On The War Memorial Trail….. A Photo Found For WW2 Soldier Allan ‘Gordon’ Coutts

May 24, 2022.  In 2017, Pieter received a photo wish list from researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  There were 6 names, all serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders when they lost their lives. 

One of these men, Allan ‘Gordon’ COUTTS, was born January 11, 1923 in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, the son of Benjamin and Susan Coutts.  During his childhood, the family moved to Olds, Alberta, where his father was a firefighter on a government experimental farm. On May 11, 1945, while monitoring the unloading of ammunition at the Sports Field in Norden, Germany, an explosion cost him his life.

In July 2021, after being unsuccessful in finding family, Pieter did a radio interview with a station in Olds, Alberta, and we posted a story about the photo search. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/08/20/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-ww2-soldier-allan-gordon-coutts/)

….A photo is found….

Months later, in December 2021, we received an email from Gordon Kenneth ‘Ken’ Coutts in Saskatchewan, saying “I came across your request for photos or information on family members…” of Gordon Coutts.  “… I was named after him. The last of his siblings, Norman, passed away in November 2021.  All that remain are 3 generations of nieces and nephews….

Photo Sgt Coutts from Ken Coutts

Allan ‘Gordon’ Coutts shortly before enlistment in 1943.  (Photo submitted by Ken Coutts and courtesy of The Coutts Family)

….Letter from Captain A. M. Harper….

Ken shared the only photo he had of his uncle, along with a letter that Captain A. M. HARPER of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders sent to Gordon’s father upon his death.

…It is with the deepest sympathy that I write to you on the loss of your son, Sergeant Allan Gordon Coutts, who died of accidental wounds received at Norden, Germany on 11 May, 1945.  Words could not express my feelings when I received the news as your son was one of the best fellows we had here in ‘C’ Company.

I can recall your son’s record with this unit quite plainly. On the seventh of September he came to us as Private Coutts….”  This would have been September 7, 1944.

…As a private, he played his part in no small way in battles that have great significance – Mount Lambert, Bavlogne, the Scheldt estuary landing – and proved his mettle so well that he received the appointment of Lance Corporal on the twelfth of October during the water and mud operation on the Scheldt.  

On the fifth of November, the now well known 3rd Canadian Infantry Division N.C.O.’s School opened. Lance Corporal Coutts was one of the first ones to be recommended for the course and he did very well and received an excellent report.  As a result of the school’s recommendation, your son was promoted to corporal on the 8th of January 1945.

As a corporal, he did an excellent job in Nijmegen, in the clearing operation up the Rhine and then in the crossing of the Rhine.  I can remember one situation in particular that ensured the young corporal’s promotion to the rank of Sergeant. It was the crossing of the Rhine.  Our task was the taking of the strongpoint of Bienen.

Casualties were extremely heavy during the attack and when we gained the first buildings, Cpl Coutts was the only NCO left with the company commander and myself.  He did an excellent job there in the face of heavy odds and was promoted to Sergeant that day.

In that quiet, efficient way of his, your son carried on throughout the remainder of the campaign until the end of hostilities on May 7/8.  At that time we were assigned the task of rounding up the remnants of the German armed forces, disarming them and concentrating them in specific areas.

Sgt Coutts was supervising the removal of ammunition from one when a freak accident occurred, mortally wounding him.  A court of inquiry was held, but no blame can be attached to anyone because it definitely was a freak accident.

Your son never regained consciousness from the time of his accident until his death several hours later.  All possible treatment was given him by our own medical officers, those at the Field Dressing Station and also those at the Casualty Clearing Station, but even modern medicine could not revive him. He died as he lived – a man well-liked, respected, and trusted by everyone.

Your son was buried in the Canadian plot of the Lutheran Cemetery at Leer, Germany, with full military honours by the H/Capt G. Cox, Protestant chaplain of the Casualty Clearing Station.…..

On behalf of the entire unit, I wish to express our sympathy in your bereavement.  We have lost a tried and true friend, and a good soldier, but our loss is small compared to your loss of a son.

Sincerely yours,

A.M. Harper…

What a wonderful tribute and summary of service for a valued soldier and friend! 

….The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Wish List….

In addition to Allan ‘Gordon’ COUTTS,  the other North Nova Scotia Highlanders on that 2017 photo wish list from the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, for which photos were found, were:

One more photo is yet to be found for:

  • Archibald Henry NELSON, born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, son of William Henry and Winnifred Frances Nelson, who lost his life on April 18, 1945, aged 32.

Thank you to Ken Coutts for sharing a photo of his uncle and the letter from Captain Harper.  Do you have photos or information to share? Email Pieter at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1

…Want to follow our research?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following the blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/ or email me at dariadv@yahoo.ca and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Front cover OnTheWarMememorialTrailinEuropeDaria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats.  For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw

© Daria Valkenburg


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