to arrange them…” 

Although he doesn’t identify them by name, Arthur mentions his 4 trench companions: …1st They are all six footers. 2nd They all wear a seven cap or larger. 3rd They cannot get their feet into smaller boots than nines, and 4th They all weigh over one hundred and seventy pounds each…”  He goes on to say that he weighs over 170 pounds himself and is well fed.  

The saying goes that an army marches on its stomach, and Arthur’s account of his dinner indicates the importance of food.  “…We had potatoes and meat, bread and butter, and tea of course.  We could have had cheese and jam too if we wanted to, but we always try and keep it over for tea.  The bread and butter is great and the cooks of our company seem to have a natural gift of making good tea so we are lucky in that line…” 

One of the challenges in writing letters from the front during wartime is censorship so as not to divulge any information that might be used by the enemy.  Arthur writes about that: …I find it hard to write a letter here for they are so particular about what a person tells that if you write anything you are not supposed to tell they destroy the whole shooting match…

It’s wonderful that these letters survived so that we get a glimpse into Arthur Robinson’s thoughts and experiences.  Sadly, he lost his life on March 27, 1916 when shellfire hit the trenches southeast of Kemmel, Belgium. 

IMG_3466 Hazel and John Robinson

Hazel and John Robinson. (Photo courtesy of the Robinson Family)

Hazel Robinson explained that their 2018 trip was a war memorial tour.  “…Besides visiting Arthur’s grave on this trip, we followed in the footsteps of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers from England to France, Belgium, Germany, ending in the area of Wons. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers was my father’s unit. We also visited Vimy Ridge where my great-uncle is buried….

Hazel’s great-uncle was “William John HILL from Cassius on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick…”  He lost his life on April 9, 1917 and is buried in Canadian Cemetery No 2 in Pas de Calais, France.

During the trip, Hazel noted two coincidences.  “… A member of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers was buried beside Elmer Muttart in 1945….”  Elmer Bagnall MUTTART of Cape Traverse, Prince Edward Island is buried at Harlingen General Cemetery in The Netherlands. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/the-elmer-bagnall-muttart-story/ and https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-visit-to-harlingen-general-cemetery/)

Most likely, Hazel is referring to Thomas ‘Tommy’ Clayton REID.  We’d placed flags on his grave when we visited in October 2019.

CIMG3450 Oct 12 2019 Harlingen General Cemetery

Grave of T.C. Reid at Harlingen General Cemetery in The Netherlands.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Hazel found another coincidence in France. “…When we visited the cemetery in Vimy where my great-uncle is buried, the last family to sign the guest book was a family from my home town, Douglastown, in New Brunswick, and whose parents I knew well and who lived a few houses from my parents!…” 

Thank you to Hazel and John Robinson for sharing Arthur’s letters and information about their 2018 trip. If you have photos or information to share, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a 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. 

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© Daria Valkenburg