March 12, 2023. Sometimes uncovering a photo of a soldier leads to a much larger investigation. That’s what happened when Pieter looked into the service file of Charles ‘Marshall’ CARSON, one of the names on the photo wish list from the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands. He was from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, which is just across the Northumberland Strait from where we live on Prince Edward Island.
“…He died on my birthday! I was just one year old!…” Pieter exclaimed after reading that Carson died during the Battle of Bienen in Germany on March 25, 1945. He soon learned that 39 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who were killed during the battle are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.
Pieter was determined to find a photo and contacted the Cape Tormentine Legion. Perhaps they had a photo or knew of family members? Sonny McCarron wrote back that there was a photo in a memorial book in the Legion but it would take him a few days to get there and digitize it. We just happened to be in Nova Scotia and on our way home would be driving right past the exit to Cape Tormentine. Perhaps we could stop by?
The answer was yes. Sonny was unable to be there, but Joe Simpson would let us into the Legion and show us the memorial book. That’s exactly what happened!
…The Cape Tormentine Legion had a photo of Charles ‘Marshall’ Carson…
We got a photo of Pte Charles ‘Marshall’ Carson, and learned that his brother Vance, who died in 2005, served in the Canadian Infantry Corps during the war, but survived and returned home.
Born in Cape Tormentine on October 29, 1921, Marshall was the son of Charles J. and Clara Frances (nee McGlashing) Carson. His father, who came from Newfoundland, unfortunately died in 1930, leaving Clara to bring up three children – Marshall, his younger brother Ira Vance, and a sister Beverly.
…Marshall wanted to be a paratrooper….
Marshall enlisted with the 1st Anti-Aircraft Battery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on June 19, 1940 at the age of 18. After leaving school at the age of 16, he’d worked at Fundy Construction Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year, until just before his enlistment date.
After basic training, Marshall was sent on an anti-aircraft course and was a gunner on an anti-aircraft crew in various anti-aircraft units. In a December 14, 1942 interview his interest in paratrooper training was mentioned, but he was not selected for this specialized training.
It was noted that his spare time was spent studying and he liked to read detective stories. He enjoyed sports, especially hockey. He had a pleasant, friendly manner, and was soft spoken.
…Marshall spent a year in Goose Bay as a gunner with an anti-aircraft battery….
Marshall remained with an anti-aircraft battery. On July 2, 1943 he was transferred back to the 1st Anti-Aircraft Battery and sent to Goose Bay, Labrador for a year, returning to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on July 6, 1944. (NOTE: Newfoundland and Labrador became part of Canada on March 31, 1949.)
Canada had built a massive air base at Goose Bay, Labrador as an alternative to Gander for transatlantic operations. This base became operational in late 1941. (See https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/politics/goose-bay-base.php) The bases at Gander and Goose Bay were vital links in the ferrying of military aircraft to Britain. Anti-aircraft crews were part of coastal defence.
On August 19, 1944, Marshall was sent to No. 1 Transit Camp in Windsor, Nova Scotia in preparation for going overseas. Then, on August 30, 1944, he was transferred to the No. 1 Infantry Training Brigade Group in Debert, Nova Scotia.
…Marshall left Canada for overseas service in November 1944….
He left Canada on November 21, 1944, arriving in the United Kingdom on November 28, 1944 and posted to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).
On January 8, 1945 he left the United Kingdom for Northwest Europe, and was transferred to the 10th Battalion for a few weeks, before receiving his final transfer – to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders – on January 25, 1945.
The Regiment had reached Kellen, Germany near Kleve, just on the other side of the border with The Netherlands, on February 12, 1945. On February 14, using amphibious vehicles, the North Novies evacuated Warbergen as they made their way to Emmerich.
Next, the Regiment participated in Operation Blockbuster. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Blockbuster).
In March, the Regiment prepared for Operation Plunder, which began March 21, and involved crossing the Rhine River to the north of the Ruhr industrial region in western Germany. With aerial and military support, this took place on the night of March 23, 1945 near Rees, a town situated on the right bank of the Rhine River, approximately 20 km (12.4 miles) east of Kleve. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plunder)
…Marshall lost his life in the Battle of Bienen ….
On the next afternoon, March 24, 1945, they encountered fierce German resistance near the village of Bienen. On March 25, 1945, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were in Bienen, Germany for the climax of 9 Canadian Infantry Brigade’s role in Operation Plunder. The one day battle proved devastating in terms of casualties, both dead and wounded, as they fought in a deadly battle on open ground.
March 25, 1945 was Palm Sunday – one week before Easter. The war diary for March 25, 1945 noted the fierce challenges faced by the North Novies. “….The first hint of trouble came when ‘A’ Company reported at 0825 hours to be pinned down along dyke, under machine gun fire, snipers and moderate mortaring. Shortly after, ‘B’ Company reported to be under fire but close to Start Line. Both ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies were suffering casualties. However, the fire plan was to start at 0845 hours with smoke and ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies were ordered to proceed quickly to Start Line under its protection and form up and attack. At 0905 hours ‘B’ Company reported being pinned down in front of Start Line, with two platoons out of contact and suffering fairly heavy casualties. ‘A’ Company also reported being pinned down with a platoon out of contact and suffering severe losses….”
During the heavy fighting, Marshall lost his life. Like Ralph Schurman BOULTER, Marshall was temporarily buried the next day in the military cemetery in Rees, Germany before being reburied the following year in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Thank you to Sonny McCarron and Joe Simpson of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cape Tormentine for providing a photo. When Pieter thanked Sonny for arranging the visit, he was told “…thanks for taking an interest in our veterans…” Pieter’s reply? “…We sure do. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten!…”
Out of the 39 North Nova Scotia Highlanders killed on March 25, 1945 during the Battle of Bienen that are buried in Groesbeek, 12 were on a photo wish list. Pieter has been successfully working his way through this list and we hope to tell the stories of those he’s found in upcoming postings. Coming up in Part 4: Clifford Bateman.
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….
- 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/
- Harry William DOUCETTE: https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/02/09/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-6/
- 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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