July 13, 2022. Before we travelled to North Bay, Ontario in May for an Author Talk at the North Bay Public Library, Pieter and Don Coutts prepared a letter to the editor for the local newspapers to see if photos could be found for two North Bay soldiers buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.
The two soldiers were: John ‘Jack’ Langford WALKER and Albert Joseph COTE. The letter ran in the North Bay Nugget on April 19, 2022….
…Family of Jack Walker contributes a photo…
While waiting for the letter to be published, Pieter continued his research and found an obituary of Jack Walker’s brother, William Joseph Walker, which referred to several family members living in North Bay. Don Coutts took it from there and was able to get in contact with Sue Love, who said that her brother had a photo.
John ‘Jack’ Langford Walker was born April 3, 1924 in North Bay, Ontario, the son of John Edmund and Angel (nee Gauthier) Walker. Before enlisting on January 6, 1943 in North Bay with the #2 District Depot, he worked for a local plumber, J. M. MacPherson.
On January 28, 1943 he was transferred to #26 Canadian Army Basic Training Centre (CABTC) in Orillia, Ontario, where he stayed until March 31, 1943. From Orillia he was sent to Borden, Ontario to the Canadian Armoured Corps Training Centre (CACTC) for advanced training in tanks.
On May 21, 1943 he was transferred to #1 Canadian Armoured Corps Training Regiment (CACTR) and then on August 13, 1943 he left Borden for #2 Transit Camp in Debert, Nova Scotia in preparation for going overseas.
On September 13, 1943, he left for England, arriving on September 19, 1943, where he was transferred to the Canadian Armoured Corps Reinforcement Unit (CACRU). At the end of November 1943 he was sent for a month long wireless course.
… Jack Walker is sent to northwest Europe…
On January 7, 1944 he was transferred to the 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Governor General’s Foot Guards) and sent for further training, before leaving the United Kingdom for Normandy, France with the Regiment, arriving there on July 22, 1944.
In France, the Regiment was part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division. The Regiment’s first battle was in Falaise in August, and it continued on to fight in northwest Europe, taking part in the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of the Scheldt, and then on to the Rhineland in Germany for the final phase of the war. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governor_General%27s_Foot_Guards#The_Second_World_War)
…The Battle of Bad Zwischenahn took place in the last days of the war…
On April 20, 1945, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division was ordered to advance on Oldenburg, Germany. Jack’s Regiment, along with the Canadian Grenadier Guards and the Lake Superior Regiment, were ordered north to the German spa town of Bad Zwischenahn. During the war, the largest Luftwaffe airbase in northern Germany was in Bad Zwischenahn.
This advance north of the Küsten Canal was difficult. Only a single road went across the Küsten swamps to Bad Zwischenahn, and in places the road disappeared. Tanks got bogged down and constant road maintenance was a priority to keep the road open.
On April 30, 1945, Bad Zwischenahn was surrounded by Allied troops, and the burgomaster (mayor) was offered a choice of ‘unconditional surrender’ or ‘annihilation’. No formal surrender by the German military commander was made, but he did evacuate Bad Zwischenahn, and well into the night, heavy equipment was withdrawn by the Germans on the 4th Armoured Brigade front. (See https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/northwesteurope/badzwischenahn.htm)
…Booby traps in Bad Zwischenahn ended in death…
In ‘Steady the buttons two by two: Governor General’s Foot Guards regimental history, 125th anniversary, 1872-1997’, by Robert M. Foster and Tim Richter, it was noted that although the enemy garrison withdrew from Bad Zwischenahn and the town was taken without a fight, on May 1, 1945 “… booby traps in the vicinity killed Guardsmen V. P. Hanney and J. L. Walker, the Regiment’s last two battle casualties…”
Jack was 20 years old. Vivian Playster HANNEY, age 32, was the son of Jonathon and Mary Hanney, of Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales. Like Jack, he is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.
Ironically, this is the same day that Germany announced the death of Adolph Hitler, who had died on April 30, 1945. This announcement led to the end of the war in Europe a few days later. On May 5, 1945, in Bad Zwischenahn, Lt.-Gen. Guy Simonds received the unconditional surrender of those German forces facing the Corps in northern Germany.
…Jack Walker is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten…
Jack was temporarily buried in Germany before being reburied on March 8, 1946 in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.
Thank you to Don Coutts and Sue Love for arranging for a photo of Jack Walker. Thank you also to Shawn Rainville and Norma Wall for researching the newspaper archives, and to Vincent Lafond of the Military History Research Centre of the Canadian War Museum for help in researching what happened to the Regiment on May 1, 1945. Kudos to the North Bay Nugget newspaper for its extensive coverage of WWII soldiers from the time period and for digitizing the newspapers.
Our North Bay adventures continue in upcoming postings. If you know of any soldiers from the North Bay area that are buried in The Netherlands please let Pieter know. You can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
…Missed the previous postings about our North Bay Memorial Trail visit?…
- Anthony PETTA: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/06/29/on-the-war-memorial-trail-in-north-bay-the-ww2-soldier-who-wajs-appointed-company-sergeant-major/
- Cecil Edward GOODREAU: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/06/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-in-north-bay-remembering-ww2-soldier-cecil-edward-goodreau/
…Want to follow our research?….
Daria’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/
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© Daria Valkenburg