March 23, 2023. On a list of 39 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who were killed during Hthe Battle of Bienen in Germany on March 25, 1945 and are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands, photos were missing for 12 names. By the end of October 2022, Pieter had managed to find photos or family for 8 of them.
Then, after Pieter was interviewed by Ceilidh Millar of CTV Atlantic News At 5 on Monday, November 7, 2022, about the search for the other 4 soldiers, a viewer contacted him about Louis Allan SEXTON. (To read the article and watch the video see: P.E.I. man identifying Canadian soldiers in The Netherlands | CTV News https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/maritime-man-appealing-to-public-for-help-identifying-lost-canadian-soldiers-1.6143236)
…. An interview quickly resulted in a photo ….
Shortly after the broadcast, we were contacted by Irene Doyle of Campbelltown, New Brunswick, saying she saw “…the story about your search on CTV and I have found a photo of Louis A. Sexton… How very nice of you to undertake this project. Thank you for what you are doing. Lest We Forget…” She then sent us a photo of Louis Sexton, which came from the Bay Chaleur Military Museum website.
Then we heard from Leo Allen in Baie des Chaleurs, advising he’d contacted a nephew of the soldier. We also heard from many viewers, several of whom had found the same photo, or advised they had notified family members. It was heartening to hear from so many people about one soldier.
After that, Judy Sexton wrote, saying “…I am Louis Sexton’s niece. My brother and my cousin have been given his name. We have been loving and honouring his memory since he died… We would be honoured and proud to share any information about his life and family…” And they did. Judy also included an excerpt on her uncle from a history booklet prepared for a 1997 Sexton Reunion.
Born January 21, 1923 in Maria East, Quebec, Louis Allan SEXTON was the son of James E. Sexton and Ethel Foran. After completing Grade 6, he left school to work.
In a section of the Sexton History, contributed by Velson and Darlene Sexton, it was noted that Louis “…was a hard worker, even at a young age. For a couple of summers, he worked in Maria for 50 cents a day…A little later, he went to live in Nouvelle with his Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Jack Gough. He worked in the woods and in the mill in Nouvelle….”
…. Louis enlisted in the fall of 1943 ….
Like many young men, Louis “…moved around and found work in the Maritimes…” While working as a carpenter with Silvers Agencies in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, he was called up for service under the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA). (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Resources_Mobilization_Act)
Louis registered at the No. 6 NRMA Clearing Depot in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 14, 1943, but was “…dismissed for a month due to medical reasons….” according to his service file. He returned on November 15, 1943 and assigned to No. 6 District Depot in Halifax.
In an interview for his Personnel Selection Record, it was noted that Louis “…plays hockey. Likes cards and pool. Reads quite a lot – mostly stories and light reading…” Louis made a positive impression, described as “…alert, frank and cooperative, with a pleasant manner…” It was also recorded that he spoke both English and French.
On December 10, 1943, he was transferred to No. 60 Canadian Infantry Basic Training Centre (CI (B) TC) in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
After successfully completing basic training, on February 12, 1944, he was sent to A14 Canadian Infantry Training Centre (CITC) in Aldershot, Nova Scotia for ordnance training.
…. Louis was sent overseas ….
On April 13, 1944, Louis was granted a week’s leave prior to being sent overseas. The Sexton History recorded that he went home for that week, visiting family for what would be the last time. “…After the week was over, he left home, alone, with one small blue suitcase, and many memories…”
Louis didn’t have much time for reflection, as he left Canada on May 1, 1944. Upon arrival in the United Kingdom on May 7, 1944 he was assigned to No. 4 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (CIRU).
On June 15, 1944, he was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. On July 18, 1944 he joined them in Les Buissons, France as part of a reinforcement group.
He was with the Regiment through Northwest Europe: for the Battle of the Scheldt (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Scheldt), and Operation Blockbuster (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster), receiving promotions to Lance Corporal in the fall of 1944, and then Corporal on January 14, 1945.
…Louis lost his life in the Battle of Bienen ….
By March 20, 1945, Allied troops were on the banks of the Rhine River for Operation Plunder, a military operation to cross the Rhine on the night of March 23, 1945. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plunder) They got as far as Bienen, when troop movement stopped due to blown bridges across the Rhine in that area.
On March 25, 1945, the Regiment’s task was to pass through the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who had been stopped in front of Bienen. It was Palm Sunday, one week before Easter.
The problem with Bienen was that the road through it was the only access point. In ‘No Retreating Footsteps’ author Will Bird explained that it was “… an isthmus of solid land about half a mile wide with one road, the main Rees-Emmerich highway, which passed through Bienen exactly at the narrowest point…”
There was a dyke which led to the left side of the village. However, “…inside the dyke there was a series of farms from 400 to 800 yards apart, and between these farms and the highway there was no cover of any sort…” For this reason, capturing Bienen was vital, the task now assigned to the North Novies.
Two attempts were made that day to capture Bienen, Phase I in the morning, and, following heavy losses, Phase II began in the afternoon and ultimately cleared the village.
In the article ‘Too Close To The Guns!’ in Canadian Military History, Volume 12, Numbers 1& 2, Winter/Spring 2003, pp.5-28, author Lee Windsor recorded the reason that the first attack stalled. “….What made the situation so difficult was the proximity of Argyll Farm to Bienen. The main German positions were close enough to pour accurate fire into the farm complex as well as anyone venturing north…”
Hard lessons had been learned, and there was hope due to being able to secure what was known as Argyll Farm into a base for further action. “….Unlike the first attack, the new North Nova assault was planned in detail taking into consideration valuable intelligence paid for that morning with ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies’ blood….”
The plan was to “…take advantage of …secure left and the winter dyke by moving Major Dave Dickson’s ‘D’ Company to the west edge of town by slipping it up the left side of the dyke in the minutes before H-Hour….” H-hour was set for 1430 hours. One account noted that the dyke was just over 3 metres (10 feet) high.
“… Major Lloyd Winhold’s ‘C’ Company would form up behind Argyll Farm….” Louis was in ‘C’ Company, which had a more exposed route to Bienen, going across 457 metres (500 yards) of open ground to reach the first houses at the edge of the village. The Company reached Bienen but had 33 casualties within 15 minutes.
The one day battle was devastating in terms of casualties, both dead and wounded, including Louis Sexton. In ‘No Retreating Footsteps’ author Will Bird recorded the heroic actions of Louis: “…Cpl Sexton exposed himself time after time in encouraging his men until at last he was shot down…”
Among the documents in the Sexton History was a June 25, 1945 letter to the parents of Louis, from Honorary Major Donald A. Kerr, Senior Chaplain (R.C.) in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, who wrote that he knew Louis as he “…was the Priest in charge of his brigade for over four years…I can truthfully say he was a very fine soldier – well liked and highly thought of by his officers and men…”
He went on to explain that Louis “…was killed on a Sunday afternoon – the Feast of the Annunciation – while crossing a dyke and an open field to attack the vital town of Bunner in Germany, the day after we crossed the Rhine…” Bunner is incorrect, as the town was Bienen.
…Louis is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek ….
In his letter to the parents of Louis, Father Kerr explained that he presided over the service of 15 soldiers, including Louis. “…I buried him the next Monday afternoon, in a small temporary Canadian cemetery – not very far from the spot where he died – to the lee of this same dyke I already mentioned….”
Like Clifford BATEMAN, John Joseph BOHON, Ralph Schurman BOULTER, and Charles ‘Marshall’ CARSON, and Kitchener ‘Kitty’ LANGILLE, Louis was temporarily buried on Monday, March 26, 1945 in the military cemetery in Rees, Germany before being reburied the following year in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
…Louis had written a letter the day before he died ….
Another document in the Sexton History was a March 24, 1945 letter written by Louis to his mother. “…I am well and doing OK. I had quite a disappointment yesterday. I was …ready to go on my seven days leave and at the last minute it was cancelled on account I was a Corporal and doing a Sergeant’s job these last few weeks so I couldn’t go. I guess there must be something big coming up….” If only Louis had been able to go on his leave!
Thank you to Irene Doyle for submitting a photo from the Bay Chaleur Military Museum. Many thanks to Judy Sexton for sending a photo and information about Louis Sexton, to Leo Allen for notifying a family member, and to all who got in contact. Thank you to Ceilidh Millar and Jayson Baxter of CTV Atlantic Live At 5 for featuring the photo search request.
Pieter has been successfully finding family members of other North Novies killed in this battle. Coming up in Part 8: Marven Glenroy HARVEY.
If you have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. Email him at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.
….Previous stories about North Novies killed during the Battle of Bienen and buried in Groesbeek….
- Clifford BATEMAN: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-4-the-wwii-soldier-from-a-small-fishing-village-in-newfoundland-who-lost-his-life-in-germany/
- John Joseph BOHON: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-5-the-wwii-soldier-whose-parents-immigrated-to-save-their-family-from-war/
- Ralph Schurman BOULTER: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/07/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-2-the-wwii-battle-drill-instructor-from-oleary/
- Charles ‘Marshall’ CARSON: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/12/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-3-the-wwii-soldier-from-cape-tormentine-who-lost-his-life-in-germany/
- Harry William DOUCETTE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/02/09/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-6/
- Kitchener ‘Kitty’ LANGILLE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/21/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-6-the-wwii-soldier-from-new-glasgow-nicknamed-kitty/
- Austin Havelock MUNROE, plus a list of the 39 soldiers: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2022/11/29/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-austin-havelock-munroe-is-on-youtube/
- Edison Alexander SMITH: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2023/03/04/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-battle-of-bienen-part-1-the-wwii-soldier-whose-body-shielded-a-wounded-major/
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Daria’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 see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/
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© Daria Valkenburg
10 thoughts on “On The War Memorial Trail….. The Battle of Bienen – Part 7: The WWII Soldier From Quebec Who Has Never Been Forgotten By His Family”
Look forward to your memorials and so grateful for all you are both accomplishing. So many are grateful. Burnie ❤️🙏
On Thu, Mar 23, 2023 at 5:05 PM On The War Memorial Trail Research
Thank you for your kind words, Burnie. We are glad to hear that you look forward to the postings. More compelling stories coming up over the next months. Yours in remembrance….Daria and Pieter
Pieter and Daria ; Your work is exceptional and an awesome history for not only the families of the war veterans but for us all so that we will never forget the great sacrifices made by our veterans and their families so that we could be free!! Freedom unfortunately came at a high price as many of our veterans gave the supreme sacrifice with their lives or suffered through battle wounds and or mental anguish which unfortunately followed them through their lives. There is no doubt in my mind that these veterans that laid their lives on the line,were heroes of the highest dimension and we as Canadians need their stories told so that we all truly understand the value of our freedom and what has been done and will be required to protect and ensure our freedom as a people for future generations. Lest we forget!!!
Thank you for your heartfelt comments, Bloyce. You are right that it is so important not to forget the sacrifices made by veterans and their families for our continued freedom. We will continue researching and writing stories about the Canadians who served…..Daria and Pieter
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