On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW1 Soldier From Abrams Village Buried In Manitoba Cemetery in France

March 6, 2022.  In 2017, we visited Manitoba Cemetery outside Caix, France, to place flags by the grave of WW1 soldier James CAIRNS of Kinkora, Prince Edward Island, who lost his life on August 9, 1918 during the Battle of Amiens. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/the-search-for-manitoba-cemetery/)

When we signed the Guest Register Book, we were astonished to find that the previous visitors had come to honour their great-uncle and great-great uncle Theodore (Ted) Francis ARSENAULT from Abrams Village, Prince Edward Island.

Pte Theodore Arsenault (Great great uncle)

Theodore Arsenault. (Photo submitted by Stephen Arsenault)

In November 2021 Colleen Arsenault shared a photo of her great-great-uncle, explaining that her mother and sister had signed the guest book in that far away cemetery. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/11/10/on-the-war-memorial-trail-linking-the-past-with-the-present/)

…4 generations of the Arsenault family have served in the military….

Shortly after this, Stephen Arsenault sent us research on Ted Arsenault, and explained that 4 generations of his family served in the military.  “Theodore and his brother Camille were both from Abrams Village. Further descriptions as follows:

Gnr Camille Arsenault (Great Grandfather, Theodore's Brother)

Camille Arsenault. (Photo submitted by Stephen Arsenault)

  • Gnr Camille J Arsenault, 2nd Canadian (Overseas) Siege Artillery Battery CEF. Saw action at Vimy Ridge. Survived the war and re-enlisted during WW2 serving with the Canadian Army Service Corps at a POW camp in New Brunswick at the time. Camille was born August 22, 1895.

    Sgt Francis Arsenault (Grandfather)

    Francis Arsenault. (Photo submitted by Stephen Arsenault)

  • Stephen’s grandfather: Sgt Francis J Arsenault, served with 2 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

Edgar Arsenault. (Photo submitted by Stephen Arsenault)

  • Stephen’s father: LCol Edgar F Arsenault, Logistics Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force. Later Honorary Colonel of 14 Mission Support Squadron, 14 Wing CFB Greenwood.  

He went on to say that “…Interestingly, in my (limited) spare time, I am an Artillery Officer serving in the Primary Reserves with 1st (Halifax-Dartmouth) Field Artillery Regiment, RCA, which makes 4 consecutive generations of military service to Canada spanning over 100 years. …

… Ted Arsenault enlisted in the 105th Overseas Battalion….

Ted Arsenault was born May 14, 1897 in Egmont Bay, Prince Edward Island, the son of François (Frank) and Adeline (nee Gallant) Arsenault.  When he enlisted with the 105th Overseas Battalion in Summerside, Prince Edward Island on May 1, 1916 he listed his occupation as farmer.

In June 1916, Ted travelled to Valcartier, Quebec with the Regiment for training prior to sailing to England from Halifax a month later aboard ‘Empress of Britain’.

…Previous stories of Islanders who were aboard the ‘Empress of Britain’ with Ted Arsenault….

Several Islanders, whose stories have previously been told, were on that same ship.  Among them were:

The ship docked in Liverpool, England on July 25, 1916.  The troops were sent to Shorncliffe and attached to the 1st Training Brigade.  They were later transferred to different training brigades in Surrey.

…Ted was gassed at Passchendaele….

In November 1916, Ted was sent to France as part of the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment).  A year later, on November 5, 1917, during the Second Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, Ted was poisoned by a mustard gas shell that exploded.  (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Passchendaele)

He was invalided to England and sent to the King George Hospital in London for treatment. According to his medical file, he …had a sore throat and loss of voice for a month… and …breathing was difficult at night…” until January 13, 1918.

From the hospital in London he was sent to Manor War Hospital, a convalescent facility in Epsom.  It wasn’t until March 4, 1918 that the medical staff declared his chest was clear, and he was discharged 4 days later.  On May 16, 1918 he returned to France and the 14th Battalion.

….The Battle of Amiens…

The Battle of Amiens, also known as the Third Battle of Picardy, was the opening phase of the Allied offensive.  It began on August 8, 1918 and ended on August 18.  Later known as the Hundred Days Offensive, this was the battle that ultimately led to the end of the First World War.  (For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Amiens_(1918) and a short video clip at https://finance.yahoo.com/video/battle-amiens-started-century-ago-173913821.html)

A few years ago, a short video onThe 100th anniversary of the Battle of Amiens and Canada’s Hundred Dayswas prepared and is available on YouTube:

…Two Islanders lost their lives on August 9, 1918…


Battle of Amiens.  (Map source: http://www.rememberourvets.ca)

According to the war diary of the 14th Battalion, on the morning of August 9, 1918, the Regiment was ordered to “…march towards Cayeux, the headquarters of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade.  The march was very difficult owing to the congested traffic on the road. The Battalion was ordered to support the 8th Canadian Battalion and moved to assembly positions….

By 11:40 am they were in position, for the expected attack at 1 pm.  “… The attack was made over very flat ground and many casualties were caused by the intense machine gun fire…”  Among the casualties killed in action that day was Ted Arsenault.

As mentioned at the beginning of this posting, James CAIRNS, who served with the 8th Canadian Battalion, also lost his life that afternoon.

…Buried at Manitoba Cemetery outside Caix…

CIMG8555 Sep 6 2017 Pieter at entrance to Manitoba Cemetery

Pieter at the entrance to Manitoba Cemetery just outside Caix. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Like so many WW1 cemeteries in France, Manitoba Cemetery, where both James Cairns and Theodore (Ted) Francis Arsenault are buried, is in a rural location, surrounded by farmers’ fields.  It was fitting that during our visit in September 2017, bales of hay, a familiar site on Prince Edward Island during this period, surrounded the cemetery.

CIMG8558 Sep 6 2017 Manitoba Cemetery by hay bales

Bales of hay surround Manitoba Cemetery outside Caix.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

IMG_20170906_152615630 Sep 6 2017 grave of Ted Arsenault in Manitoba Cemetery in Caix

Grave of Theodore Francis Arsenault of Abrams Village. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Thank you to Colleen Arsenault and Steven Arsenault for sharing information on their great-uncle and their family’s ongoing military service.  If you have photos or information to share, please let Pieter know. Email him 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.


Daria’s bookNo Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgottenis now available.  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

Paying Our Respects To Private Joseph Arthur Desroches

September 23, 2017.  We’re not inexperienced travellers, but even we can sometimes get into situations we simply can’t understand.  Quite often it happens with food and France gave us a real doozie.  Our hotel in Arras offered ‘le petit dejeuner’ (breakfast), served buffet style, so you picked what you wanted.

In the hotel you had a choice of hard-boiled or ‘fresh’ eggs.  I had no idea what ‘fresh eggs’ were so passed by them and chose a hard-boiled egg.  Pieter didn’t notice the hard-boiled eggs, just the ‘fresh’ eggs, and so he chose one, thinking how nice it was of the hotel to guarantee an egg that wasn’t old.

CIMG8466 Sep 6 2017 fresh eggs at Holiday Inn in Arras

‘Fresh’ eggs on offer at the hotel breakfast in Arras. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

I wish I’d taken a photo of his face when he cracked open his egg and saw……a raw egg.  It was fresh all right, straight from the chicken!

IMG_20170905_075317693 Sep 5 2017 Pieter tries to eat a raw egg

The ‘fresh’ egg was really a raw egg. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

It took us two days to realize that the silver box beside the eggs, which we thought was some kind of fancy toaster, contained boiling water so you could cook your egg to your own specification.  Who would have guessed?

Over breakfast, Pieter determined that while he was going back to Caix to find the Manitoba Cemetery, if he had to search for it street by street, we first were getting gas and going to a few cemeteries that might be easier to find.  We got gas in the town of Vimy.  For those interested in the price of gas, it was 1.399 euros per litre (about $2.06 Canadian).

From Vimy we went to Ligny Saint-Flochel British Cemetery, where Joseph Arthur DESROCHES is buried.

CIMG8474 Sep 6 2017 Pieter at base of cross of remembrance at Ligny St Flochel British cemetery where Desroches is buried

Pieter at the base of the Cross of Remembrance in Ligny Saint-Flochel British Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Joseph Arthur DESROCHES was born August 8, 1891 in Miscouche, the son of Zephirim Desroches and Priscilla Gaudet.  Unlike most of the soldiers on the Borden- Carleton Cenotaph, Desroches was married, to Mary Ann Wedge of Fernwood, and had four children: Elizabeth Eileen, Joseph Alfred, Lucy Priscilla, and Charles Arthur.  A farmer before the war who worked for Howard MacFarlane of Bedeque, he was wounded by a shot to his head at Cagnicourt on September 2, 1918, and died on September 4 at Number 7 Casualty Clearing Station, located in Ligny Saint-Flochel, 7.6 km of Cagnicourt.

We learned that a Casualty Clearing Station was located further back from the front line than Aid Posts and Field Ambulances, and manned by the Royal Army Medical Corps, with attached Royal Engineers and men of the Army Service Corps. Its job was to treat the wounded enough to allow him to return to duty or to keep him stable long enough to be evacuated to a Base Hospital.

According to the war diary of the Headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division, in preparation for an attack on the Drocourt-Queant Line, several battalions assembled their positions in the early hours of September 2.  The 13th Battalion was on the left, and the 14th Battalion, which Desroches was part of, was immediately behind.  The 16th Battalion was on the right, with the 15th Battalion immediately behind.

The war diary went on to explain what happened on September 2:  “The 13th and 16th Battalions were to capture the 1st objective, including the Drocourt-Queant and support lines.  The 14th and 15th Battalions were then to leap-frog and capture Cagnicourt, Bois de Bouche, and Bois de Loison and advance up the Buissy Switch where the 13th Battalion were to go through and mop up the switch on the Brigade Frontage. 

Promptly at 5:00 am our barrage opened and the 13th and 16th Battalions advanced.  The German barrage came down very quickly within a minute of ours but was light and caused few casualties. 

The first phase of the attack went according to schedule and the 1st objective was reached on time. The 14th and 15th Battalions went through but after passing Cagnicourt were held up badly by machine gun fire from the flanks which were exposed, as our flanking brigades could not get up…

As with all of the graves of Islanders, Pieter put down the flags of Canada, Prince Edward Island, and Canada 150.  We were grateful to PEI Senator Mike Duffy, PEI MLA Jamie Fox, and MP Wayne Easter for providing us with flags and pins for this venture on the war memorial trail.

CIMG8482Sep 6 2017 grave of Arthur Desroches in Ligny St Flochel British cemetery

Grave of Joseph Arthur Desroches in Ligny Saint-Flochel British Cemetery. Note that the spelling of his surname is without an ‘s’. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

CIMG8483 Sep 6 2017 Ligny St Flochel British cemetery where Desroches is buried farmers field in background

Ligny Saint-Flochel British Cemetery with the Cross of Remembrance and a farmer’s field in the background. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The cemetery has 629 burials, of which 347 are Canadian and 46 German.  The German graves are similar to the Commonwealth graves, which was surprising as most German graves have only an iron cross on them. The German graves are set apart from the Commonwealth graves by an indentation in the ground, making an artificial step, like in a sunken living room.

Unfortunately, as with so many of the WW1 soldiers, we have not been able to find a photo or additional information on Joseph Arthur Desroches.

In the next blog entry we visit Bac-Du-Sud and Bellacourt cemeteries before continuing our search for the Manitoba and Grandcourt cemeteries. Do you have information or photos for Arthur Desroches?  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg