August 24, 2021. A few months ago, a posting summarized an ongoing search for a photo of WW2 soldier John ‘Clifford’ ROGERS of Hope River, PEI, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-continued-search-for-a-photo-of-john-clifford-rogers/)
Nothing happened for several months, but then Pieter received an email from Janet ‘Jan’ O’Reilly, who wrote that “…Clifford was my uncle, Gladys is my mom, and is still alive….” Gladys is the sister of John ‘Clifford’ Rogers.
Jan went on to explain that “…We live in Ontario – my mom left the island in the late 1950s, I believe. Her Mom and Dad remained on the island, but her Dad died in the 1960s and my grandma later came to live with us here in Ontario. She died here in 1980 and Mom brought her home to be buried on the island. We all travelled to PEI that Christmas…” This explained why Pieter’s search on the Island was unsuccessful.
Clifford was born August 19, 1925 in Hope River, Prince Edward Island, the son of Andrew Rogers and Phoebe Gallant. The family later moved to Charlottetown.
On March 12, 1943, he enlisted in Charlottetown, and it was noted that he had served in the PEI Light Horse Regiment (17th Reserve Armoured Regiment) since 1942. At the beginning of April 1943 he was transferred to the Advanced Infantry Training Camp in Aldershot, Nova Scotia.
On October 30, 1943 he was transferred to the Advanced Driving and Maintenance School in Woodstock, Ontario, a facility where soldiers learned to drive and repair military vehicles, motorcycles, and trucks.
….4 Islanders trained together at Coldstream Ranch….
After receiving his qualification, he was transferred to the Canadian School of Infantry, located at Coldstream Ranch in Vernon, British Columbia, arriving on January 27, 1944. Over 11,000 acres, the training area on the ranch included a log village for village fighting, an obstacle course, a bayonet assault course, a trench blasted from solid rock on the side of hill that gave trainees experience from being fired on from overhead, an ‘English’ type lane with hedges and gates, and a dam for river crossing drills.
When Pieter spoke with Gladys, she told him that 3 other Islanders were at the Coldstream Ranch at the same time as Clifford:
- Private ? BLANCHARD (from Charlottetown, PEI who survived the war)
- Private ? GALLANT (from Hope River, PEI who survived the war)
- Private Bernard ‘Barney’ Reuben MCGUIGAN (who lost his life on February 26, 1945. You can read his story at: https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-barney-reuben-mcguigan/)
Later, Jan reflected that “…Mom remembered him getting along with Pte Blanchard who was also from PEI. There were just four of them and I imagine that created a bond….”
In September 1944 Clifford was sent to the transit camp at Camp Debert in Nova Scotia, in preparation for going overseas. He arrived in the United Kingdom on November 28, 1944. On January 8, 1945 he was in Northwest Europe as part of the contingent of reinforcement troops.
On January 26, 1945 he was transferred to the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. Not long after, the Regiment travelled just over the Dutch border into Germany for Operation Blockbuster, the last part of Operation Veritable, during the Battle of the Rhineland. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster)
….Action in Balberger Wald was fatal for Clifford….
Clifford survived the Battle of Keppeln, in which fellow Islander Barney McGuigan lost his life, but his luck ran out a few days later in the Balberger Wald, a forested ridge southeast of Keppeln. This area protected the approach to the Rhine with concrete fortifications.
The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment moved into the area on March 1 to support other Regiments in an attempt to clear part of the forest on the eastern side, not easy in a thick forest where German snipers could easily hide. In addition to shells and grenades, many open areas were mined. With such dense forest cover, it wasn’t difficult to get separated from the platoon. By the time the area was cleared several days later, 6 members of the North Shore Regiment had lost their lives, including Clifford, who died on March 3, 1945.
The other 5 members of the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment who lost their lives in the Balberger Wald were:
- Patrick Marshall BUCKLEY, of St. John, New Brunswick, died March 2, 1945.
- Claude Wilber DERRICK, of Canterbury, New Brunswick, died March 2, 1945.
- Royden Blake FOURNIER, of Perth, Ontario, died March 2, 1945.
- Wilfred MELANSON, of Bathurst, New Brunswick, died March 2, 1945.
- Harold Freeman STEVENS, died March 1, 1945.
Clifford was initially buried in a cemetery in present day Bedburg-Hau and later reburied at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Jan was correct in saying that “…Their family sacrificed so much…” Clifford and his brother Ferdinand (Ferdy) lost their lives in WW2 while a third brother, Walter, had a career in the military.
Gladys O’Reilly “…is the last of their immediate family….” Walter “…left as a young man as well. He served in Korea and later lived overseas with his family during his military service for a time in Germany. He eventually settled in Kingston and died there 10 years ago at the age of 82….”
We thank Jan and Gladys O’Reilly for sharing family photos and information about John ‘Clifford’ Rogers. If you have information to share about Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, memories to share about John ‘Clifford’ Rogers, or the other soldiers mentioned, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
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© Daria Valkenburg