On The War Memorial Trail….. The WWI Soldier From Tryon Buried With A Message In A Bottle

CIMG8651 Sep 9 2017 Pieter at the grave of Arthur Clinton Robinson in La Laiterie cemetery

September 2017. Pieter by the grave of Arthur Clinton Robinson, La Laiterie Military Cemetery in Belgium.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

January 10, 2023.   In 2017, we visited La Laiterie Military Cemetery in Belgium, where WW1 soldier Arthur Clinton ROBINSON is buried. Born July 20, 1896 in the USA, but moved as a child to Tryon, Prince Edward Island, Arthur enlisted in the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion on November 20, 1914 and remained with the Regiment until his death.

…Arthur lost his life on the first day of the Actions of St Eloi Craters Battle….

On March 27, 1916, he was killed in action during the Actions of St Eloi Craters when shell fire hit the trenches southeast of Kemmel. The battle lasted from March 27 until April 16, 1916. Sint-Elooi (the French St Eloi is also used in English) is a village about 5 km (3.1 miles) south of Ypres in Belgium.

1919 photo of St Eloi Craters

The British had dug tunnels in No Man’s Land, then placed large explosive charges under the German defences, and blew them at 4:15 a.m. on March 27. The plan was for the 2nd Canadian Division, which Arthur’s Battalion was part of, to take over and hold the line.  (NOTE: ‘No Man’s Land’ was a WWI term used to describe the area between opposing armies and trench lines.)

The plan was a disaster as Canadian troops were sent to the battlefield before they had time to prepare for the attack. (For more information, see https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-st-eloi-craters and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actions_of_St_Eloi_Craters)


Map of St Eloi with the six mines fired on 27 March 1916. (Map Source: By ViennaUK – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53210386)

In ‘A Family Of Brothers’, author J. Brent Wilson explains that “…during the German retaliation for the attack, the 26th faced a heavy pounding that killed seven men and wounded another eighteen…”  One of these casualties was Arthur.

…. La Laiterie Military Cemetery was chosen by the Battalion…

After visiting La Laiterie Military Cemetery, it was interesting to read in ‘A Family Of Brothers’ that a section of the cemetery was chosen by soldiers in the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion as a “…. focus for their remembrance….”  The section set aside for the Battalion’s 67 burials was “…marked by a large board bearing the battalion’s name….

The cemetery is located “…about a kilometre behind the front trenches on the road between Kemmel and Vierstraat.  The area surrounding the cemetery had once featured groves of trees and fine residences, but since had been blasted by shellfire….

…. The Battalion didn’t want the identity of a buried soldier to be lost…

One of the most intriguing things read in ‘A Family Of Brothers’ was the care taken with burials, with one soldier buried per grave, with  “…. small white crosses at the head of each burial mound…”  On each cross was “…nailed an aluminum metal plate with the name, number, and battalion…” of the deceased.

But the Battalion went further, a smart move in a war where battlefront cemeteries could come under crossfire.  “…To ensure that the identity of the soldier in the grave was not lost if something happened to the cross, the man’s name was inserted into bottles that were placed at the head of the grave and beneath the body….” It would be interesting to know if that bottle is still there!

….Previous stories about Arthur Clinton Robinson…

Arthur Clinton Robinson is one of the names listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion.  Unfortunately, a photo of him has yet to be found by either us, or his family.  Can you help put a face to this name?  Do you have a story to tell? Email Pieter at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.

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On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW1 Letters Of Arthur Clinton Robinson

July 4, 2021. In 2017 we visited the grave of Arthur Clinton ROBINSON, a WW1 soldier with the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion, from Tryon, Prince Edward Island, who is buried in Belgium, (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-in-belgium-and-a-visit-to-la-laiterie-military-cemetery/)  Up to today, we have not found of a photo of him, and neither has his family.

In June 2018, Arthur’s nephew, Arthur ‘John’ Robinson and his wife Hazel visited the grave with their son, dentist Dr. Alan Robinson, and Alan’s son, William Robinson.

2018-06-16 Arthur C Robinson grave (1)

At La Laiterie Military Cemetery in Belgium.  Left to right: Dr Alan Robinson, William Robinson, Hazel Robinson.  (Photo credit: John Robinson)

While no photo has yet been found, the Robinsons were able to find two letters that Arthur wrote to his aunts. 

In an August 30, 1915 letter to his aunt, Robbie Blanchard, written in England just before travelling to France,  he describes the composition of men in his platoon from the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion: … You should just see the bunch of men … in this 26th alone. They are a magnificent body of fellows….and this Platoon I am in is a corker… there are, I don’t know how many different nationalities in it… Indian, French, Russians, Belgians, English, Irish, Scotch, Americans and Canadians.  Some mob, eh? You can hear nearly any language around here any time of day….” 

While in England, Arthur saw injured troops arriving back from the front and reflected that “…when you see the hundreds of maimed soldiers, some far worse off than if they were dead, and when nearly daily train loads of freshly wounded men pass right before your eyes, it makes you wonder at the ups and downs of this human life…” 

It was a miracle that the August 30 letter arrived in Canada, as the ship the mail had been travelling on, the Hesperian, was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Plymouth, England on September 4, 1915! Luckily it was one of the items salvaged from the wreckage. (See https://www.rmslusitania.info/related-ships/hesperian/ for more information) 

In a September 16, 1915 letter, written in France to his aunt, Carrie Robinson, he outlines life in a trench: …I am quite comfortable here in our cosy little dugout, out of reach of all the Germans in Europe.  I must tell you about the nice dugout and the 4 fellows who are in it with me.  It is a kind of a tunnel running into the side of a loamy hill, with rubber sheets and blankets hung over the mouth of it….” 

There was no electricity in the trench, as Arthur goes on to mention that …We have niches in the back, where we keep our equipment, and we put candles in them at night so we won’t be too lonesome…” 

He then describes how the equipment is turned into a bed for the night. “…On the floor we have straw, stolen from a stack near by, and all over our kits, which make excellent beds, when you know how to arrange them…” 

Although he doesn’t identify them by name, Arthur mentions his 4 trench companions: …1st They are all six footers. 2nd They all wear a seven cap or larger. 3rd They cannot get their feet into smaller boots than nines, and 4th They all weigh over one hundred and seventy pounds each…”  He goes on to say that he weighs over 170 pounds himself and is well fed.  

The saying goes that an army marches on its stomach, and Arthur’s account of his dinner indicates the importance of food.  “…We had potatoes and meat, bread and butter, and tea of course.  We could have had cheese and jam too if we wanted to, but we always try and keep it over for tea.  The bread and butter is great and the cooks of our company seem to have a natural gift of making good tea so we are lucky in that line…” 

One of the challenges in writing letters from the front during wartime is censorship so as not to divulge any information that might be used by the enemy.  Arthur writes about that: …I find it hard to write a letter here for they are so particular about what a person tells that if you write anything you are not supposed to tell they destroy the whole shooting match…

It’s wonderful that these letters survived so that we get a glimpse into Arthur Robinson’s thoughts and experiences.  Sadly, he lost his life on March 27, 1916 when shellfire hit the trenches southeast of Kemmel, Belgium. 

IMG_3466 Hazel and John Robinson

Hazel and John Robinson. (Photo courtesy of the Robinson Family)

Hazel Robinson explained that their 2018 trip was a war memorial tour.  “…Besides visiting Arthur’s grave on this trip, we followed in the footsteps of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers from England to France, Belgium, Germany, ending in the area of Wons. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers was my father’s unit. We also visited Vimy Ridge where my great-uncle is buried….

Hazel’s great-uncle was “William John HILL from Cassius on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick…”  He lost his life on April 9, 1917 and is buried in Canadian Cemetery No 2 in Pas de Calais, France.

During the trip, Hazel noted two coincidences.  “… A member of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers was buried beside Elmer Muttart in 1945….”  Elmer Bagnall MUTTART of Cape Traverse, Prince Edward Island is buried at Harlingen General Cemetery in The Netherlands. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/the-elmer-bagnall-muttart-story/ and https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-visit-to-harlingen-general-cemetery/)

Most likely, Hazel is referring to Thomas ‘Tommy’ Clayton REID.  We’d placed flags on his grave when we visited in October 2019.

CIMG3450 Oct 12 2019 Harlingen General Cemetery

Grave of T.C. Reid at Harlingen General Cemetery in The Netherlands.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Hazel found another coincidence in France. “…When we visited the cemetery in Vimy where my great-uncle is buried, the last family to sign the guest book was a family from my home town, Douglastown, in New Brunswick, and whose parents I knew well and who lived a few houses from my parents!…” 

Thank you to Hazel and John Robinson for sharing Arthur’s letters and information about their 2018 trip. If you have photos or information to share, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following the blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com or email me at dariadv@yahoo.ca and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

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© Daria Valkenburg

On the War Memorial Trail in Belgium and a Visit to La Laiterie Military Cemetery

October 16, 2017.  After leaving France and arriving in De Panne, Belgium, on the North Sea coast, we were joined by Pieter’s cousin François Breugelmans and his wife Mieke de Bie, who live in Antwerp.  It gave us a chance to visit as well as continue the war memorial trail.

For most of our time in Belgium we had a break from driving, as François took over that task.  This was great as many of the roads in the area are very narrow, more suited to one way traffic, not two way traffic.

CIMG8641 sep 9 2017 Francois on a narrow road

A typical road in Belgium! (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The thing that struck us the most was that all of the cemeteries and memorials we had to visit in Belgium were not far from Ypres.  Our first cemetery in Belgium was La Laiterie Military Cemetery, where Arthur Clinton ROBINSON is buried.  Named after a dairy farm, the cemetery is right on a busy road, next to a cement business.  It’s very well kept and has 751 Commonwealth WW1 graves, 180 of them unidentified.

CIMG8659 Sep 9 2017 Daria and Mieke outside La Laiterie Military Cemetery

Daria Valkenburg and Mieke de Bie outside La Laiterie Military Cemetery. (Photo credit: François Breugelmans)

CIMG8647 Sep 9 2017 At Robinsons grave in La Laiterie Cemetery see cement factory

Placing the flags at the grave of Arthur Clinton Robinson in La Laiterie Military Cemetery. Note the cement factory beside the cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

When we began this project, we thought it would be easy to get a photo and information on Private Robinson as we knew his nephew John Robinson and John’s wife Hazel had done extensive genealogical research.  Unfortunately, John and Hazel had been unable to find any photos and very little information.  Arthur Clinton Robinson was born July 20, 1896 in Tryon, the son of Albert James Robinson and Flora P. Scruton, a nurse from New Hampshire who died on June 23, 1901 from tuberculosis.

A farmer before the war, Arthur Clinton Robinson enlisted in the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion on November 20, 1914, and was in Europe by spring of the following year.  On March 27, 1916 he was killed in action when shell fire hit the trenches southeast of Kemmel, which itself is only10 km south west of Ypres.

CIMG8649 Sep 9 2017 grave of Arthur Clinton Robinson in La Laiterie cemetery

Grave of Arthur Clinton Robinson at La Laiterie Military Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

In 1917, after Arthur Clinton’s death, his father Albert remarried, to Mary Mooney, and they had a family of their own.  John Robinson is descended from this second marriage and thought that it was likely that no one kept anything from the previous family, since no one was alive by the time of the remarriage.

Pieter wrote in the guest register this time, and then we left to find Chester Farm Cemetery, our next destination.

CIMG8656 Sep 9 2017 Pieter writes in guest register at La Laiterie Cemetery Francois and Mieke in back

Pieter writes in the Guest Register at La Laiterie Military Cemetery while his cousins examine the cemetery register. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In the next blog entry we continue our war memorial tour in the area around Ypres, Belgium. If you have a photo or info on Arthur Clinton Robinson, please let us know.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg