November 28, 2021. In Part 11, two stories from the many photos submitted about Atlantic Canadian soldiers buried overseas are featured. Pieter continues to ensure that photos of soldiers buried in The Netherlands are forwarded to the appropriate cemetery for their digital archives.
Soldier buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands
After seeing a November 9, 2021 interview on CTV Atlantic Live at 5, Sherry Muise wrote us about her uncle, Gerald Burnell COOLEN, born June 19, 1923 in Western Head, Nova Scotia, the son of Eben Burnell Coolen and Dorothy Belle (nee Guest) Coolen. “…I recently saw your interview on CTV News Atlantic and wanted to share this information with you.
Private Gerald Coolen was my mother’s (June) brother. In June of 2010, we learned that his service medals had somehow become for sale on Ebay. The Legion in Berwick was able to secretly buy them back and a repatriation of the medals ceremony was held in Berwick. Private Coolen’s sister Eleanor and 3 nieces and a nephew were able to attend. The medals remain on display at the Legion Branch in Berwick….” (To watch the CTV interview, see: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2318376&jwsource=em)
On July 16, 1940, Gerald enlisted with the West Nova Scotia Regiment in Aldershot, Nova Scotia, giving a false birthdate of June 16, 1921 as he was underage. He was discharged on May 5, 1941 at the request of his parents. On September 15, 1941 he married Gladys Mary Rafuse in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
Once he was of age, Gerald re-enlisted on January 31, 1942, this time at the No 6 District Depot in Halifax. An interviewer described him as “…young and strong…” with an “…open and pleasant manner…”
After training in Yarmouth and Aldershot in Nova Scotia, Gerald was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and sent overseas to the United Kingdom. He arrived on June 12, 1942 and was attached to the Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (CIRU).
….Gerald Coolen is transferred to the Black Watch….
On December 16, 1944 he was sent to northwest Europe, and then on December 30, 1944 he was transferred to the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.
On February 25, 1945 2nd Canadian Division troops began taking their positions in the muddy fields south-west of Calcar, Germany. The goal? Clear the Rhine River in Xanten, Germany in an operation codenamed Operation Blockbuster. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster)
Five infantry battalions participated as part of the 2nd Canadian Division: Le Régiment de Maisonneuve, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, The South Saskatchewan Regiment, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.
On February 26, 1945, Gerald’s regiment advanced towards the Hochwald Gap, the scene of what became a fierce battle. (See https://civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup.com/10742/the-battle-of-hochwald-gap-one-of-the-largest-armor-engagements-you-probably-have-never-heard-of)
The Black Watch war diary entry for February 27, 1945 noted that “…Weather – cloudy and cold, clear in afternoon…..” The Regiment was over an hour late in moving out and then “…moved at a rate of 3 mph owing to the congestion of vehicles on roads due to the awful conditions – the roads being badly cratered in many places. … Enemy fire killed two men from A Company…”
These are the only two deaths recorded on February 27, 1945 in the Black Watch diary, the day that the service records for Gerald indicate that he was killed in action.
Gerald was initially buried in Bedburg Military Cemetery in Germany, before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands in 1946.
Sherry went on to note that “…Pte Coolen’s widower never remarried and they did not have children. The last few years of Aunt Gladys’s life she resided in a private care home. Thank you for all of your efforts in this research project….”
….The Battle of Hochwald Gap was fierce and under wet and muddy conditions….
This is the same event in which Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG, who served with the Canadian Grenadier Guards, lost his life a few days later. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/08/09/on-the-war-memorial-trail-remembering-ww2-soldier-clarence-wilfred-wakegijig/)
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.
Soldier buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands
Don Hulsman submitted a newspaper photo found in the archives in Fredericton, New Brunswick of Samuel Glazier PORTER, born December 7, 1918 in Dow Flat, Victoria County, New Brunswick, son of George and Amy Porter.
He enlisted in August 1942 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and underwent basic training, followed by advanced training in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then spent time in St. John, New Brunswick. In September 1944 he was transferred to the PEI Highlanders and had additional training in Vernon, British Columbia before going overseas to the United Kingdom in January 1945.
Once in the United Kingdom, he was transferred to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR). On March 28, 1945 he was sent to north-west Europe as part of the troop reinforcements, and transferred to the Carleton & York Regiment on April 2, 1945.
Unfortunately, on April 15, 1945, while with the Carleton & York Regiment, he lost his life as the unit advanced to the Apeldoorn Canal in The Netherlands. He was one of 6 soldiers initially buried along the main road to Posterenk, a village near Zutphen. Samuel was later reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.
…The Posterenk Memorial…
In September 2017, Pieter and I visited the village of Posterenk with Edwin van der Wolf, one of the research volunteers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.
The village prepared a list of 6 soldiers to commemorate from the Carleton & York Regiment. Unfortunately, not all soldiers who died are included.
As well, a memorial stone is inscribed in the village windmill:
To read about two more soldiers who lost their lives in the area of Posterenk, see:
- Frederick Joseph TAIT at https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/03/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-8/
- Goldwin Marven POLLICK at https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-1/
Thank you to Don Hulsman, Sherry Muise, and Gerry Smith and for sharing photos and anecdotes to ensure that Atlantic Canadians who are buried overseas are not forgotten.
If you can help with a better photo of Samuel Porter, or have photos or information to share about other Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please email Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
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4 thoughts on “On The War Memorial Trail….. Atlantic Canada Remembers – Part 11”
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