November 10, 2021. Recently our friend Annie Lee MacDonald sent an email to say that she and her husband had been sent a story by their friend Jim, “…about his Father and brothers. We didn’t know any of this. Shows the important contribution you two are making of taking the past and sharing it with the present…” (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/10/20/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww2-pilot-from-pei-who-flew-40-missions-overseas-and-returned-home/)
We loved her phrase of ‘taking the past and sharing it with the present’ as that is what we are doing in telling these stories. Many of the postings and articles have had a ripple effect, leading to more remembrances, information, and stories. This posting shares some of these ….
In May 2021, a 4 part series entitled ‘A Tragic Drowning On The Leda River in Germany’ told the story of five Canadian soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who drowned in a tragic accident in the Battle of Leer in Germany on April 28, 1945, one of the final actions to end WW2 in Europe. All 5 men are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.
…A series of coincidences ensures this niece will never forget…..
Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau of Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, was one of these men. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-3/)
His nieces have never forgotten him. Jacqueline Comeau shared how she found her uncle’s gravesite at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in 1990 while on a school band trip with her son.
“….In 1990 I visited The Netherlands with my older son on a high school band trip. To say we had a marvelous time and were so warmly greeted everywhere we went is an understatement. Thankfully we were taken to the Holten War Cemetery and, purely by accident, while walking the grounds, I spotted my uncle’s grave. To that moment, my mother’s family believed he was buried in Germany, perhaps because he died on German land.
This was a momentous event for myself as we were at the cemetery on the 45th anniversary of his death, I was 45 years old and I then discovered that he had a memorial service in his home village on the day I was born (June 3, 1945) …”
Ambroise had indeed initially been buried in Germany, and then was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten afterwards. Jacqueline shared her story in a French language newspaper, Le Courrier….
“…The discovery of my uncle’s grave in 1990, with the coincidences of dates, such as the date of his death is the date I discovered his grave; a memorial service was held in his honor in his home parish of Saulnierville on the day I was born, June 3, 1945 is unique…”
…A telegram one niece will never forget…..
Lewis Wilkieson MARSH, of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, was another casualty of the drowning in the Leda River. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-4/)
Burnie Reynaert wrote to say that “…My Uncle Lewis Wilkieson Marsh died on April 28, 1945. I was with my Nana when she received the first telegram that he was believed drowned. I remember I was standing on the last step near front door when this boy gave her the telegram….”
Burnie shared the telegram she was witness to. One can just feel the horror and fear that her grandmother must have felt upon receiving it.
Worse news was to come, as a second telegram confirmed that Lewis had lost his life.
Burnie went on to say “…Thank you so much for your research, I never thought I would see his name and the others that died with him. I want to thank you both. I am so emotional with love and gratitude for all you have done. I am finally feeling some closure.
My uncle was born November 14, 1925 in Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He had 8 siblings and his father died in 1934. Nana raised them, and had me to raise.
Uncle Lewis worked in Princess Collieries in Sydney Mines for thirteen months. He would be seventeen. I recall Nana and my mom arguing with Lewis that he was not old enough to join. Maybe she had to sign papers? He enlisted on May 26 1944, embarked from Halifax on December 1944, and embarked from UK on December 25 1944….”
…A niece now knows what happened to her uncle …..
As part of the Atlantic Canada Remembers series of postings, we did a story in March 2021 on Charles ‘Charlie’ Borden TUPLIN of Indian River, Prince Edward Island, who lost his life on December 7, 1944 while serving with the Black Watch. While crossing a bridge on the Maas River in The Netherlands, Charlie was shot while trying to retrieve the body of Lt Thomas Wilson MacKenzie. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/03/29/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww2-soldier-from-indian-river/)
Charlie was wounded and taken by the Germans, but died very shortly afterwards. He’s buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. Months after the story about Tuplin was posted on our blog, Lt MacKenzie’s niece, Judy Hopkins, got in contact to say that until she read the story that arose out of Pieter’s research, no one in the family knew how Lt MacKenzie had died. This is probably right as MacKenzie’s service file had multiple letters from his parents asking for this information.
Judy wrote that “… I am responding to your article of March 29, 2021, about Charles B. Tuplin. My uncle was Lieutenant Thomas Wilson MacKenzie of No. 1 Black Watch of Canada RHR, mentioned in the article. And what astonishment to see and read this account of the raid on the front line that took both these men’s lives.
I have just recently been researching this event, as I am writing a life story for the ‘Faces to Graves’ project involving the soldiers buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. So, it was with intense interest that I read this article.
My uncle was ‘Missing in Action’ for several months, causing great concern to his family in Calgary, Alberta. When the regiment moved forward in February, no graves were located for Tuplin or MacKenzie, leaving them to believe that they may have been taken POW.
It was never explained to my grandmother where her son’s remains were found….just that after some months, a body had been identified as his.
In the article, it stated: ‘MacKenzie’s body was later found buried in a temporary cemetery, near where he lost his life.’ And so these two men were together at the end of their lives; Tuplin was taken prisoner, and my uncle likely died at the site of his injury.
After all these years, it is still incredible that new information is learned, and also that people such as yourself are providing a space to honor these men’s memories. Thank you for this. ..”
“…He was the much beloved son of Christine MacKenzie, a widow, and brother to my mother, Margaret. In his letters home, which I still have, he writes about the great bunch of men under his command, and speaks highly of all of them…”
…A street in The Netherlands may be named for one soldier …..
In a January 2021 posting in the Atlantic Canada Remembers series, we wrote a story about Percy Dexter HIGGINS of Stellarton, Nova Scotia, who was serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders when he lost his life during the Battle of Warnsveld on April 4, 1945. He’s buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-3/)
Shortly afterwards, we received an email from Harm Kuijper in The Netherlands, who explained that there was “…a proposed plan to name a street for Lt Percy Dexter Higgins in the city of Zutphen, Netherlands in the new Looer Enk Subdivision….” The Higgins family was notified of this proposal and we look forward to hearing more on the street naming as plans progress.
…Two WW1 soldiers from Prince Edward Island are buried in France …..
In 2017, we visited the Manitoba Cemetery in Caix, France, to place flags by the grave of WW1 soldier James CAIRNS of Kinkora, Prince Edward Island, who lost his life on August 9, 1918 during the Battle of Amiens. James had moved to Manitoba and was serving with what is now the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/the-search-for-manitoba-cemetery/)
We weren’t surprised to see soldiers from the Prairie Provinces in the cemetery, but when we signed the Guest Register Book, we were astonished to find that the previous visitors had come to honour their great-uncle and great-great uncle Theodore (Ted) ARSENAULT from Abrams Village, Prince Edward Island.
Although this posting dates back to 2017, it wasn’t until a few days ago that Colleen Arsenault wrote us. “…Hi there, in doing a bit of internet research on my Great Great Uncle Ted (Theodore Arsenault) to prepare my kids for Canadian Remembrance Day here in Toronto, I came across this post. I instantly recognized my mother Debi and sister Melanie’s handwriting above your entry in the guest book at Manitoba Cemetery. It is so lovely for our family to know that you had put an additional decoration up for our Uncle Ted. Sometimes the internet can truly be a wonderful place! The Arsenault family thanks you….”
A mystery was solved! The Arsenault family sent us a picture of Theodore. Unfortunately, up to now, no photo has ever been found for James Cairns.
Thank you to Colleen Arsenault, Jacqueline Comeau, Judy Hopkins, Harm Kuijper, and Burnie Reynaert for sharing photos and anecdotes. We very much appreciate hearing from readers and having them share their stories.
If you have photos and information to share about Canadian soldiers, please contact Pieter at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
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