On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Holten

October 8, 2019.  While in The Netherlands we visited the three Canadian War Cemeteries and laid down flags of Canada and PEI for the names listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, as well as other Islanders who have been identified by Dutch researchers. The first Canadian War Cemetery we visited on the 2019 trip was in Holten.  (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Holten Canadian War Cemetery for an account of our 2017 visit.) On this visit we also were able to place flags on graves of soldiers that were identified by Pieter while doing research for photos and other information to help the researchers at the cemetery with their “A Face For Every Grave” project.

For some reason, we have never been able to visit the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten on a dry day.  We started off in beautiful sunshine, but as soon as we entered the gate into the cemetery, it started to rain.  At first we ignored the rain, and were rewarded with a downpour.  We got the message and went back to the car to wait for the rain to stop.

While we waited we noticed that schoolchildren from an elementary school in nearby Holten were having a tour and explanation of the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers in liberating The Netherlands during WWII.  We approached a teacher and asked if the children would like Canadian flag pins.  As soon as the children understood what was being offered, Pieter was mobbed!  “Are you really from Canada?” he was asked.

CIMG3191 Oct 3 2019 Pieter surrounded by children at Holten

Pieter handing out Canadian flag pins to children from a nearby elementary school at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

While handing out pins to the schoolchildren, the rain stopped and we returned to visit the graves.  We went through the gate into the cemetery and stopped to take a photo at the entrance.  No sooner had the photo been taken than it started to rain again, quite heavily! Back we went to the car.

CIMG3190 Oct 3 2019 Pieter by sign at Holten Cdn War Cemetery

Pieter at the entrance to the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. As soon as we took this photo, it started to rain! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We were soon joined by Edwin van der Wolf and Henk Vincent of the Information Centre, Canadian War Cemetery Holten, and decided to go for lunch in the hope that the sun would come out later.  We’d visited the Information Centre in 2017 (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At The Information Centre at Holten Canadian War Cemetery) but it closed at the beginning of October for several months for expansion of the facility and preparation of digital innovations, such as holographic stories of various soldiers.

CIMG3194 Oct 3 2019 Lunch at Grand Cafe in Holten

At Grand Café in Holten. Left to right: Daria Valkenburg, Pieter Valkenburg, Edwin van der Wolf, Henk Vincent.

After a nice visit and lunch, the sun began peeking out from the clouds and it started to dry up, so a third attempt was made at placing flags at the cemetery.  This time we were joined by Edwin and Henk.  Again, however, we no sooner came past the gate than it started to rain.  This time we kept on going, and the four of us managed to place 33 flags and take photos of each grave…. in the rain.

CIMG3219 Oct 3 2019 Holten Carmen Gillcash

Edwin van der Wolf, Henk Vincent, and Pieter by the grave of Carman Gillcash of O’Leary. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Flags of Canada and Prince Edward Island were placed at the graves of the following Islanders:

  • Alfred ARSENAULT, born in Urbanville
  • Frederick Charles CHEVERIE, born in Summerside
  • Nelson DES ROCHES, born in Tignish
  • Harald FRASER, born in Vernon Bridge
  • Frank GALLANT, born in Mount Carmel
  • Carman E. GILLCASH, born in O’Leary
  • Maurice J. HUGHES, born in Charlottetown
  • Francis E. LAWLESS, born in Grand Tracadie
  • Neal F. MACDONALD, born in North Wiltshire
  • Daniel Peter MACKENZIE, born in Summerville
  • Ruel K. MATHESON, born in Charlottetown
  • John B. MATTHEW, born in Souris
  • Michael J. MCKENNA, born in Montague
  • John A. MCLAREN, born in Armadale
  • George Martin MCMAHON, born in Kinkora
  • William Douglas SHERREN, born in Crapaud
  • Charles B. TUPLIN, born in Kensington
  • Archibald H. NELSON, born in Charlottetown

Flags of Canada and Nova Scotia were placed at the graves of the following soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment:

  • Joseph A. COMEAU, born in Lower Saulnierville
  • Gordon F. JOHNSON, born in Nova Scotia, birthplace unknown
  • Lewis W. MARSH, born in Sydney Mines
  • Lloyd W. MURRAY, born in Tatamagouche

A flag of Canada was placed at the graves of the following soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who were not from Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island:

  • Allan G. COUTTS, born in Alberta
  • Howard M. NICHOLLS, born in Mattawa, Ontario
  • Gunnar DALMAN, born in Saskatchewan

Edwin van der Wolf researched a tragic story of Canadian soldiers murdered in cold blood by German soldiers on April 9, 1945 while they were sleeping in tents in Sogel, Germany, and Canadian flags were placed in honour of these men as well:

  • Karl CHRISTENSEN of Alberta
  • Louis FELDMANN of Ontario
  • Lewis GALLANT of Manitoba
  • Thomas F. GREENHALGH of Alberta
  • Victor HUBACHECK of Ontario
  • John D. MCDOUGALL of Manitoba
  • Harlow D. RANKIN of Ontario
  • Franklin ZIMMERMAN of Ontario

Placing flags is the easiest part of a cemetery visit.  Gathering flags to bring from Canada is an event in itself, involving many people who provided them.  Our thanks go to:

  • the office of Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island for Canada flags and pins
  • the office of Senator Mike Duffy, Senate of Canada for Canada flags and pins
  • Mary McQuaid of Veterans Affairs Canada for arranging for us to have PEI flags
  • John Wales of North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum for making a trip to the Island to drop off Nova Scotia flags.
CIMG3047 Jul 24 2019 John Wales with NS flags

John Wales of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum dropped of Nova Scotia flags to be placed at graves in The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If anyone has more information to share on any of the soldiers listed above, or know of more Islanders buried in the cemetery in Holten, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

Paying Our Respects To Private Ellis Hooper

September 4, 2017.  After making the journey from The Netherlands to France, we stopped at our first French cemetery in the village of Aubigny en Artois, 15 km north-west of Arras.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the road between the Dutch border, through Belgium, and into northern France is quiet.  It isn’t!  It’s a madhouse on the highway!

And the names of places can get confusing.  We wondered why the GPS kept telling us to go in the direction of Rijssel – until we saw that the French name for Rijssel was Lille!

Then, just outside of Aubigny en Artois, we stopped at a parking spot off the highway, sort of like a rest stop but without any conveniences.  Pieter wanted to stretch his legs, but didn’t get very far when I saw a sign saying ‘Défense de déposer des ordures’.


Memo to self… next time, bring a French-English dictionary! (Photo credit:  Pieter Valkenburg)

I saw the word ‘Défense’ and remembered all the stories about unexploded mines in the area.  While I had no idea what the rest of the sign said, I knew ‘Défense’ was a warning of some kind.  “Don’t go there”, I shouted, “it’s a mine field!”  Of course, Pieter paid no attention to me, and it wasn’t until we got to the hotel and I looked up the translation that we could laugh about it.  It says something along the lines of “Don’t dump your garbage”!


We reach the village of Aubigny en Artois. (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)


Directions to the cemetery are clearly marked.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)


Entrance to the Aubigny Communal Cemetery.  The Extension is behind the cemetery, and has 2,771 Commonwealth burials from WWI and 7 from WWII.  There are 227 French burials prior to March 1916, and 64 German war graves. The original cemetery land was given to the commune of Aubigny in 1909 by former mayor Emile Delombre. (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

After the excitement of the parking spot sign, we finally reached the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, and left the car to find the grave of Private Ellis Moyse HOOPER.  Hooper was born October 20, 1895 in Central Bedeque, son of Charles Frederick Allison Hooper and Bessie Marie nee Moyse.  Hooper enlisted in the 105th Battalion, C Company on March 4, 1916, and later transferred to the 14th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. On March 30, 1917, he died at No. 30 Casualty Station of gunshot wounds to his leg and left arm.

Left: Private Ellis Moyse Hooper.  (Photo credit:  Lana Churchill family collection)

Right: Pieter by Hooper’s grave, after placing the flags of Canada, PEI, and Canada 150. (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

Hooper’s cousin, Ernest Shaw MARSHALL, of Ontario, who died May 3, 1917, is buried nearby.


Marshall’s grave was a few rows down from his cousin Hooper. (Photo credit:  Pieter Valkenburg)

As we left the cemetery, which is very well kept, we signed the guest register book. Each of the Commonwealth cemeteries has a register listing each soldier’s burial location, and there is a guest register.  If you visit, don’t forget to sign the register yourself!


The register is in a compartment on the pillar by the entrance to the cemetery.  (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

This special visit was a prelude to our next stop on the memorial trail, the Vimy Memorial.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg