The WW1 Names On The Cenotaph Have Stories Of Their Own

February 8, 2020. Recently, Pieter and a friend went to see the British WW1 movie ‘1917’, which is nominated for several Oscars and has a Canadian connection due to a map used in the film.  (For that story see  The story takes place in France on April 6, 1917, and is about two men tasked with delivering a message to another unit to warn of a German ambush.  The men go through several towns and villages in France’s Western Front.  Canadians may remember this period as being the lead up to the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.

Pieter found the movie of great interest for several reasons. It was a depiction of the horrors of war… without being overly gory.  After being through the trenches and tunnels in Vimy Ridge a few years ago, he was intrigued to see the way soldiers sat on either side of a trench while waiting to go up into battle.   But the main reason he liked the movie is that it told the story of two people.

Contrary to what we learn in history books and classes, in the end all history is the cumulative stories of individuals.  A list of names on a cenotaph, such as the one outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, is meaningless without knowing who those people were and what happened to them.  This is what started Pieter on the journey to uncover the stories behind the names on the Cenotaph.

Over the years, the stories of those from WW1 have been told in this blog.  24 are listed on the Cenotaph and half of them died in France…. Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT and John Lymon ‘Ly’ WOOD are listed on the Vimy Memorial as their bodies were never identified.    Also killed in France were Kenneth John Martin BELL, James CAIRNS, James Ambrose CAIRNS, Arthur Leigh COLLETT, Bazil CORMIER, Patrick Phillip DEEGAN (DEIGHAN), Joseph Arthur DESROCHES, Percy Earl FARROW (FARRAR), Ellis Moyse HOOPER, and Charles W. LOWTHER.  We were at the Vimy Memorial and visited each grave.

Five men died in Belgium. Two are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, as their bodies were never identified: Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL.  We visited Menin Gate and the area where they died.  We also visited the graves of James Lymon CAMERON, Vincent Earl CARR, and Arthur Clinton ROBINSON.

Vincent Carr, who died during the Battle of Passchendaele on October 30, 1918, was initially buried in a trench with 4 others – two Canadian and two British soldiers.  Decades later, when they were reburied in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, all three Canadians were still identifiable.  The British Army’s cardboard identity ‘tags’ had disintegrated, leaving the two British soldiers as unidentified.  Today, DNA testing can be done to help with identity, but decades ago this was impossible.

Two men died in England.  John Goodwill HOWATT was wounded in France, and died in a British hospital.  Bruce Sutherland McKAY had gotten ill during the transport from Canada to England and also died in a British hospital.

Henry Warburton STEWART survived the war, only to fall ill while in Germany as part of the occupation forces.  He’s buried in a German cemetery in Cologne, which we visited.

James Graham FARROW (FARRAR) was not a soldier, but in the Merchant Navy, transporting vital supplies between England and France, when his ship was torpedoed by a U-boat.

Three men died on Canadian soil.  Leigh Hunt CAMERON died of illness, while Harry ROBINSON died from blood poisoning.  William Galen CAMPBELL was poisoned with mustard gas on May 28, 1918, a few months before the end of the war, but was able to return home.  And yes, we’ve visited those graves as well.

We were also able to tell you parallel stories, such as that of Clifford Almon WELLS, who had many of the same experiences as John Lymon Wood, and also died in France. Another story was that of George BRUCKER, of the German Army, who was taken prisoner during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and survived the war, never forgetting the two ‘tall’ Canadians who didn’t shoot him.  Decades later his son, now in his 80s, is still hoping to thank the families of those two unknown men.

Thanks to Pieter’s curiosity in trying to find out why one Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone in a cemetery in Cape Traverse was not recorded on the Cenotaph, we were able to tell you the story of Elmyr KRUGER, a soldier from Saskatchewan who died of illness while guarding German prisoners of war from a POW camp in Amherst.

We’ve told the stories of each man, and shared our visits to the various cemeteries and war memorials.  As photos and letters came in, we shared those experiences as well.

We are still missing photos of several of these soldiers, so the quest to put a face to every name and story is still ongoing.  Who are we missing?  Take a look and see if you can help:











It’s great to watch a movie about fictional characters, but let’s not forget the stories of real life people! There won’t be any Academy Awards given out, but they will be remembered. Research continues to uncover more stories.  If you have a story or photo to share about any of the names mentioned in this posting, please contact Pieter at or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

Christmas At The Front During WW1

December 13, 2018.  Researching names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion at this time of year gets one to think about what it might have been like for the soldiers, especially during WW1.  They were far from home, by this time they would have lost friends and fellow soldiers, and might be wondering if they themselves would survive another hour, let alone another day.  So when we receive some postcards or letters that tell us what they may be experiencing at holiday time, it’s very special.

A few years ago, we received a photo of George Albert CAMPBELL from his nephew, Gerald Tingley, putting a face to that name.  (Campbell’s story was told in a posting last year – see Two Campbell Brothers in WW1)

George Albert Campbell from Gerald Tingley

Private George Albert Campbell. (Photo courtesy of Gerald Tingley family collection)

Known as Albert, Campbell was born on July 8, 1895 in Wellington, PEI, the son of John George Campbell and Grace Emma, nee Barlow.  A fisherman and farmer before enlisting on April 6, 1915 with the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles, he later transferred to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles.

CIMG2669 Oct 9 2018 meet with Gerald Tingley in Salisbury

Gerald Tingley, left, with Pieter. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Recently we had a chance to meet Gerald Tingley in person.  He arrived with a binder of WW1 letters from his uncle that had been written to Gerald’s mother, and Albert’s sister, Sophie.

One excerpt was really special.  In a December 1915 letter to his sister Sophie, he wrote:  “We got a big box of cake and candy from Bedeque the other day and it was great for a change.  It was meant for Xmas but we ate it all as soon as we got it.

This excerpt about receiving cake and candy from someone in Bedeque really showed how food was always on a soldier’s mind, particularly something delicious from home.  And there was no way a soldier was going to wait for a particular day to have that taste of home.

It was the last Christmas that Campbell experienced.  During the Battle of Mount Sorrel in Belgium, he was killed in action in the vicinity of Maple Copse on June 2, 1916.  He has no known grave, and his name is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial Ypres.

Xmas card from Harold Howatt

Christmas card with a piece of embroidered handkerchief sent by Harold Howatt, wishing his family a ‘Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year’. (Photo courtesy of H. Howatt collection)

Campbell’s brother, William Galen CAMPBELL, born June 16, 1897 in Wellington, was poisoned by a mustard gas shell in France on May 28, 1918.  He was in the same unit, the 8th Canadian Siege Battery, as Harold Keith HOWATT of Augustine Cove.

Howatt kept an active correspondence and journal, and two Christmas entries survive.  In 1917, he was stationed in Lille, France and recorded the following on December 24:  “Route march this morning, then after we came back we had to carry planks for the hut which is being put up for Christmas dinner.  In the late afternoon Dawson and I went into Lille and had a bath at a convent.  Afterwards we went to a concert in the YMCA hut.

If you ever wondered about the saying that ‘soldiers march on their stomachs’, then you will see why food is important in reading Howatt’s detailed description of the Christmas meal of December 25, 1917.  “Church parade this morning, but I did not go as Mr. Freeman wanted me to help him get ready for the Xmas dinner.  We had a great dinner, duck and chicken, applesauce, vegetables, plum pudding, apples and nuts.  The officers bought everything except the plum pudding, pretty good of them.  After dinner was over we gave ‘three cheers and a tiger’ for them.

By December 1918 the war was over, but troops were still in Europe.  Howatt’s unit was assigned to Germany.  On December 25, he made the following terse entry from Mehlem, on the Rhine: “We had no Christmas dinner as the turkey did not arrive.”  On January 1, 1919 he gave a happier update in his journal:  “Last evening we had our Xmas dinner, which had been postponed owing to the non-arrival of the turkey.  We sat down at 8 o’clock to a good meal: turkey and vegetables, plum pudding, and nuts and apples.  There was also lots of beer, ginger ale, and also some scotch.

1918 xmas menu

1918 Xmas menu for the 8th Canadian Siege Battery. Notice that each dish had a name that represented where the unit was in France and Belgium! (Photo courtesy of H. Howatt collection)

Unlike George Albert Campbell, both William Galen Campbell and Harold Keith Howatt returned home from WW1.  Surprisingly, no photo of William Galen Campbell has been found.  If you have photos or information to share, please let us know. Send us an email to or comment on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Last Post Ceremony At The Menin Gate Memorial In Ypres

November 23, 2017.  In the morning we’d visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres and found the listings for two men whose names are on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion: Charles Benjamin BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres).

We returned in the evening for The Last Post Ceremony, which occurs at 8 pm every day at Menin Gate Memorial, rain or shine.  It began on July 2, 1928, after the Memorial opened in 1927, as a way for the citizens of Ypres to express their gratitude towards those who had died in defence of Belgium’s freedom.

The only time the ceremony was not held in Ypres was during the German occupation during World War II.  Instead, a daily ceremony was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England.  On September 6, 1944, the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second World War, the ceremony at Menin Gate resumed, even though heavy fighting was still taking place in other parts of Ypres.

Bands and choirs from around the world apply to participate in the ceremonies. On the evening we attended the ceremony, the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands was there.  It was very apt since Pieter is from The Netherlands, and that was going to be the next country on our war memorial trail.

CIMG8802 Sep 9 2017 Daria with two members of St Cecilia Helden band before Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate

Daria with two members of the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Mieke de Bie)

We quickly saw that if we wanted to get a spot with easy visibility of the ceremony that we would have to line up at least 1 ½ hours early!  We did and so were lucky to have a front line view, and watched the band march through Menin Gate Memorial to stand on the outside of the Memorial.

CIMG8804 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate st Ceclia Helden Band

St. Cecilia Helden band marched through Menin Gate before the ceremony began. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Police cars soon barricaded the road on either side of the Menin Gate Memorial so no traffic could get by.

Just before 8 pm three buglers from the local fire brigade arrived and played ‘The Last Post’.  (For a video clip made by Pieter Valkenburg, which shows where he manages to capture Buxton’s name on the Memorial, email us at

CIMG8815 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate buglers from local fire brigade play The Last Post

Buglers from the local fire brigade in Ypres play ‘The Last Post’ at 8 pm. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

‘The Last Post’ was followed by the Exhortation, where a dignitary said the words we are all familiar with from Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada.  Taken from the 4th verse of Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For The Fallen’, first published on September 21, 1914, he recited, in English:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

This was followed by a minute of silence, and then wreaths were laid by various groups while the St. Cecelia Helden band played.  We were sorry we hadn’t thought of asking to lay a wreath as a way to further commemorate Campbell and Buxton.  Following the wreath laying the final bugle call, ‘Réveille’, was played and the ceremony was over.

We were lucky to be right at the spot where the fire brigade walked past, and they graciously posed for a photo.  Of course, we gave them Canadian flag pins, and to our surprise we received a Menin Gate Memorial pin in exchange.

CIMG8833 Sep 9 2017 Last Post Ceremony Menin Gate

Buglers from the local Fire Brigade in Ypres. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This was a beautiful ceremony, with respectful visitors from many countries.  Behind us was a family from Poland, a poignant reminder of the Polish allies who liberated Ypres during WWII.

We returned to our hotel in a thoughtful mood, after the day of visiting memorials and cemeteries.  We still had a few places in Flanders to visit before going on to The Netherlands, but that would have to wait for another day.

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

A Visit To Tyne Cot Cemetery

November 10, 2017.  While we were in Zonnebeke, we made a stop on the war memorial trail at Tyne Cot Cemetery.  In France, unless it was a big cemetery or memorial, like Vimy Ridge or Beau Hamel, there were few visitors.  In Belgium, to our surprise, members of car and motorcycle clubs visited the various cemeteries and memorials as part of their touring schedules.  During our visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery, a club for a car named Burton stopped on their own war memorial rally tour.

The Burton is a Dutch sports car based on French 2CV technology. The Burton is an open, nostalgic-looking sports car built on the chassis of the 2CV with a modern fibreglass body and built from a kit. Of course, car-mad Pieter couldn’t resist taking a few photos as he made his way from the parking lot to the cemetery.

IMG_20170909_151921275 Sep 9 2017 Burton car in Tyne Cot cemetery parking lot

Burton sports car in the parking lot of Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world, with 11,956 graves, of which 1,011 are Canadian.  Most were killed during the Battle of Passchendaele.  In addition, 34,957 soldiers with no known grave, who died after August 15, 1917, have their names engraved on the cemetery walls.  Those soldiers with no known grave who died before August 15, 1917 are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres).

IMG_20170909_153120338 Sep 9 2017 Tyne Cot Cemetery graves with wall of those with no known grave

Names of soldiers with no known grave, who died after August 15, 1917 are engraved on the walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Surprisingly, with the large number of war dead in Tyne Cot, no one from the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion is buried or commemorated there.  But if you are on a war memorial trail, it would be a shame to miss seeing the largest cemetery.

IMG_20170909_153208728 Sep 9 2017 Tyne Cot Cemetery graves

Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

As we made our way to the cemetery and the visitors centre, we passed by a grassy area of plastic poppies with messages from the public in Britain. This was an initiative of the Royal British Legion’s Passchendaele 100 Memorial, who collected the poppies and brought them to the cemetery.  Some of the messages commemorated a loved one, others were very general in nature.  It certainly made for a colourful display!

IMG_20170909_152308460 Sep 9 2017 plastic poppies in field in Tyne Cot cemetery in Zonnebeke

Plastic poppies with messages from the British public on display at Tyne Cot Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

We learned that a Victoria Cross recipient from the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion is buried here, James Peter Robertson, a private who was killed on November 6, 1917 during the final phase of the Battle of Passchendaele.  When his platoon was blocked by barbed wire and a German machine gun, he dashed to an opening in the enemy position, and rushed the gun, killing four German soldiers and turning the machine gun on the rest of the Germans.  This allowed the platoon to continue towards its objective.  Afterwards, when two Canadian snipers were wounded in front of their trench, he went out and carried one in, while under fire.  Unfortunately, he was killed as he returned with the second man.  With Daria being from Winnipeg, Pieter of course visited the grave of this soldier and placed flags.

IMG_20170909_152917733 Sep 9 2017 grave opf JP Robertson in Tyne Cot cemetery

Grave of Victoria Cross recipient James Peter Robertson, buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

 We are continually humbled by the depth of sacrifice from the soldiers.  Like in northern France, you can’t go very far before you encounter another cemetery or memorial.  As we continued on the War Memorial Trail, we thought of the two other soldiers from the Cenotaph project who died in this area, George Campbell and Charles Buxton, and whose names are on the Menin Gate Memorial.

As Buxton was with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, our next stop was the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

October 26, 2017.  Menin Gate (Menenpoort in Flemish) is a large archway, with a bridge over a moat that surrounds the city of Ypres. Between October 1914 and September 1918 hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers marched through it on their way to the battlefields.  300,000 of them died, and 90,000 have no known grave.

Ypres was at the centre of a road network and essential for the Germans to capture in order to take the English Channel ports through which British support came into France during World War I. For the Allies, Ypres was important as it became the last major Belgian town that remained out of German control.

Five major battles occurred around Ypres. During the First Battle of Ypres the German army’s advance to the east of the city was stopped.  Eventually, however, the Germans surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war. The Second Battle of Ypres was the second German attempt to take the city in April 1915. The third battle, which we know as the Battle of Passchendaele, occurred over five months in 1917. The fourth and fifth battles occurred during 1918.

Today, Menin Gate is a memorial to 54,616 Commonwealth soldiers who died before August 16, 1917 and have no known grave, about 6,983 of them Canadians.

CIMG8681 Sep 9 2017 Ypres Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Two of those Canadians are listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion: Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL.  So, of course, we went to find their names on the Menin Gate Memorial.

CIMG8683 Sep 9 2017 Ypres Inscription at entrance to Menin Gate Memorial

Inscription on the Menin Gate Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Inside the archway is a Hall of Memory, with stairwells on either side of the archway, and panels listing the names of each of these soldiers.  One wall by the stairwall lists the names of Canadian soldiers, and we first found Charles Buxton, listed under the names of those from the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.  Pieter stood by the wall listing his name and held up Buxton’s photo and a plaque that he’d asked Kevin Peddle of Prince County Trophy and Awards in Summerside to make for him.

CIMG8688 Sep 9 2017 Ypres Pieter with plaque and photo of Buxton at Menin Gate Memorial

Pieter at Menin Gate Memorial, holding up a photo of Charles Buxton and a memorial plaque. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)


Memorial Plaque for Charles Buxton that Pieter had made. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Buxton - Cropped

Charles Buxton. (Photo: courtesy of John Marchbank Collection)

We then searched for the listing for George Albert Campbell under the Canadian Mounted Rifles, and repeated the procedure, holding up a picture of Campbell and a memorial plaque.

CIMG8703 Sep 9 2017 Ypres Pieter with plaque and photo of Campbell by name on Menin Gate

Pieter at Menin Gate Memorial, holding up a photo of George Albert Campbell and a memorial plaque. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)


Memorial Plaque for George Albert Campbell that Pieter had made. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

George Albert Campbell - Cropped

George Albert Campbell. (Photo: courtesy of Gerald Tingley Collection)

If you were paying attention at the beginning of this entry, you read that 90,000 WWI Commonwealth soldiers have no known grave, but only 54,616 are listed on Menin Gate. Why?  When the memorial was completed, it was too small to contain all the names of the missing and unidentified soldiers, as had originally been planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of August 15, 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 British soldiers missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead. The names of missing and unidentified soldiers from New Zealand and Newfoundland are listed on separate memorials.

With advances in DNA and stories about finding skeletons in various graves in fields, we wondered what happened if a soldier was identified.  Any remains are reburied in a cemetery, and if the soldier can be identified the name is removed from the Menin Gate Memorial.

We were glad we had the opportunity to visit Menin Gate Memorial in the morning, before it got busy and before the Last Post Ceremony in the evening, which we would come back to attend.

We also wanted to visit Maple Copse Cemetery, where Campbell is believed to be buried, and Sanctuary Wood, where Buxton lost his life during a battle, and have a chance to tell their stories in the spot where they were last.

First, though, we decided to visit areas in and around Passchendaele, beginning with Lt.  John McCrae’s field hospital bunker, the subject of the next blog entry. Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg