On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area

November 2, 2017.  After hearing so much about Passchendaele and the terrible 100 days of fighting over a mere 8 km of territory in 1917, we had to go and see the area for ourselves.  245,000 allied soldiers alone were casualties, not to mention Belgian citizens and German soldiers. We kept thinking, “How could it be worth such a heavy sacrifice?”

We followed two routes in this area, the Ypres Salient Route, and No Man’s Land Route (Niemandsland Route in Flemish).

CIMG8738 Sep 9 2017 sign saying Ypres Salient Route

Signs along the road marked the routes you could follow on the war memorial trail in Belgium. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

One soldier on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, Vincent CARR, died on October 30, 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.  His story was told earlier in this blog.  (See links to The Cenotaph Research Project Begins and The WWI Names On The Cenotaph).  He’s buried at Cement House Cemetery in Langemark, and our first stop on the war memorial trail in the Passchendaele area was there.

CIMG8723 Sep 9 2017 Pieter at Cement House Cemetery with flags

Pieter at the entrance to Cement House Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Cement House was the military name given to a fortified farm building on the Langemark-Boesinghe (now called Boezinghe) road.  There are 3,952 WWI Commonwealth graves, 2,225 of them unidentified.  There are an additional 22 WWII graves, 5 of which are unidentified.

After placing the flags on Carr’s grave, we saw that the graves on either side of him were Canadians from the same Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade unit as Carr, and that they died on the same day.  It seemed only right to take a photo of all three graves and pay tribute to R. Bellas, our Vincent Carr, and J. B. Willson.

IMG_20170909_131617502 Graves of Bellas Carr Willson in Cement House Cemetery

The graves of R. Bellas, V. Carr, and J. B. Willson in Cement House Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

After leaving Cement House Cemetery, we stopped at the St. Julien Memorial (Sint Juliaan in Flemish), a Canadian War Memorial commemorating the Canadian First Division’s participation in the Second Battle of Ypres in World War I.  This was a nasty battle where the troops faced the first poison gas attacks along the Western Front on April 22, 1915.  The memorial is commonly known as the Brooding Soldier, the name given to the statue sculpted by Frederick Chapman Clemesha, an architect from Regina who was also a WWI veteran.

Unfortunately, the heavens opened as we arrived in the parking lot.  We waited a few minutes in the hope that the rain would stop, but no luck.  There was a big tour bus beside us and no one got out of it either.  After ten minutes the bus left (guess they had to stay on schedule).  At that point Pieter said, rain or not, he was going to the memorial.  Only his cousin François was willing to join him!  Mieke and I stayed in the car.

cimg8733-sep-9-2017-pieter-by-brooding-soldier-monument-st-juliaan-memorial-in-langemark.jpg

St. Julien Memorial in Langemark. (Photo credit: François Breugelmans)

The sculpture is a stone tower, topped by the head and shoulders of a soldier, whose head is bowed.  The soldier is in the pose of a serviceman standing with ‘reversed arms’ – resting his hands on the rifle butt and the rifle pointing with its barrel to the ground. This pose is a gesture of mourning and respect for the fallen.

The memorial is inscribed as follows: THIS COLUMN MARKS THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE 18,000 CANADIANS ON THE BRITISH LEFT WITHSTOOD THE FIRST GERMAN GAS ATTACKS THE 22ND-24TH OF APRIL 1915. 2,000 FELL AND HERE LIE BURIED.

The location of the statue is where the Canadian position was when they were attacked by gas.  None of the troops had gas masks.  They tried to protect themselves as best they good, and some pressed handkerchiefs soaked with urine around their mouths.  As we now know, this did little good.

A few minutes after the Pieter and François came back into the car and we pulled away from the parking lot, it stopped raining and the sun came out.  It was like a message had been received!

Although it was after 2 pm, and three of us were hungry and tired, we had a few more stops before Pieter would allow us to have a rest and lunch!  We grumbled that he had forgotten we were volunteers on this journey, not military recruits!  Our war memorial route continues in the next blog entry.

As yet, we have not been able to find any information on Vincent Carr’s wife, Bessie Carr, who came from Summerside, and died in 1918, a year after her husband.  Can you help?  If you are related to R. Bellas or J. B. Willson, we’d like to hear from you as well.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Learning About The Two Names On The Vimy Memorial

Pieter Valkenburg

Photo: Borden-Carleton Branch Service Officer Pieter Valkenburg doing research (Credit: Daria Valkenburg)

July 28, 2017.  After the first article about the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project ran in October 2016, Pieter decided to focus on the WWI soldiers listed on the cenotaph, and began intensive research over the winter.

In the meantime the first article ran in the PEI Genealogical Society Newsletter and a shorter version ran in Charlottetown’s Guardian.  The Carr descendants of Vincent CARR had said that he was single, and the military attestation paper when he signed up agreed with this.  However, we found out that sometime between enlisting on June 5, 1915 and his death on October 30, 2017, he married Bessie H. Carr of Summerside.  Sadly she died a year after her husband.  Unfortunately, we have no photo of Bessie Carr, nor were we able to find a marriage record.  Can anyone help?

In his research, Pieter found two soldiers on the monument whose names are inscribed on the Vimy Memorial in France.  One was in the wrong place at the wrong time due to a name mix-up and died, the other survived the battle, only to perish a month later.  Their tales became the subject of the second article about the project.

Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT was the soldier who was transferred by error and ended up in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, died on April 11, 1917.

Plan_of_Attack_Vimy_Ridge where Arsenault died

Plan of Attack for Vimy Ridge where Patrick Raymond Arsenault died. The 2nd Canadian Brigade, part of the 1st Canadian Division, is in red. (Source: Library and Archives Canada/First World War map collection/e000000519_a4)

John Lyman WOOD survived the battle, but died on May 3, 1917 during the Battle of Arras.

Map of Battle of Arras near Fresnoy where Lymon Wood died

Battle of Arras near Fresnoy where John Lyman Wood died (Photo credit: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919, G.W.I. Nicholson)

We have not been able to find any photo of Patrick Raymond Arsenault. Can you help?  John Lyman Wood is well cherished in the memories of his family, and his nephew Gene Rogerson provided a photo and background information to bring his story to life.

We hope you enjoy this second article that ran in April 2017, “Two Unsung Heroes Of Vimy Ridge” in the County Line Courier.   CLC Apr 5 2017 p9 Two Unsung Heroes of Vimy Ridge A shorter version of this article also ran in Charlottetown’s Guardian.

If you have photos or documents you’d like to share, please email them to dariadv@yahoo.ca.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by email or by commenting on this blog.