August 9, 2021. After an interview about the photo quest for soldiers buried in the Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands ran on APTN, Pieter was contacted by Annelind Wakegijig.
She sent us a photo of Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG, and wrote that “…I recently saw your story featured on APTN. My great-uncle, Clarence WAKEGIJIG was from the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. He died in Holland on March 2, 1945. He is buried in Groesbeek…” (For more information on the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiikwemkoong_First_Nation )
Annelind explained that “… He was the youngest son of Josephine (Shawanda) Wakegijig and Joachim Wakegijig. His siblings were:
- Victoria Corbiere
- Christine Wakegijig
- Ethel Wakegijig – who had suffered a childhood illness and died at 5 years of age
- John Wakegijig -also a veteran of WWII, who died in 1971 in a motor vehicle accident
- Raymond Wakegijig – who drowned in his late 20s
Clarence was a Guardsman with the Canadian Grenadier Guards….”
Clarence was born January 9, 1925 in Cutler, Ontario, the son of Joachim and Josephine Wakegijig (nee Shawanda), of Krugersdorf, Ontario. He enlisted on September 25, 1941 with the Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury Regiment in Sudbury, Ontario, giving his birth year as 1922 and birthplace as Wikwemikong (Wiikwemkoong in Ojibwe). The fact that he was only 16 years old, not 19, doesn’t seem to have been discovered.
He was sent to the Basic Training Centre in North Bay, Ontario. In February 1942 Clarence was sent to the Driving and Maintenance Training School in Woodstock, Ontario, where he learned driver mechanics and how to drive a motorcycle.
On April 22, 1942 he was posted to Trois-Rivières, Quebec as reinforcement to Infantry (MG) TC A-17 – a Machine Gun Training Centre.
….Clarence arrived in Europe in 1942….
By the end of September 1942, Clarence was on his way to the United Kingdom, arriving on October 9, 1942 and assigned to the Machine Gun Reinforcement Unit (MGRU), where he underwent additional training.
By June 1943 he had received a promotion to Trooper and was assigned to the 32nd Reconnaissance Regiment. On September 18, 1943 he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge.
On March 19, 1944 he was assigned to the 22nd Armoured Regiment, known as the Canadian Grenadier Guards, taking further training as a driver mechanic in preparation for the Regiment moving into action in France.
The Regiment arrived in France on July 23, 1944, and underwent heavy fighting in Normandy during Operation Totalize and Operation Tractable, which led to the capture of Falaise. (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Totalize and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Tractable)
Clarence survived these actions, and continued on with the Regiment as they left Normandy, France for North West Europe, fighting in Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany.
….The Battle of Hochwald Gap was a fierce tank battle….
According to the war diary for the Canadian Grenadier Guards, the Regiment had travelled from The Netherlands just over the border into Germany, to participate in the Battle of Hochwald Gap, part of Operation Blockbuster, the final push towards the Rhine River, along with several other Canadian Regiments. (For more information, see https://canadianbattlefieldtours.ca/operation-blockbuster/ and https://civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup.com/10742/the-battle-of-hochwald-gap-one-of-the-largest-armor-engagements-you-probably-have-never-heard-of)
On February 26, 1945 they were travelling southeast from Kalkar, Germany, getting bogged down in mud and clay, and through farm fields in which mines had been hidden by the Germans, causing many casualties.
The Regiment’s objective was to reach Xanten, the last town on the western side of the Rhine, but first they had to get through the very narrow Hochwald Gap. They reached the west end of the Hochwald Gap just after dawn on February 28, 1945.
The weather continued to be uncooperative. An early thaw meant that the tanks got bogged down in mud, making them ‘sitting ducks’ for German troops who were positioned to pick them off, one by one.
The Canadian Grenadier Guards war diary entry for March 2, 1945 noted “… Weather – cloudy, gusts of rain. ...” Artillery fire had caused a temporary halt before starting up again.
“…Charge was successful and the 1st objective taken, despite the fact that 6 tanks bogged before then. Confused fighting took place from here on – Lt Ferris (2 tanks) and C Company passed through, but ran into opposition in the form of a Tiger….” Clarence was in C Company. A Tiger was a German tank.
The war diary entry continued. “…Somewhere in here, Lt Ferris and his other tank were knocked out, and Lt Ferris was wounded by a sniper...”
At some point in this chaos, Clarence lost his life, most likely when one of the tanks was hit by German fire. A 46 minute YouTube video on the Battle of Hochwald Gap explained the fierce battle that took place. Watching it made it clear to us that it was a miracle that anyone survived at all, a testament to the determination and courage of those who were in the midst of it.
Clarence was temporarily buried in Xanten, Germany before being reburied in 1946 in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Thank you to Annelind Wakegijig for sharing a photo and information about her great-uncle. If you have information to share about Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG or other Canadian soldiers, please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
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