December 24, 2021. Occasionally, a posting on this blog leads to information that adds to the original story, giving a ripple effect. This spring a story about a soldier from New Brunswick, Alphonse ROBERT of Caraquet, New Brunswick, led a volunteer researcher in a small Dutch village along the German border to contact us with eyewitness accounts of how Robert and 4 other members of his Regiment lost their lives when a shell exploded.
The soldiers were identified, and one of them was Edmond COULOMBE, listed as being from Pine Falls, Manitoba. I’m from Manitoba and Pine Falls was very familiar to both Pieter and me, as it was near where my parents had lived.
“…We have to find a photo of this soldier…” we both decided, and that led us on a photo quest that soon proved that ‘Friendly Manitoba’ on the province’s licence plates was not just a slogan.
The first ‘surprise’ was when Pieter’s research found that Edmond was born on February 15, 1923, the son of Ulric and Yvonne Coulombe in Fannystelle, Manitoba, NOT in Pine Falls. To Pieter’s amusement, I had a childhood memory of Fannystelle, a small community not far from Winnipeg. My father travelled a lot in his business, and sometimes he had to work on weeknights and weekends. Quite often all of us would be loaded in the car and travel with him. I was in Fannystelle many times as a child.
Edmond’s father was from Quebec, his mother from Manitoba. By 1943, Edmond was working at the paper mill in Pine Falls, and the family was living in nearby St.-Georges. When he enlisted on May 7, 1943, his service file noted that he spoke both French and English.
On January 3, 1945 Edmond was sent overseas to the United Kingdom as part of the Oxford Rifles. By March 3, 1945 he was in Northwest Europe and transferred to Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. He lost his life a few weeks later, at the age of 22.
…The Winnipeg Free Press publicizes the quest for a photo….
While Pieter could find information on Edmond’s military service, he had little luck finding family members or a photo. So we asked Winnipeg Free Press reporter Kevin Rollason for help.
On November 6, 2021, Kevin’s interview with Pieter ran in the Winnipeg Free Press: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/hunting-for-photo-to-honour-manitoban-575687592.html (If you can’t access the article, let me know and I’ll send a PDF.)
As soon as people began reading the newspaper, replies came in. Diane Dube of the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum in St.-Georges wrote: “…Good Morning. I am reading the Winnipeg Free Press and have just now come across the article that you are looking for photos of Coulombe. I will be looking in the archives this afternoon as I think I may have a photo of him visiting his family in Pine Falls during the war. These photos were donated to the museum last year…”
By the afternoon, Diane had sent us 4 photos. “…We are very thankful for all of the work you have put into this project recognizing our fallen soldiers and very pleased that we had some photos to share….”
Kevin Rollason lost no time in interviewing Diane for a follow-up article, which ran on November 11, 2021, with the 4 photos: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/photo-found-to-honour-manitoba-war-casualty-575714042.html (If you can’t access the article, let me know and I’ll send a PDF.)
… Family of Edmond Coulombe contact us….
Family of Edmond also contacted us. Niece Lauri Romaniuk explained that “… My Dad Lionel was one of the youngest of the 12 children of Ulric and Yvonne Coulombe and he was a child when Ed was killed in the war. None of the siblings are alive now….”
Lauri shared a photo that she received from her mother of “…. the siblings in the early 1950s. Edmond’s picture is on the wall behind the group. There was another brother missing that died as a child. Mrs. Coulombe is in this picture but Mr. C already passed at this point. My Dad is the youngest male – on the far right. He passed in 1992 at age 57…” Edmond’s father died in 1946. It was wonderful to see that Edmond himself had not been forgotten.
Another niece, Linda Cyr, wrote “…I’m beyond grateful for the work you both are doing to honour our Canadian soldiers especially my uncle Edmond Coulombe. Edmond was my Mother’s brother…”
In addition to family of Edmond Coulombe, and the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum, we heard from interested readers, many offering help regarding the search for a photo and several sharing photos and stories of family members buried in The Netherlands.
Vic Mollot wrote that he was researching the history of Fannystelle, which “…was founded in 1889 by a French Countess by the name of ‘La Comtesse d’Albufera’ who was a Parisian philanthropist.
There were 3 waves of settlers who came to settle in Fannystelle, the 1st from France in 1892, the 2nd from Quebec in 1895 and the third from the British Isles and central Europe. The Coulombes were part of the second wave from Quebec…”
Leah Boulet and Marcel Pitre let us know that Marcel’s 94 year old father Marcel put together a book of soldiers from the Pine Falls area, and sent the page about Edmond. “…When the Royal Canadian Legion put together the books about the soldiers a number of years back, Dad did a lot of legwork gathering info and submitting it for their book. He also put together his own version for this area…”
…How 5 members of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal lost their lives….
How did Edmond Coulombe lose his life? Dutch researcher Maarten Koudijs, who initially wrote about Alphonse Robert, explained that 5 members of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal died during an attack on Gendringen, The Netherlands on March 30, 1945. Four of them, including Edmond Coulombe, were initially buried in Megchelen, The Netherlands, just across the border with Germany.
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, The Netherlands.
… We were overwhelmed and delighted at the response….
We are grateful to Kevin Rollason and the Winnipeg Free Press for publicizing the appeal for a photo of WW2 soldier Edmond Coulombe.
Diane Dube of the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum in St.-Georges went above and beyond to look in the archives on a Saturday afternoon, find photos, and forward them. We are often successful with media appeals for photos, but Diane’s quick response was done with ‘supersonic speed’. We are heartened by the interest and care she took, a true act of research kindness.
We thank family members Linda Cyr and Lauri Romaniuk for sharing photos, and Maarten Koudijs for providing the additional information on the 5 soldiers from Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.
We also thank the many Winnipeg Free Press readers who submitted photos and stories of relatives buried in The Netherlands. Pieter has his research projects for the winter months lined up and we look forward to sharing those stories.
If you have photos and information to share about Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
… Alphonse Robert’s Story….
To read the postings about Alphonse Robert, see:
…Want to follow our research?….
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© Daria Valkenburg