On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Soldier Alfred Louis Pitawanakwat (Pitwanakwat)

September 6, 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 Joshua Manitowabi, who explained that Alfred Pitawanakwat’s “…brothers were Thomas Pitawanakwat and Valentine Pitawanakwat and all three fought in WW2. Two returned home, but Alfred is buried overseas in Holland. Alfred was my grandfather’s brother. He was my Great-Uncle on my mom’s side. ..

2232439_1 Alfred Pitwanakwat from Cdn Virtual War Memorial

Alfred Louis Pitawanakwat (Pitwanakwat) (Photo source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Alfred Louis PITAWANAKWAT (PITWANAKWAT) was born September 12, 1924 in Little Current, Ontario, son of Samuel and Agatha Pitwanakwat, of Wikwemikong, Ontario. Like Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG, he was from the Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. (For more information on the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiikwemkoong_First_Nation.  A link to an earlier posting on Clarence Wilfred Wakegijig is near the end of this account. )

Alfred enlisted on August 23, 1943 in Toronto, Ontario.  At the time, he had been working for 2 months as a farmer’s helper for George McCluny of Caledonia, Ontario.  His two older brothers were already serving overseas with the Canadian Army.  Thomas was with the #14 Company of the Canadian Forestry Corps, and William ‘Valentine’ was with the #24 Anti-Tank Battery.

In an interview with the Personnel Selection Board, it was noted that he was “…able to express himself clearly….He gives the impression of being shy, but proved a very interesting character, when encouraged to talk about himself...”  The interviewer also remarked that Alfred was good with his hands as he was “…in the habit of carving miniature boats...

Someone in the recruitment office was paying attention as a note on his attestation form was stamped with the warning that he wouldn’t be 19 years old until September 12.  This was a caution as enlistees were not to be sent overseas before the age of 19.

Alfred’s service file also noted that as he was both underage and underweight at the time of enlistment he was sent to the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and took basic and advanced infantry training.

On June 6, 1944 he was sent to the No 1 Transit Camp in Windsor, Ontario for ‘rations and quarters’, in preparation for going overseas with #24 Canadian General Hospital.  By June 26, 1944 he was on board a ship bound for the United Kingdom, arriving in early July 1944.

He was a runner with the hospital, but in September 1944 Alfred requested a transfer to an anti-tank battery or the infantry, explaining that as he was now fit he wanted more active employment.

The transfer request was granted and Alfred joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles as a rifleman.  He was wounded on October 23, 1944 by a gunshot wound during the Battle of the Breskens Pocket in Belgium, but returned to his Regiment after being discharged from hospital on November 15, 1944. (See https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/northwesteurope/breskenspocket.htm)

On November 2, 1944, the Regiment was sent to Ghent, Belgium for a rest period before the Rhineland Campaign began.  From Ghent they moved into The Netherlands, stopping near the Dutch-German border.

The Regimental history, ‘Little Black Devils: a history of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles’, by Bruce Tascona and Eric Wells, describes the movement of the Regiment as it moved from The Netherlands across the border into Germany, beginning on February 8, 1945.  “… After heavy artillery and bombardment, the tanks moved in, followed by infantry. Their assignment was to push south-east from the salient at Nijmegen, clearing a corridor between the Rhine and Maas Rivers…

A salient is a piece of land or section of fortification that juts out to form an angle. Nijmegen is in The Netherlands, not far from the German border.  This area had been cleared by December 1944.  Canadian troops were kept busy here, clearing the ice on the Waal River to protect bridges further downstream, and as you can see in the short video clip (there is no audio), they had time to show a sense of humour in various signs.

The Regimental history account continued as the Regiment moved into Germany, “… approaching the village of Louisendorf in ‘Kangaroos’, armoured personnel carriers converted from Ram tanks. Getting within 50 yards of the enemy, the Rifles charged the remaining distance, and in close combat took 240 prisoners and occupied the village. The next day the Regiment joined the Regina Rifles and the Canadian Scottish in the attack on Moyland Wood….

They advanced into an area “…beset with booby traps, mines, snipers, and machine guns….

Moyland Woods map from Little Black Devils

Map source: ‘Little Black Devils: a history of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles’ by Bruce Tascona and Eric Wells.

An account by Terry Copp in the article ‘Clearing Moyland Wood: Army Part 43’ in the November 2002 issue of Legion Magazine explained that: “…The Royal Winnipeg Rifles left their slit trenches near Louisendorf and moved into position south of Moyland Wood. Brig. E.R. Suttie, who had replaced Brig. Stanley Todd in command of the divisional artillery, prepared an elaborate fire plan involving medium and field artillery plus mortars, anti-tank guns, machine-guns and the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse….

Lt Col Alan Gregory, temporary commander of the Regina Rifles, “….and Lt.-Col. Lockie Fulton, the aggressive young commander of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles or Little Black Devils, devised a plan to clear the eastern end of the wood combining Wasps with tank support and air attacks. …

The plan was successful, but came at a cost. “…The Royal Winnipeg Rifles displayed outstanding skill as well as courage in the day-long battle that cost the battalion more than 100 casualties, 26 of them fatal….”  (See https://legionmagazine.com/en/2002/11/clearing-moyland-wood/0 ) Alfred was one of the fatalities, losing his life on February 21, 1945.

Map

Alfred was initially buried in Bedburg, Germany before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

Grave of Alfred Pitwanakwat

Grave of Alfred Louis Pitwanakat.  (Photo credit: Ad Scheepers)

Thank you to Joshua Manitowabi for contacting us about his great-uncle, and to Ad Scheepers for taking the photo of Alfred’s grave at the cemetery.  If you have information to share about Alfred Louis PITAWANAKWAT (PITWANAKWAT) or other Canadian soldiers, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

 ….Indigenous soldiers featured on this blog….

To read about Indigenous soldiers featured on this blog:

To read the APTN 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/

….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.

Screenshot_2021-02-27 On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg

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© Daria Valkenburg

2 thoughts on “On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Soldier Alfred Louis Pitawanakwat (Pitwanakwat)

  1. Pingback: On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Soldier Thomas Big Canoe | On The War Memorial Trail Research Project…….. with Pieter and Daria Valkenburg

  2. Pingback: On The War Memorial Trail….. Remembering WW2 Soldier Eli Ambrose Snake | On The War Memorial Trail Research Project…….. with Pieter and Daria Valkenburg

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