December 13, 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 Carolyn Henry about her great-uncle Eli SNAKE, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Carolyn explained that “….I saw your article on the APTN Facebook page. Here is a picture of my great-uncle Eli Snake (my dad’s mother’s brother) from Munsee Delaware First Nation. My dad spoke about him often as if he was a hero in our family….”
Eli Ambrose SNAKE was born November 29, 1919 on the Munsee Reserve, the son of Eli and Marjorie (nee Peters) Snake. Munsee-Delaware Nation, also known as Lenni Lenape, is one of several subgroups of Delaware, the Unalachtigo, the Unami, and the Minisink (later known as the Munsee), located in southwest Ontario. (For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munsee-Delaware_Nation)
Prior to joining the Canadian Army, Eli worked as a farm labourer. He enlisted on May 6, 1942 at the No.1 District Depot in Chatham, Ontario, after having earlier completed 60 days of basic training at the #12 Basic Training Centre, also in Chatham. Eli had originally enlisted on November 15, 1941 in London, Ontario, under the National Resources Mobilization Act.
In October 1943, he was described in his Personnel Selection Record as “… quiet and well-built…” and who “…likes the Army… and gets along well with other fellows...”
On November 3, 1943 he was transferred to the No 1 Training Brigade in Debert, Nova Scotia, in preparation for being sent for overseas service the following month. On December 21, 1943 he arrived in the United Kingdom and taken on strength as part of No 3 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (CIRU).
On January 11, 1944 he was transferred to the Lincoln & Welland Regiment. By July 25, 1944 he was with his Regiment in France and then later further into Northwest Europe.
…Operation Elephant was a battle to capture the island of Kapelsche Veer….
By January 1945 the Regiment was in The Netherlands, preparing for Operation Elephant on January 25, 1945. The objective of this battle, also known as the Battle of Kapelsche Veer, was to clear a small island, Kapelsche Veer, north of the Maas River in The Netherlands.
The island was flat, cold, windy, and water-logged during a January winter, and offered no cover against German paratroopers who already held a defensive position between two brick houses (codenamed ‘Grapes’ and ‘Raspberry’) there. Troops were issued white snowsuits and trained in French-built canoes in preparation for an attack to capture the island.
A short Canadian Army newsreel gives an idea of what allied soldiers faced…
…Eli Snake lost his life on January 28, 1945….
The Lincoln and Welland Regiment war diary for January 28, 1945 noted that it was “….clear and cold…”
The struggle to clear the island was continuing from the day before with no respite. Rising temperatures had turned ice into mud. At 23:50 on January 27, the war diary noted that “…one tank was reported bogged down….” blocking the tank behind it.
At 1 am in the morning of January 28, there was “…heavy mortaring of forward company positions from the north bank of the River Maas…” One tank had moved forward, but ran into heavy fire with many casualties.
At noon the war diary noted that “… ‘D’ Company came under heavy mortar fire but continued to advance…” At 12:30 pm Lt Thompson “…took 30 rafts to relieve the situation…. where the enemy was making an effort to split our forces…”
At some point in all this on January 28, 1945, Eli was killed in action. He was initially buried in ‘s’Hertogenbosch before his reburial in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Thank you to Carolyn Henry for contacting us about Eli Snake, and to Ad Scheepers for taking the photo of Eli’s grave at the cemetery. If you have information to share about Eli SNAKE or other Canadian soldiers, please contact Pieter at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
… More about Operation Elephant…
To learn more about Operation Elephant, see:
….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/
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