On The War Memorial Trail…..The Search For A Photo Of WWI Soldier Joseph ‘Arthur’ Desroches Is Over

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)

May 31, 2023.  Whenever Pieter visits the grave of a soldier he has researched, he always hopes to have a photo that puts a face to a name.  Sometimes, that’s not possible, as was the case when we visited Ligny St. Flochel British Cemetery in France where WWI soldier Joseph ‘Arthur’ DESROCHES is buried. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2017/09/23/paying-our-respects-to-private-joseph-arthur-desroches/)

The On The War Memorial Trail research project began when Pieter first started researching the 48 names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion in 2015.  His goal?  To put a face and story to each name.  Over the years we’ve told the story of each one in the County Line Courier newspaper, plus shared our visits made to their graves or memorials.

The Cenotaph Wall of Remembrance in the Borden-Carleton Legion displays photos of the men listed on the Cenotaph, with empty frames for those photos still waiting to be found. Pieter has never given up on finding a photo, reaching out to the media to help publicize the photo search of soldiers, including Arthur Desroches.

…The media helped publicize the search for a photo of Arthur Desroches…

In 2020 he did a radio interview on CBC Radio-Canada Acadie with Anne-Marie Parenteau, ‘La quête d’un homme de l’Î.-P.-É. pour retrouver des photos d’un soldat acadien. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2020/11/15/the-continuing-search-for-a-photo-of-ww1-soldier-joseph-arthur-desroches/)

In 2021 Pieter wrote a Letter To The Editor in Prince Edward Island’s newspaper The Guardian:

Letter to the Editor re Desroches

…A photo of Arthur Desroches is found…

Now, thanks to Louis and Janet Arsenault of Summerside, there is one less empty frame! “…Arthur was my great-uncle…” Janet explained.  “…My grandfather Anthony was Arthur’s brother and my mother Margaret was his niece…

CIMG6230 Anthony and Angeline Arsenault

Angeline and Anthony Desroches.  Anthony was the brother of Arthur Desroches. (Photo courtesy of Louis and Janet Arsenault)

In going through a box that had belonged to her mother, Janet and Louis found a photo that they believe must be Arthur.  “…No one else in the family served in WWI, and he looks similar to my grandfather…

Pieter noted that the uniform was from the 105th Battalion, C Company, where Arthur had enlisted on March 9, 1916 in Summerside, and the photo was in a protective mat from a Summerside photo studio.

CIMG6234 Joseph Arthur Desroches

Joseph ‘Arthur’ Desroches. (Photo courtesy of Louis and Janet Arsenault)

Born August 8, 1891 in Miscouche, Joseph ‘Arthur’ DESROCHES was the son of Zephirim Desroches and Priscilla Gaudet.  Unlike many WWI soldiers, he was married, to Mary Ann Wedge (Aucoin), and the father of four children.

Before enlisting, Arthur worked as a farmer for Howard McFarlane of Fernwood. After completing basic training, Arthur was on his way to the United Kingdom, leaving Halifax on July 15, 1916 aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain.  He arrived in Liverpool, England 10 days later.  On December 17, 1916 he was on the front line in France.

While serving with the 14th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, Arthur was severely wounded on September 2, 1918 by a gunshot wound to his head. Arthur died on September 4, 1918 at No.7 Casualty Clearing Station at Ligny-St. Flochel, aged 27.

CIMG6236 May 16 2023 Pieter with Louis and Janet Arsenault

Pieter (centre) with Louis and Janet Arsenault. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The 8 year photo search has been successfully concluded! The photo of Arthur Desroches is now on the Legion’s Cenotaph Wall of Remembrance.

…8 photos still being sought for the Cenotaph Wall of Remembrance…

Pieter hopes that more of the empty frames will be filled over the coming year. “…Unfortunately, photos for 7 from WWI and 1 from WWII have yet to be found….” he said.  Can YOU help with this photo wish list?

Names still without faces from WWI

  • Leigh Hunt CAMERON, born in Albany
  • James Lymon CAMERON, born in Victoria
  • William Galen CAMPBELL, born in Wellington
  • Bazil CORMIER, born in Tignish
  • Charles LOWTHER, born in North Carleton
  • Arthur Clinton ROBINSON, born in Tryon
  • Harry ROBINSON, born in Augustine Cove

Names still without faces from WWII

  • Ernest Ramey GALLANT, born in Borden

Thank you to Louis and Janet Arsenault for sharing a photo. Thank you also to CBC Radio-Canada Acadie and The Guardian for helping to publicize the photo search.

If you can help with the photo search request or have a story to tell, Pieter encourages you to email him at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.

…Want to follow our research?…

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Front cover OnTheWarMememorialTrailinEuropeDaria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats.  Net proceeds of book sales help support research costs and the cost of maintaining this blog. For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

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© 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