October 12, 2021. In April 2021, in Part 9 of the Atlantic Canada Remembers series, the story of Alphonse ROBERT of Caraquet, New Brunswick, was briefly told. His service file had very little information on the circumstances of his death and noted that he died on March 30, 1945 in Germany while serving with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and was buried in Germany. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/04/15/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-9/)
Recently we received an email from Maarten Koudijs, who wrote that Alphonse Robert died during an attack on Gendringen, The Netherlands, and was initially buried in Megchelen, The Netherlands, just across the border with Germany. After additional research to verify what Maarten told us, we have more information on what happened on March 30, 1945.
…Was Alphonse Robert buried in The Netherlands or Germany?….
The first question we had was whether Alphonse Robert had been initially buried in Germany, as stated in the service file, or in The Netherlands. Megchelen is a small village on a tiny hook of land surrounded on three sides by the German border. It’s easy to understand how a mistake could have been made in the official records, but was Megchelen the correct location?
We contacted Alice van Bekkum, Chair of the Groesbeek Faces to Graves Committee, and asked if she could check the cemetery record and see where Alphonse Robert had been originally buried.
Alice confirmed it was Megchelen. “…I have a list from CWGC with the coordinates of the temporary burial site where the body was exhumed when it was transferred to Groesbeek. It says Megchelen…” (CWGC refers to Commonwealth War Graves Commission.) The service file record was incorrect.
…How 5 members of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal lost their lives….
How did Alphonse Robert lose his life? Maarten explained that “…during the attack on Gendringen, a number of infantrymen were following a tank. A German shell exploded behind the tank and 5 infantry soldiers were killed.
The soldiers who immediately lost their lives were Roland Alfred Barry, Edmond Coulombe, Jacques Fortin, and Alphonse Robert. They were temporarily buried, next to each other, in a field grave in Megchelen.
Bernard Gaston Pilon was seriously injured and was transferred to Bedburg Military Hospital, where he died and was also temporarily buried there….” Bedburg is in Germany.
All 5 infantrymen from Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal were later reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.
Pieter then looked at the War Diary for Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. On March 29, 1945, the diarist recorded being in the Reichswald Forest. “…Battalion with its F Echelon vehicles crosses the Rhine at night without incident...”
On March 30, 1945, the diarist wrote the location as Germany. “…In the morning troops proceed to positions…Light opposition with intermittent shelling and mortaring...”
On March 31, 1945, the diarist still wrote Germany as the location. “…Battalion sweeps north again against stiffening resistance this time. Mortaring and shelling. The attack was supported by tanks. Gendringen was entered…” Gendringen is in The Netherlands, near Megchelen.
…Two eye-witnesses saw what happened….
In an interview in ‘De Ganzenveer’ (‘The Quill’), Hans Bresser and Rudie Grin, witnesses to the attack, stated that “…At Wieskamp’s house, between Striekwold and Giezen, a Canadian tank was firing. There were also a number of infantrymen. A German shell exploded in between, possibly killing five or more Canadian soldiers. The grenade was…fired from somewhere from the Pol near Ulft. The fallen soldiers were given a field grave in Megchelen on Friesen’s land on the Nieuweweg...” (Account translated from the original Dutch)
…The other members of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal who lost their lives….
- Roland Alfred BARRY, son of Horace and Rose Alma Barry of Montreal, Quebec, died March 30, 1945, aged 20.
- Edmond COULOMBE, son of Ulric and Yvonne Coulombe, of Pine Falls, Manitoba, died March 30, 1945, aged 22.
- Jacques FORTIN, son of Henri and Yvonne Fortin, of Chicoutimi, Quebec, died March 30, 1945, aged 21.
- Bernard Gaston PILON, son of Emile and Emilie Pilon, of Rockland East, Ontario, died March 30, 1945, aged 19.
Thank you to Maarten Koudijs for contacting us with the additional information on Alphonse Robert, and to Alice van Bekkum for verifying that he was previously buried in Megchelen, The Netherlands.
If you have further information to share about Alphonse Robert or the other Canadian soldiers mentioned here, please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
With Remembrance Week coming up, please take a look through your photo albums and in your attics in case you have a photo or information to share about Canadian soldiers.
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