On The War Memorial Trail….. The WWII Soldier From Glenwood Killed During The Battle Of The Delfzijl Pocket

October 22, 2022.  In November 2014, Pieter began helping researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten to find photos of soldiers buried there who were from Prince Edward Island. It wasn’t until a year later that newspaper articles were published with stories related to Pieter’s research, and three years before this blog began.

Back in 2014, Pieter was initially sent a list of 9 names, one of which was Carman Edward GILLCASH, who was born November 6, 1916 in Glenwood.  As Carman’s story has not yet been told on this blog, we thought it was time to do so.

Photo 1 Carman Gillcash in uniform

Carman Edward Gillcash.  (Photo courtesy of Stewart Gillcash)

Stewart Gillcash submitted photos, and explained that he was the son of Carman’s brother Leland.  “…Carman Edward Gillcash, born and raised on a farm in Glenwood, Prince Edward Island in Canada, was the son of Stewart and Mae (nee Boulter) Gillcash. He had two brothers, Elton and Leland. 

Carman went to school in a one room schoolhouse not far from his home, and, as his father died when Carman was a young boy, he later worked with farmers in his community to help out at home. 

Carman and his younger brother Leland joined the army at a young age, when Leland was only 16 or 17 years of age.  Leland returned from the war, but Carman died there…

Carman enlisted with the PEI Highlanders in Charlottetown on July 15, 1940.  In his Occupational History Form, dated April 8, 1941, Carman stated that he had been working as a fisherman for Wilfred Hickey of O’Leary.

Photo 2 Carman Gillcash on right unknown on left

Carman Gillcash, right, with unidentified soldier. (Photo courtesy of Stewart Gillcash)

… Carman was sent to Newfoundland….

NFLD Map shows Botwood

Location of Botwood Military Base in Newfoundland. (Map source: http://postalhistorycorner.blogspot.com/2012/12/wwii-canadian-forces-in-newfoundland.html)

Carman was sent to Halifax with the PEI Highlanders.  In June 1941, he went to Valcartier, Quebec, and then the Regiment went to Newfoundland in July 1941. An RCAF base in Botwood had aircraft patrolling the east coast of the Atlantic. Canadian Army personnel based at Botwood were charged with protection of military facilities that had been installed there, as well as in Gander. (See https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/politics/botwood-base.php)

On June 4, 1942 he was sent to Gander, and then in April 1943 he was posted to Saint John, New Brunswick.  While serving in Newfoundland, Carman was promoted twice, first to Lance Corporal, and then to Corporal.

…..Two other soldiers were in Botwood…..

Carman was in Botwood at the same time as two other soldiers whose stories have been told on this blog:

…Carman was sent overseas….

On June 1, 1943, he was transferred to No 1 Transit Camp in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Just over a week later, along with fellow Islander James ‘Frank’ Mossey, he was on his way to the United Kingdom, arriving there on June 18, 1943, part of the Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (CIRU).

On August 13, 1943, at his own request, Carman was demoted to private.  He then transferred to the Cape Breton Highlanders.  On October 24, 1943 the Regiment went to Italy.

On May 14, 1944 Carman was wounded, but returned to service two weeks later.

On February 19, 1945 he left Italy as part of Operation Goldflake, arriving in Marseilles, France two days later.  Operation Goldflake was the codename for moving troops from Italy to North-West Europe.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Goldflake)

From France, troops were moved up to the Belgian front, into The Netherlands, through the Reichswald Forest in Germany, and then back into The Netherlands.

…The Regiment participated in the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket….

The Cape Breton Highlanders relieved The Essex Regiment in the area of Nijmegen, before going towards Dokkum. On April 21, 1945, the Regiment relieved the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

The next objective was to liberate Delfzijl, which was strategically important to the Germans as it and the surrounding area had batteries with cannons to defend the coastline and the German port of Emden against Allied bombers.

The April 28, 1945 war diary entry for the Cape Breton Highlanders recorded that “…We received word from Brigade this morning that the Perth Regiment did not do so well last night on account of mines. We will likely relieve them tonight so we are to move to another concentration area this afternoon…

The Regiment was on the move quickly in preparation to relieve the Perth Regiment.  “…At 13:50 hours the marching personnel were on the move and half an hour later the vehicles moved. Tactical HQ and B Company were set up in the town of Bierum while the remainder of the Battalion are in the area of Spijk...

The war diary went on to report that “….At 20:00 hours the Observation Post reported very dense smoke coming from the town of Delfzijl, which is our objective. This could be caused by either demolitions by the enemy or our artillery which has been firing on that area.

At 23:55 hours ‘A’ Company moved off to relieve ‘A’ Company of the Perth Regiment. They will likely be the only Company moving tonight…

…Carman lost his life in the wee hours of April 29, 1945….

On April 29, 1945 the war diary reported that “….The first report received from ‘A’ Company was at 01:15 hours when they called for the Medical Officer’s carrier. As the Company was going forward it was met by a large group of P.O.Ws. being escorted back by the Perth Regiment, and as they were passing each other one of the enemy stepped on a mine, killing one of our men and wounding two more…

The fatality in the early morning of April 29, 1945 was Carman.

…Carman was temporarily buried in Wirdum…

Carman was initially buried in 15 Divisional Cemetery in Wirdum, The Netherlands.

Photo 4 Leland brother of Carman Gillcash at the gravesite

Carman’s brother Leland visited his grave.  (Photo courtesy of Stewart Gillcash)

.…Carman was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten….

After the war ended, Carman was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  We visited his grave twice – in 2017 and again in 2019.

CIMG3219 Oct 3 2019 Holten Carmen Gillcash

Pieter (right) at the grave of Carman Gillcash with researchers Edwin van der Wolf (left) and Henk Vincent (centre) in October 2019.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

 …A plaque commemorates Canadian soldiers who died during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket….

In 1995, the Stefanus Church in Holwierde placed a plaque to commemorate Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde, The Netherlands.  (Source: https://www.tracesofwar.nl/sights/40531/Herinneringsplaquette-Stefanus-Kerk.htm)

…We had a chance to meet Stewart Gillcash….

CIMG2610 Sep 8 2018 Pieter with Stewart Gillcash at The Catch

Pieter (left) with Stewart Gillcash.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Thank you to Stewart Gillcash for sharing photos and information on his uncle.  We were able to meet him in September 2018.  (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2018/09/11/on-the-war-memorial-trail-in-prince-county-pei/)

If you know who the unidentified soldier is in the photo, or have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. You can email him at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

….. Other Soldiers Mentioned On The Plaque In The Church In Holwierde….

…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.  Net proceeds of book sales help support research costs and the cost of maintaining this blog. For more information on the book, please 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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