On The War Memorial Trail….. The Search For A Photo Of Austin Havelock Munroe Is On YouTube

November 29, 2022. 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 of Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, one of the names on the photo wish list from the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

…Pieter was astonished to learn that 39 North Novies lost their lives on his 1st birthday….

…He died on my birthday! I was just one year old!…” Pieter exclaimed.  When he learned that Carson died during the Battle of Bienen in Germany on March 25, 1945, he wondered if there were more Canadian soldiers who had lost their lives that day.

Pieter contacted Alice van Bekkum, Chair of the Groesbeek Cemetery Faces To Graves project and asked if there were more casualties.  To his surprise, Alice sent a list of 38 more soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment.  12 of these soldiers were on the cemetery’s photo wish list.

Over the past months, Pieter managed to find families of 11 of these soldiers, and has already received photos of 10.  One family is in the process of preparing a copy of a treasured photo.  In March 2023 a special series on several of these soldiers will be featured on this blog, in the lead up to March 25.

…One soldier’s photo still has not been found…

One soldier’s photo is still outstanding – Austin Havelock MUNROE.  Austin was born on December 2, 1919 in Little Dover, Nova Scotia, the son of Edward and Minnie Munroe.  He was married to Anna Elizabeth Munroe, nee Barry.

In the hope of reaching as many people as possible, Pieter sat down to help feature this photo quest on our YouTube Channel.  You can watch Photo Search-WW2 Soldier Austin Havelock Munroe (S3E2) here:

Pieters saying

…Pieter’s interview on CTV Atlantic News At 5 was successful….

In addition to the YouTube video, on Monday, November 7, 2022, Pieter was interviewed by Ceilidh Millar of CTV Atlantic News At 5 about the search for 4 soldiers of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who died during the Battle of Bienen on March 25, 2022.

You can read the article and watch the video.  See P.E.I. man identifying Canadian soldiers in the Netherlands | CTV News https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/maritime-man-appealing-to-public-for-help-identifying-lost-canadian-soldiers-1.6143236

Following this interview, family of one soldier immediately came forward with a photo.  Families of two other soldiers subsequently got in contact.

Thank you to post-production editor Wendy Nattress, who made this YouTube video a reality.  Thank you also to Ceilidh Millar, Jayson Baxter, Maria Panopalis, and CTV Atlantic News At 5 for publicizing the photo search of soldiers killed in Bienen, Germany.

If you have photos or information to share about Austin Havelock Munroe – or any of the soldiers killed during the Battle of Bienen -, please let Pieter know. You can email him at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

….The 38 Other North Novies Buried in Groesbeek….

  • Clifford BATEMAN of La Poile, Newfoundland
  • Vilhelm Kruuse BOGGILD of Lockeport, Nova Scotia
  • John Joseph BOHON (BOHONKO) of Montreal, Quebec
  • Ralph Schurman BOULTER of West Point, Prince Edward Island
  • Herbert Malcolm BRANNEN of Stony Island, Nova Scotia
  • Lawrence William BULGER of Foxley River, Prince Edward Island
  • Charles Marshall CARSON of Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick
  • Hugh Patterson CHRISTIE of English Town, Nova Scotia
  • Walter George COLEBOURNE of Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Roy Williams COLLINS of North Sydney, Nova Scotia
  • George Mitchell DASH of Sable River West, Nova Scotia
  • Harry William DOUCETTE of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
  • Charles Benjamin HAGERTY of Port Williams, Nova Scotia
  • Marven Glenroy HARVEY of North Noel Road, Nova Scotia
  • Granville Murray HEARABOUT of Truro, Nova Scotia
  • Gordon HENRY of North Sydney, Nova Scotia
  • Harold Charles JAMES of Springhill, Nova Scotia
  • Harold Lawrence KEDDY of Port Williams, Nova Scotia
  • Kitchener LANGILLE of North Glasgow, Nova Scotia
  • Stewart Rindress MACDONALD of Cape Dauphin, Nova Scotia
  • Norbert James MACINTYRE of Reserve Mines, Nova Scotia
  • Donald John MACKINNON of Sydney, Nova Scotia
  • Leo Joseph MACMULLAN of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia
  • Robert Bruce MACNEILL of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Marvin William MCGREGOR of West Jeddore, Nova Scotia
  • Gordon Robert MCLEOD of Toronto, Ontario
  • Harland Evender MITCHELL of East Jeddore, Nova Scotia
  • Edward John MUNRO of Quebec City, Quebec
  • Austin Havelock MUNROE of Little Dover, Nova Scotia
  • Laurie Douglas PAGE of Rawdon, Nova Scotia
  • Wilfred Joseph POWER of New Westminster, British Columbia
  • Wesley Levi ROBINSON of South Maitland, Nova Scotia
  • Louis Allan SEXTON of Saint-Jules, Quebec
  • Norman Alexander SHAW of Lochside, Nova Scotia
  • Edison Alexander SMITH of West Point, Prince Edward Island
  • William THOMPSON of Campbelltown, New Brunswick
  • Eric Herman THOMSON of Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • John Lewis WALLACE of Canning, Nova Scotia
  • Theodore George WARNELL of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

NOTE: These are not the only casualties from the Battle of Bienen, only the ones identified as being in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment.

…Want to follow our research?….

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

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 on the book, please see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The Importance Of Remembrance

RemembranceDayHeader

November 9, 2022. On November 11, we will remember the memories and sacrifices made by those who did their best to answer the call to fight for freedom.

Those who sacrificed their lives in war are not just names on a Cenotaph or buried in a war grave.  They were children, siblings, spouses, parents, friends… Each one has a story that can be told and they should not be forgotten. That’s been the goal of this research blog over the years.

…Burnie Reynaert still remembers laying a wreath as a young girl….field-of-poppies300

Burnie Reynaert still remembers her uncle Lewis Wilkieson MARSH of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, one of 5 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who drowned in a tragic accident on the Leda River during the Battle of Leer in Germany on April 28, 1945. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/05/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-4/)

Last year, Burnie shared the telegrams her grandmother received, first saying that Lewis was believed to have drowned, and then the awful confirmation that he had died.  (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/11/10/on-the-war-memorial-trail-linking-the-past-with-the-present/)

This year, Burnie shared a photo of herself as a young girl, placing a wreath in honour of her uncle.

IMG_9994 Burnie Reynaert re Lewis Wilkieson Marsh

A very young Burnie placed a wreath in honour of her uncle, Lewis Wilkieson Marsh.  (Photo courtesy of B. Reynaert)

Even today, Burnie has not forgotten her uncle’s sacrifice.

IMG_0348 Burnie Reynaert with book

Burnie Reynaert with book.  (Photo courtesy of B.  Reynaert)

field-of-poppies300…We visited the memorial in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia…

20220912_123247 Sep 12 2022 Pieter beside Saulnierville Memorial

Pieter beside the memorial in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This fall, while in Nova Scotia, we visited the memorial in Saulnierville.  Two soldiers that Pieter researched are listed on this monument.  Both are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

Joseph ‘Ambroise’ COMEAU, from Lower Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, was one of 5 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who drowned in a tragic accident on the Leda River during the Battle of Leer in Germany on April 28, 1945.  (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/05/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-3/ and https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/11/10/on-the-war-memorial-trail-linking-the-past-with-the-present/)

Joseph E.  ROBICHAU, from Meteghan, Nova Scotia, lost his life on April 14, 1945 near Deventer, The Netherlands, while serving with the Royal 22nd Regiment.  His story will be told in an upcoming posting.

20220912_123347 Sep 12 2022 Saulnierville Memorial WW2 soldiers inc Comeau & Robichau

The WWII tribute on the memorial in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

…Pieter interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press….field-of-poppies300

20210220_111030 Feb 20 2021 Pieter with photo wish lists

Pieter surrounded by some of the photo wish lists from the Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Pieter was interviewed by Kevin Rollason of the Winnipeg Free Press, about his request for help in finding photos of 12 soldiers from Manitoba who are buried in The Netherlands.  The article, ‘A name without a face’, ran online on November 4, 2022 and in the print edition on November 5, 2022. As of the date of this posting, the photo wish list remains unfulfilled. Here is the link in case you can help:  https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/2022/11/04/a-name-without-a-face

field-of-poppies300…Pieter interviewed on CTV Atlantic News At 5….

On Monday, November 7, 2022, Pieter was interviewed by Ceilidh Millar of CTV Atlantic News At 5 about the search for 4 soldiers of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who died during the Battle of Bienen on March 25, 2022.

You can read the article and watch the video.  See P.E.I. man identifying Canadian soldiers in the Netherlands | CTV News https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/maritime-man-appealing-to-public-for-help-identifying-lost-canadian-soldiers-1.6143236

The names of the soldiers mentioned in the interview were:

  1. Donald John MACKINNON, born October 8, 1925 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, son of Joseph and Catherine ( nee MacNeil) MacKinnon.
  2. Austin Havelock MUNROE, born December 2, 1919 in Little Dover, Nova Scotia, son of Edward and Minnie Munroe. He was married to Ana Elizabeth (nee Barry) Munroe.
  3. John Lewis WALLACE, born June 1, 1921 in Canning, Nova Scotia., son of William Edward and Amy Louise Wallace. He was married to Doris Avanelle (nee Crowe) Wallace. They had one son, William Lewis Wallace.
  4. Louis Allan SEXTON, son of  James E. and Ethel Sexton of Maria Est, Bonaventure County in Quebec, is also still on the photo wish list.

Incredibly, shortly after the broadcast we were contacted by Irene Doyle of Campbelltown, New Brunswick, who sent us a photo of Louis Sexton, which came from the Bay Chaleur Military Museum website.  The three soldiers from Nova Scotia are still on the photo wish list!

… ‘Il Silenzio’ to remember the fallen….field-of-poppies300

It seems fitting to end this Remembrance Week posting with music.  In a Dutch Liberation Day concert in Maastricht, The Netherlands, 13-year-old Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and his orchestra (the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands), was the trumpet soloist in a haunting rendition of ‘Il Silenzio’ (The Silence). This piece, by Italian composer Nino Rossi, is based upon what we know as The Last Post. Watch

Thank you to Burnie Reynaert for sharing a childhood photo, Irene Doyle for sending the photo of Louis Sexton, Kevin Rollason and the Winnipeg Free Press for publicizing the photo search request of soldiers from Manitoba, and to Ceilidh Millar, Jayson Baxter, and CTV Atlantic News At 5 for publicizing the photo search of soldiers killed in Bienen, Germany.

If you can help with these photo requests, or have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. You can email him at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

field-of-poppies300…Want to follow our research?….

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

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 on the book, please see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The WWII Soldier From Albion Who Died During The Defence Of The Nijmegen Salient

November 2, 2022. Once you visit a Canadian War Cemetery and place down a flag by the grave of a soldier from the province where you live, it stays with you, and makes you wonder about the young man who is buried there.  Over the years, Pieter has researched several of the soldiers from Prince Edward Island who are buried in The Netherlands, and he continues to do so. 

One of these WWII soldiers was George ‘Ivan’ MACKINNON, who was born September 16, 1917 in Albion, Prince Edward Island, the son of Wilbert and Catherine ‘Kattie’ (nee Acorn) MacKinnon (also spelled McKinnon).  Ivan’s birth record says he was born on September 16, but he recorded September 26 on his attestation form.

…The photo search began with media help….

In his quest to find a photo, Pieter contacted Charlotte MacAulay of the Eastern Graphic newspaper for help in publicizing his quest.  The article ran on September 21, 2022 and shortly afterwards, Pieter was contacted by Sandra Stephens, who explained that she had a photo.

EAG-A03-092122-K Eastern Graphic George Ivan MacKinnon with border

20221019_102847 Oct 19 2022 Pieter and Sandra Stephens

Sandra Stephens with Pieter. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

When we met, Sandra explained that “… Dad’s Aunt Chris married Nathaniel MacKinnon, Ivan’s uncle.  Their place was just up the road and we visited there…

George Ivan MacKinnon

George ‘Ivan’ MacKinnon. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Stephens)

When Ivan enlisted with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in Charlottetown on August 15, 1940, he was living in Montague, Prince Edward Island, and had worked on his family’s mixed farm operation for the past 10 years.

After completing his basic training, Ivan travelled to the United Kingdom with the Regiment, boarding the ship ‘Orion’ in Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 18, 1941.  The ship left Halifax the next day, arriving in Bristol on July 29, 1941. Intensive training followed, in preparation for the upcoming battles in Normandy in 1944.

…Ivan survived D-Day….

The North Nova Scotia Highlanders left England for Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, after waiting in place in the English Channel on landing craft earlier.   The war diary for Sunday, June 4, 1944 noted that “…We are tied up with two other landing craft tank.   The Padre is on one, so he had a church service at 10:30 hours on the quarter deck of the middle craft…

On June 5, 1944 the war diary recorded that “…At 14:00 hours the flotilla moved out to the open sea and formed up with the other craft taking part in the invasion…

After landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the war diary noted that the Regiment had 10 casualties – 4 killed, 6 wounded.  Ivan had survived D-Day.

…The Regiment arrived near Nijmegen…

The North Nova Scotia Highlanders fought their way through Normandy.  On July 25, 1944, during ‘Operation Spring’, a battle in Tilly-La-Campagne, France, Ivan was slightly wounded by shell fragments to his face, legs, and neck.  (See https://www.dday-overlord.com/en/battle-of-normandy/cities/tilly-la-campagne)

From France, the Regiment travelled through Belgium, and then to The Netherlands for the Battle of the Scheldt. By November 1944 they had advanced to an area near Nijmegen.

Nijmegensalient

The North Nova Scotia Highlanders were posted near Nijmegen.  (Map source: http://www.canadiansoldiers.com)

In ‘No Retreating Footsteps’ by Will Bird, he noted that on November 19, 1944, the North Novies would “…relieve the 7th Recce Regiment at Nijmegen Bridge…”  This was the bridge across the Waal River, a vital link to the Rhine River and into Germany.

The area known as the Nijmegen Salient had been established in September 1944, and was defended by Allied troops since then.  The First Canadian Army, of which the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were part of, was responsible for its defence between November 1944 and February 1945, when the advance into Germany began.  (See https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/campaigns/northwesteurope/nijmegensalient.htm)

Skirmishes with German troops were ongoing, with casualties on both sides.  On December 3, 1944, Will Bird recorded that “…temporary quarters was in the cellar of a smashed house.  Sgt Arnold Piers was in command, and along with him were Sgt Bud Tibbetts, Cpl I MacKinnon, Ptes Bill Smith, Conners, Scott, Campbell and Lantagan as well as four or five others. There was a German village 1000 yards ahead and until dark the carrier men fired at anyone who moved in the village….”  

When the men noticed activity in the nighttime and flares being sent up by the Germans, they reported it to officers at Artillery Headquarters, who ignored their observations.  Bird noted that “… the general feeling was that the carrier men, unused to such duties, were jittery…

…Ivan lost his life during a firefight…

It turned out that the officers were wrong and the men were right to be concerned.  There were several casualties, with two who paid with their lives, in the early hours of December 4, 1944.  “…Sentries were relieved at 2:00 am…” 

Six men were resting when Sgt Piers woke them up.  “…He had sighted a raiding party of the enemy coming toward the post. Pte A. J. Campbell rushed out with a Bren gun, and fell back dead, target for a dozen bullets…” 

In the firefight that followed, the Germans “… threw grenades and overwhelmed the … small garrison as the Brens on the parapet had been left on cock and would not fire.  Daylight came shortly after…

Ivan did not survive the attack. “…Cpl Ivan MacKinnon was seen lying out in front about 50 yards.  Pte Connors crawled out and dragged him back, but he had died, having been shot ….” 

The other casualty was Allan Joseph CAMPBELL, aged 24, son of Alex T. and Annie Campbell, of Centennial, Inverness County, Nova Scotia.

…Ivan is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek….

Ivan was initially buried in the Jonkers Bosch Temporary Military Cemetery in Nijmegen, before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.

CIMG3317 Oct 5 2019 Groesbeek George MacKinnon

Grave of George ‘Ivan’ MacKinnon in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Thank you to Sandra Stephens for providing a photo, and to Charlotte MacAulay and the Eastern Graphic for publicizing the photo search request. If you have a story to tell, please let Pieter know. You can email him at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.  

…Want to follow our research?….

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

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 on the book, please see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. A Photo Found For WW2 Soldier Allan ‘Gordon’ Coutts

May 24, 2022.  In 2017, Pieter received a photo wish list from researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  There were 6 names, all serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders when they lost their lives. 

One of these men, Allan ‘Gordon’ COUTTS, was born January 11, 1923 in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, the son of Benjamin and Susan Coutts.  During his childhood, the family moved to Olds, Alberta, where his father was a firefighter on a government experimental farm. On May 11, 1945, while monitoring the unloading of ammunition at the Sports Field in Norden, Germany, an explosion cost him his life.

In July 2021, after being unsuccessful in finding family, Pieter did a radio interview with a station in Olds, Alberta, and we posted a story about the photo search. (See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.com/2021/08/20/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-ww2-soldier-allan-gordon-coutts/)

….A photo is found….

Months later, in December 2021, we received an email from Gordon Kenneth ‘Ken’ Coutts in Saskatchewan, saying “I came across your request for photos or information on family members…” of Gordon Coutts.  “… I was named after him. The last of his siblings, Norman, passed away in November 2021.  All that remain are 3 generations of nieces and nephews….

Photo Sgt Coutts from Ken Coutts

Allan ‘Gordon’ Coutts shortly before enlistment in 1943.  (Photo submitted by Ken Coutts and courtesy of The Coutts Family)

….Letter from Captain A. M. Harper….

Ken shared the only photo he had of his uncle, along with a letter that Captain A. M. HARPER of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders sent to Gordon’s father upon his death.

…It is with the deepest sympathy that I write to you on the loss of your son, Sergeant Allan Gordon Coutts, who died of accidental wounds received at Norden, Germany on 11 May, 1945.  Words could not express my feelings when I received the news as your son was one of the best fellows we had here in ‘C’ Company.

I can recall your son’s record with this unit quite plainly. On the seventh of September he came to us as Private Coutts….”  This would have been September 7, 1944.

…As a private, he played his part in no small way in battles that have great significance – Mount Lambert, Bavlogne, the Scheldt estuary landing – and proved his mettle so well that he received the appointment of Lance Corporal on the twelfth of October during the water and mud operation on the Scheldt.  

On the fifth of November, the now well known 3rd Canadian Infantry Division N.C.O.’s School opened. Lance Corporal Coutts was one of the first ones to be recommended for the course and he did very well and received an excellent report.  As a result of the school’s recommendation, your son was promoted to corporal on the 8th of January 1945.

As a corporal, he did an excellent job in Nijmegen, in the clearing operation up the Rhine and then in the crossing of the Rhine.  I can remember one situation in particular that ensured the young corporal’s promotion to the rank of Sergeant. It was the crossing of the Rhine.  Our task was the taking of the strongpoint of Bienen.

Casualties were extremely heavy during the attack and when we gained the first buildings, Cpl Coutts was the only NCO left with the company commander and myself.  He did an excellent job there in the face of heavy odds and was promoted to Sergeant that day.

In that quiet, efficient way of his, your son carried on throughout the remainder of the campaign until the end of hostilities on May 7/8.  At that time we were assigned the task of rounding up the remnants of the German armed forces, disarming them and concentrating them in specific areas.

Sgt Coutts was supervising the removal of ammunition from one when a freak accident occurred, mortally wounding him.  A court of inquiry was held, but no blame can be attached to anyone because it definitely was a freak accident.

Your son never regained consciousness from the time of his accident until his death several hours later.  All possible treatment was given him by our own medical officers, those at the Field Dressing Station and also those at the Casualty Clearing Station, but even modern medicine could not revive him. He died as he lived – a man well-liked, respected, and trusted by everyone.

Your son was buried in the Canadian plot of the Lutheran Cemetery at Leer, Germany, with full military honours by the H/Capt G. Cox, Protestant chaplain of the Casualty Clearing Station.…..

On behalf of the entire unit, I wish to express our sympathy in your bereavement.  We have lost a tried and true friend, and a good soldier, but our loss is small compared to your loss of a son.

Sincerely yours,

A.M. Harper…

What a wonderful tribute and summary of service for a valued soldier and friend! 

….The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Wish List….

In addition to Allan ‘Gordon’ COUTTS,  the other North Nova Scotia Highlanders on that 2017 photo wish list from the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, for which photos were found, were:

One more photo is yet to be found for:

  • Archibald Henry NELSON, born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, son of William Henry and Winnifred Frances Nelson, who lost his life on April 18, 1945, aged 32.

Thank you to Ken Coutts for sharing a photo of his uncle and the letter from Captain Harper.  Do you have photos or information to share? Email Pieter at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1

…Want to follow our research?….

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

Front cover OnTheWarMememorialTrailinEuropeDaria’s book ‘No Soldier Buried Overseas Should Ever Be Forgotten‘ is available in print and e-book formats.  For more information see https://nosoldierforgotten.com/

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw

© Daria Valkenburg

 

On The War Memorial Trail….. The WW2 Soldier From Springhill Who Received A Military Cross

January 23, 2022.  In the quest for a photo of Lt Donald Charles MACKENZIE of Springhill, Nova Scotia, Pieter placed a request on ‘THE SPECTATOR: A Little Good News from Springhill, NS’ Facebook page.  Pat Crowe submitted a newspaper photo and obituary shortly afterwards, explaining that “…Donald had 4 brothers and sisters but they are all gone now…

image0 Donald Charles MacKenzie

Donald Charles MacKenzie.  (Photo courtesy of Lydia Prange)

Pat then contacted Donald’s niece, Lydia Prange, who had a photo and explained that her mother, Lydia Jean Nelson, was Donald’s sister.  I was born in 1949 so never knew my uncle or grandmother….” Lydia wrote.

Born September 3, 1914 in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Donald was the son of Charles Tupper MacKenzie and Lydia MacKay.  Before enlisting for active duty with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in Springhill on September 15, 1939, Donald was in the Cumberland Highlanders militia from June 11, 1936 until August 27, 1939.  He was employed as a road layer by Dominion Steel and Coal, a mining company.

Donald married …Mary MacSavaney on June 19, 1936.  Their son Gordon was born on March 15, 1940…

….Donald took a demotion in rank in order to serve overseas more quickly….

Upon enlistment, he was given the rank of Sergeant and sent to Halifax with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.  However, in order to see active overseas service more quickly, he transferred to the Royal Canadian Engineers 6th Field Company on January 7, 1941, taking a demotion in rank to Private, and was transferred to Debert, Nova Scotia in preparation for going overseas.

On June 18, 1941 he was on his way to the United Kingdom.  On August 1, 1941 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and later promoted to Corporal on July 6, 1943. On September 21, 1944 he received a further promotion, to Lieutenant, upon the successful completion of officer training at Sandhurst, in the United Kingdom.

…After receiving a promotion to Lieutenant he was transferred to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles…

He requested a transfer back to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, but instead, in October 1944 he was sent to Belgium and assigned to the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.

image1 Donald Charles MacKenzie

Donald Charles MacKenzie.  (Photo courtesy of Lydia Prange)

On April 7, 1945 the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were in The Netherlands, and ordered to cross the Schipbeek Canal and establish a bridgehead as preparation for an assault on the city of Deventer by the 7th Canadian Brigade.  Crossing the Canal was vital to the success of the bridge operation, not an easy feat as the Bridge was strongly defended by the Germans.

…Courage and bravery led to a Military Cross recommendation…

Donald’s actions on that day resulted in a recommendation for a Military Cross.  The citation recorded that “…it was due only to the determination and boundless courage of Lt Douglas MacKenzie that a quick crossing was made possible without heavy casualties.

The enemy had a battle group dispersed around the bridge, making it impassable.  Lt MacKenzie, in command of the unit Pioneers attached to ‘D’ Company, had the responsibility of bridging the canal so that a bridgehead could be rapidly built up ready for a breakout.

The enemy fire was intense but with covering fire from ‘D’ Company, Lt MacKenzie succeeded in crawling out onto the Bridge, dragging a couple of planks. He was working well within grenade range of the enemy and at least six grenades exploded nearby, wounding him by shrapnel and blast.

With complete disregard for his own safety, he continued working until he had four planks in position, allowing the company to cross quickly and secure a solid bridgehead.

His dauntless spirit and untiring efforts inspired the men around him and resulted in the momentum of the advance being maintained…

…Appingedam was at the beginning of the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket…

Screenshot 2022-01-21 at 10-19-20 appingedam ww2 at DuckDuckGo

Map showing Appingedam courtesy of Wikipedia.

On April 21, 1945, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles neared Appingedam, a small town of 7,000 in the northeastern corner of The Netherlands.  Along with the 7th Reconnaissance Regiment, they advanced, but the Germans blew up the bridge over the canal which the Rifles had intended to cross.

The movement of troops through Appingedam was the very beginning of the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  (For more information on the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket, see https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/battlehonours/northwesteurope/delfzijlpocket.htm)

A translated excerpt from a Dutch account, written by Joël Stoppels of Battlefield Tours and sent by the Informatiecentrum Canadese Begraafplaats Holten, gave an eye witness account.  “…On Sunday morning, April 22, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles travelled via the railway line at Tjamsweer to the level crossing. They came under fire from the bunkers on the south side of the rails, but these were soon defused. By six o’clock they reached the railway crossing, after which they continued along the railway towards Appingedam. They were noticed by the Germans, who started to fire on the Canadians. As a result, the entire area between Tjamsweer and Appingedam came under heavy machine-gun fire and shell fire. … 

It appears that the Germans were initially surprised as they expected troops to advance by the main road. “… There was heavy fighting at the railway bridge over the Kleine Heekt. The Germans withdrew, but not before blowing up the bridge. This was not an insurmountable problem for the Canadians. Partly to protect themselves against enemy fire, the Canadians continued dredging through the ditches. Fifteen Canadians thus reached the level crossing at Jukwerd, where they entered Mr H. Jongsma’s house, soaked and muddy, because of their platoon commander….”

The platoon commander was Lt Donald MacKenzie “…. who had suffered a gunshot wound to his right shoulder…He was placed on a bed to allow him to rest…”  In an unlucky twist of fate, this temporary resting place proved fatal.

….The Germans unleashed concentrated fire, with two shells hitting the house. When the residents later were able to check on the wounded soldier, it turned out that he had been fatally hit by shrapnel…

The Canadian soldiers who had brought him to the house … had moved to the home of Mr. P. Puisten (on the same street), and could no longer offer help. Red Cross soldiers moved his remains outside the line of fire….

Donald was 30 years old when he died in that house on April 22, 1945.  The Military Cross was awarded to him posthumously and presented to his widow.  Donald was initially buried in Loppersum General Cemetery in Groningen.  After the war he was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

image2 Gravestone Donald Charles MacKenzie

Grave of Donald Charles MacKenzie in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo courtesy of Informatiecentrum Canadese Begraafplaats Holten)

… A plaque commemorates Canadian soldiers who died during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket….

This is the second story told about a soldier with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles who lost his life near Appingedam.  William ‘Willie’ DANIELS, whose story was previously told, also lost his life on April 22, 1945.

In 1995, the Stefanus Church in Holwierde placed a plaque to commemorate Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Delfzijl Pocket.  Donald MacKenzie and Willie Daniels are among those who are commemorated.

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde

Plaque at Stefanus Church in Holwierde, The Netherlands.  (Source: https://www.tracesofwar.nl/sights/40531/Herinneringsplaquette-Stefanus-Kerk.htm)

….. Other Soldiers Mentioned On The Plaque In The Church In Holwierde….

Thank you to Lydia Prange for sharing photos and information on Donald Charles MacKenzie and to Elaine Falconer, who manages the The Spectator Facebook page in Springhill, Nova Scotia.  This Canadian hero was featured in a Remembrance Week video entitled ‘In Remembrance’ on our YouTube Channel, which you can see here:

Do you have photos or stories to share?  Email Pieter at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @researchmemori1.

…Want to follow our research?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following the blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://onthewarmemorialtrail.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….. Linking The Past With The Present

November 10, 2021. Recently our friend Annie Lee MacDonald sent an email to say that she and her husband had been sent a story by their friend Jim, “about his Father and brothers. We didn’t know any of this. Shows the important contribution you two are making of taking the past and sharing it with the present…”  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/10/20/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww2-pilot-from-pei-who-flew-40-missions-overseas-and-returned-home/)

We loved her phrase of ‘taking the past and sharing it with the present’ as that is what we are doing in telling these stories.  Many of the postings and articles have had a ripple effect, leading to more remembrances, information, and stories. This posting shares some of these ….

In May 2021, a 4 part series entitled ‘A Tragic Drowning On The Leda River in Germany’ told the story of five Canadian soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment who drowned in a tragic accident in the Battle of Leer in Germany on April 28, 1945, one of the final actions to end WW2 in Europe.  All 5 men are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

…A series of coincidences ensures this niece will never forget…..

Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau of Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, was one of these men.   (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/17/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-3/)

Joseph Ambroise Comeau from Simone

Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau.  (Photo courtesy of niece Simone Comeau)

His nieces have never forgotten him. Jacqueline Comeau shared how she found her uncle’s gravesite at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in 1990 while on a school band trip with her son.

….In 1990 I visited The Netherlands with my older son on a high school band trip. To say we had a marvelous time and were so warmly greeted everywhere we went is an understatement. Thankfully we were taken to the Holten War Cemetery and, purely by accident, while walking the grounds, I spotted my uncle’s grave. To that moment, my mother’s family believed he was buried in Germany, perhaps because he died on German land.

This was a momentous event for myself as we were at the cemetery on the 45th anniversary of his death, I was 45 years old and I then discovered that he had a memorial service in his home village on the day I was born (June 3, 1945) …

Ambroise had indeed initially been buried in Germany, and then was reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten afterwards.  Jacqueline shared her story in a French language newspaper, Le Courrier….

article about Jacqueline Comeau visit to Holten

Newspaper article submitted by Jacqueline Comeau. The headline reads ‘Found after 45 years’.

…The discovery of my uncle’s grave in 1990, with the coincidences of dates, such as the date of his death is the date I discovered his grave; a memorial service was held in his honor in his home parish of Saulnierville on the day I was born, June 3, 1945 is unique…

…A telegram one niece will never forget…..

Photo Lewis Marsh

Lewis Wilkieson Marsh. (Photo source:  Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Lewis Wilkieson MARSH, of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, was another casualty of the drowning in the Leda River.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/05/18/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-tragic-drowning-on-the-leda-river-in-germany-part-4/)

Burnie Reynaert wrote to say that “My Uncle Lewis Wilkieson Marsh died on April 28, 1945. I was with my Nana when she received the first telegram that he was believed drowned.  I remember I was standing on the last step near front door when this boy gave her the telegram….

Burnie shared the telegram she was witness to.  One can just feel the horror and fear that her grandmother must have felt upon receiving it.

Telegram advising Marsh is missing

First telegram advising that Lewis Marsh was missing and believed drowned.  (Document courtesy of Burnie Reynaert)

Worse news was to come, as a second telegram confirmed that Lewis had lost his life.

Telegram advising Marsh is KIA

Second telegram advising that Lewis Marsh was killed in action.  (Document courtesy of Burnie Reynaert)

Burnie went on to say “…Thank you so much for your research, I never thought I would see his name and the others that died with him.  I want to thank you both. I am so emotional with love and gratitude for all you have done. I am finally feeling some closure.

My uncle was born November 14, 1925 in Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He had 8 siblings and his father died in 1934. Nana raised them, and had me to raise.

Uncle Lewis worked in Princess Collieries in Sydney Mines for thirteen months. He would be seventeen. I recall Nana and my mom arguing with Lewis that he was not old enough to join. Maybe she had to sign papers? He enlisted on May 26 1944, embarked from Halifax on December 1944, and embarked from UK on December 25 1944….”

…A niece now knows what happened to her uncle …..

Charles Borden Tuplin

Charles Borden Tuplin. (Photo submitted by Gary Richard Perry)

As part of the Atlantic Canada Remembers series of postings, we did a story in March 2021 on Charles ‘Charlie’ Borden TUPLIN of Indian River, Prince Edward Island, who lost his life on December 7, 1944 while serving with the Black Watch.  While crossing a bridge on the Maas River in The Netherlands, Charlie was shot while trying to retrieve the body of Lt Thomas Wilson MacKenzie.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/03/29/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-ww2-soldier-from-indian-river/)

Charlie was wounded and taken by the Germans, but died very shortly afterwards.  He’s buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. Months after the story about Tuplin was posted on our blog, Lt MacKenzie’s niece, Judy Hopkins, got in contact to say that until she read the story that arose out of Pieter’s research, no one in the family knew how Lt MacKenzie had died.  This is probably right as MacKenzie’s service file had multiple letters from his parents asking for this information.

Judy wrote that “I am responding to your article of March 29, 2021, about Charles B. Tuplin. My uncle was Lieutenant Thomas Wilson MacKenzie of No. 1 Black Watch of Canada RHR, mentioned in the article.  And what astonishment to see and read this account of the raid on the front line that took both these men’s lives.

I have just recently been researching this event, as I am writing a life story for the ‘Faces to Graves’ project involving the soldiers buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. So, it was with intense interest that I read this article.

My uncle was ‘Missing in Action’ for several months, causing great concern to his family in Calgary, Alberta. When the regiment moved forward in February, no graves were located for Tuplin or MacKenzie, leaving them to believe that they may have been taken POW.

It was never explained to my grandmother where her son’s remains were found….just that after some months, a body had been identified as his.

In the article, it stated: ‘MacKenzie’s body was later found buried in a temporary cemetery, near where he lost his life.’ And so these two men were together at the end of their lives; Tuplin was taken prisoner, and my uncle likely died at the site of his injury.

After all these years, it is still incredible that new information is learned, and also that people such as yourself are providing a space to honor these men’s memories. Thank you for this. ..

Thomas_MacKenzie-GAV

Thomas Wilson MacKenzie. (Photo submitted by Judy Hopkins)

…He was the much beloved son of Christine MacKenzie, a widow, and brother to my mother, Margaret.  In his letters home, which I still have, he writes about the great bunch of men under his command, and speaks highly of all of them…

…A street in The Netherlands may be named for one soldier …..

Lt. Percy Dexter Higgins

Percy Dexter Higgins.  (Photo courtesy of the Higgins Family)

In a January 2021 posting in the Atlantic Canada Remembers series, we wrote a story about Percy Dexter HIGGINS of Stellarton, Nova Scotia, who was serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders when he lost his life during the Battle of Warnsveld on April 4, 1945.  He’s buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-atlantic-canada-remembers-part-3/)

Shortly afterwards, we received an email from Harm Kuijper in The Netherlands, who explained that there was “…a proposed plan to name a street for Lt Percy Dexter Higgins in the city of Zutphen, Netherlands in the new Looer Enk Subdivision….”  The Higgins family was notified of this proposal and we look forward to hearing more on the street naming as plans progress.

…Two WW1 soldiers from Prince Edward Island are buried in France …..

In 2017, we visited the Manitoba Cemetery in Caix, France, to place flags by the grave of WW1 soldier James CAIRNS of Kinkora, Prince Edward Island, who lost his life on August 9, 1918 during the Battle of Amiens.  James had moved to Manitoba and was serving with what is now the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/the-search-for-manitoba-cemetery/)

We weren’t surprised to see soldiers from the Prairie Provinces in the cemetery, but when we signed the Guest Register Book, we were astonished to find that the previous visitors had come to honour their great-uncle and great-great uncle Theodore (Ted) ARSENAULT from Abrams Village, Prince Edward Island.

Although this posting dates back to 2017, it wasn’t until a few days ago that Colleen Arsenault wrote us.  “Hi there, in doing a bit of internet research on my Great Great Uncle Ted (Theodore Arsenault) to prepare my kids for Canadian Remembrance Day here in Toronto, I came across this post. I instantly recognized my mother Debi and sister Melanie’s handwriting above your entry in the guest book at Manitoba Cemetery. It is so lovely for our family to know that you had put an additional decoration up for our Uncle Ted. Sometimes the internet can truly be a wonderful place! The Arsenault family thanks you….

A mystery was solved!  The Arsenault family sent us a picture of Theodore.  Unfortunately, up to now, no photo has ever been found for James Cairns.

Pte Theodore Arsenault (Great great uncle)

Theodore Arsenault. (Photo submitted by Stephen Arsenault)

Thank you to Colleen Arsenault, Jacqueline Comeau, Judy Hopkins, Harm Kuijper, and Burnie Reynaert for sharing photos and anecdotes. We very much appreciate hearing from readers and having them share their stories.

If you have photos and information to share about Canadian soldiers, please contact Pieter at memorialtrail@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

Rememberance-Day-2020-Canada-5

..Want to follow our research?….

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 memorialtrail@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog.

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© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail….. The Search For A Photo Of WW2 Soldier Allan Gordon Coutts

No photo available

August 20, 2021. In 2017, Pieter received a photo wish list from researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.  There were 6 names, all serving with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders when they lost their lives.  How hard could that be?  Pieter thought.

Over the past years, families of 4 of the six have been found, along with photos of the soldiers.  Two remain elusive. One of these is Allan ‘Gordon’ COUTTS, born January 11, 1923 in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, the son of Benjamin and Susan Coutts.  During his childhood, the family moved to Olds, Alberta, where his father was a firefighter on a government experimental farm.

After enlisting in Calgary, Alberta on January 15, 1943 with the #13 District Depot, he went to the Canadian Basic Training Centre in Camrose, Alberta on February 1, 1943. About 6 weeks later he caught mumps and was placed in isolation in the military hospital.

Once recovered from mumps, he was sent to the Canadian Infantry Training Centre (CITC) in Calgary, then on January 1944 he went to Camp Debert in Nova Scotia for final preparations before being sent overseas to the United Kingdom in March 1944.  In April 1944 he was transferred to the Canadian Scottish Regiment, then in June 1944 to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

On July 25, 1944 he was wounded by a gunshot wound in the right shoulder during an offensive called ‘Operation Spring’ in Tilly-la-Compagne, France, and was hospitalized for a few weeks before returning to duty.  (For more information on Operation Spring see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Spring)

In early May, just before the end of the war, the Regiment went to Norden, Germany, …the first Recce party there...” according to ‘No Retreating Footsteps – the story of the North Novas’ by Will Bird.  Once they arrived, the German Commandant of the area was “...ordered to concentrate all his troops in the barracks area, to disarm them, and deliver all arms and ammunition to a selected arms dump, the Grattin Theda School….

However, Bird continued in his account, “….A German Army deserter reported the organization of Werewolves in the Novas area who wanted to destroy Norden because it had surrendered without a fight, and wanted to prevent German ammunition falling into Allied hands….” The ammunition dump was then moved away from the school to the Sports Field.

An Explosion in Norden was fatal

On May 11, 1945, Gordon was monitoring the unloading of ammunition at the Sports Field.  Around 4:30 pm, there was an explosion which cost him his life.  The witness testimony of Private J. J. JONES of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders confirmed that the sports field was used as a dumping ground for “…enemy ammunition and equipment…

As one of the drivers of these loads, his truck was parked at the dump and stated that he “… was standing by the tailboard of the truck, watching some German soldiers unloading a mixed load of ammunition and equipment.  I heard someone shout out a warning, and then I saw something come out the ground and land on the ground on the edge of the dump itself….

Pte Jones noted that “… the object made a hissing sound and gave off a cloud of orange smoke….” As he ran to take cover, “… a loud explosion went off….” As he returned to the dump, he saw “…a German Officer kick the smoking object away from the dump…”  When he reached the dump, he noticed “…one of our soldiers lying on the ground...” with a hole in his head.  He immediately went to get medical help.

Pte H. K. KEDDY of the Nova Scotia Highlanders was on guard duty at the German ammunition dump at the Norden Sports Field. He too heard a hissing noise and saw orange smoke and ran to safety.  After the explosion he testified that he “…went back to the scene of the explosion which was about 10 to 12 feet from the rear of the ….truck….”  He saw “…Sgt Coutts, AG lying on the ground quite near the truck….” and a wounded German soldier lying nearby.  He helped apply a bandage to the wounds while waiting for medical assistance to arrive.

Capt Alan E. DE FOREST of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders testified that the pile of ammunition contained “…all types of German mines, grenades, bazookas, small arms etc, which included several steel cases of German stick grenades (potato mashers)...”  It appeared that the explosion was caused by one of the stick grenades.  The explosion was ruled an accident and not an act of sabotage.

Gordon was temporarily buried in the Leer Lutheran Cemetery in Germany, before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

CIMG3228 Oct 3 2019 Holten Allan Coutts

We visited the grave of Allan Gordon Coutts at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands in 2019. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In March 1948, Mr. G. F. Struik of Deventer, The Netherlands sent a letter to Veterans Affairs, asking that it be forwarded to the next of kin.  He wanted the family to know that he had adopted the grave, a volunteer program that was organized by the Netherlands War Graves Committee.

This was not an unusual occurrence. Many family members of soldiers that we have met over the years have explained that their families had been in contact with Dutch citizens who adopted a grave.

Unfortunately, although he’s tried since 2017 to find family of Allan Gordon Coutts, Pieter has been unsuccessful.  Earlier this month, he did an interview with Galen Hartviksen, News Director at 96.5 CKFM/ROCK 104.5 in Olds, Alberta, in the hope that someone will see the appeal and come forward.  Here is the link to the web article and interview: https://ckfm.ca/2021/08/09/11202/.  Up to now, no one has come forward, unfortunately.

Thank you to Galen Hartviksen at CKFM for helping to publicize the search for a photo. If you can help with a photo or information about Allan Gordon Coutts, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

 The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Wish List

The other North Nova Scotia Highlanders on that 2017 photo wish list from the researchers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, for which photos were found, were:

In addition to Allan Gordon COUTTS, one more photo is yet to be found for:

  • Archibald Henry NELSON, born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, son of William Henry and Winnifred Frances Nelson, who lost his life on April 18, 1945, aged 32.

….Want to follow our research?….

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….. The Search For A Photo Of Gordon Frederick Johnson Is Over!

July 17, 2021. The four year search for a photo of WW2 soldier Gordon Frederick JOHNSON of Truro, Nova Scotia, who is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands is over!  (To read the original story about the search, see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2021/04/16/on-the-war-memorial-trail-the-search-for-a-photo-of-gordon-frederick-johnson/)

CIMG3304 Oct 3 2019 Holten Gordon Johnson

Grave of Gordon Frederick Johnson at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

… A letter to the editor proved successful….

On June 24, 2021, Pieter’s letter to the editor was published in the Truro News. The first we knew of it was when the phone rang one Sunday.  The caller, Claudia Putnam, said a neighbour had dropped off the article while she was at church.  Her father, Clyde McCarthy, was a half-brother of Johnson, and her brother Randy had a photo.

Letter about GF Johnson in Truro News Jun 24 2021 with border

Pieter’s letter to the editor in the Truro News.

Thanks to the opening of the Atlantic Bubble and a medical appointment in Halifax, we were soon able to meet Claudia and Randy, and learn more about this remarkable soldier.

20210705_131112 Gordon Frederick Johnson

Gordon ‘Gordie’ Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

Randy explained that “…our father Clyde was very close to Gordon, who was known as Gordie…

Randy McCarthy & Claudia Putnam with Pieter Masstown Market

Pieter, centre, with Randy McCarthy and Claudia Putnam.  (Photo credit:  Daria Valkenburg)

Randy and Claudia’s father was one of the children born to the second marriage of Gordon’s mother, Margaret.  Randy explained that “…Gordon’s father was a miner working in Missouri when he got black lung from working in the mines.  Margaret brought him back to Truro and he died in 1914, when Gordon was 3 years old...

Gordon’s brothers, George Johnson and Clyde McCarthy (Randy and Claudia’s father), also served in WW2. Thankfully, both survived the war.

In researching further, Pieter learned that Gordon had joined the militia in 1927 and received an Efficiency Medal and Clasp in 1939 for 12 years of service.  On October 13, 1939 he enlisted for active service with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

20210705_131129 Gordon Frederick Johnson

Gordon ‘Gordie’ Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

He served many years as an instructor in the use of mortars in England, with the rank of Warrant Officer, and took a demotion to Sergeant in order to join his regiment in Italy.  Instead, he was demoted and sent back to Canada as an instructor.

….’He had a very strong sense of duty’….

Gordon filed a grievance.  “...He had a very strong sense of duty to his unit...” remarked Pieter. In early August 1944 he was back in the United Kingdom. On September 29, 1944 he rejoined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in France.

20210705_131316 Gordon Frederick Johnson on a motorcycle

Gordon Frederick Johnson.  (Photo courtesy of The McCarthy Family)

On April 8, 1945, Gordon was killed in action near Zutphen while trying to retrieve an anti-tank weapon that one of the members in his platoon had left behind.

…It’s worth repeating what had been said about him by a fellow soldier…” Pieter said. In ‘No Retreating Footsteps… the story of the North Novas’, Will Bird wrote that “A PIAT was left by the canal by someone in D Company and Sgt Gordie Johnson went back to get it.  He was killed by a sniper as he reached the spot. His passing was a sad loss…

Gordon’s mother died at the age of 93.  His wife Hazel Pearl stayed in touch with the family but as the older generation passed away, contact between the families faded.

Thank you to Claudia Putnam and Randy McCarthy for sharing information and photos.  Do you have photos or information about Gordon Frederick Johnson to share?  Please email Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

…Help needed to find two more photos …..

Your help is needed to put a face to two more members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders for which a photo continues to be on the wish list:

  • Allan G. COUTTS of Alberta
  • Archibald Henry NELSON of Prince Edward Island

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…..A Tragic Drowning On The Leda River in Germany – Part 4

May 18, 2021.  When we visited the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in October 2019, we laid flags down at the graves of five soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders who drowned in a tragic accident in Germany on April 28, 1945.

Recap: In Part 1, the 5 soldiers were identified and the circumstances leading up to the accident were summarized. In Part 2, more information on the accident was discussed, as well as a brief story on Lloyd William Murray, one of the 5 soldiers.  In Part 3, Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau was remembered by his family.

This time, the rest of North Nova Scotia Highlanders who lost their lives that day are remembered.

…. Ruel Kitchener Matheson Remembered….

matheson rk 11-d-12

Ruel Kitchener Matheson.  (Photo courtesy of the Holten Canadian War Cemetery Information Centre.)

Ruel Kitchener MATHESON was born July 6, 1916 in Dundas, Prince Edward Island, Canada, the son of Angus George and Catharina Matheson.   Ruel was a farm labourer before enlisting on January 24, 1944 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He began basic training in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) at Camp Borden in Ontario, then took parachutist training with the Canadian Parachute Training Centre (CPTC) at Camp Shilo in Manitoba. On September 16, 1944 he was transferred to the Canadian Infantry Training Centre and on November 20, 1944, sent overseas.  Upon arrival in the United Kingdom he was transferred to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).  On March 27, 1945 he was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

He was temporarily buried in Bingum, Germany before being reburied at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

Matheson Ruel tijdelijk graf te Bingum (D) 11 D 12

Temporary grave of Ruel Kitchener Matheson in Bingum, Germany.  (Photo courtesy of the Holten Canadian War Cemetery Information Centre.)

CIMG3282 Oct 3 2019 Holten Ruel Matheson

Grave of Ruel Kitchener Matheson at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

…. Lewis Wilkieson Marsh Remembered….

Photo Lewis Marsh

Lewis Wilkieson Marsh. (Photo source:  Canadian Virtual War Memorial)

Born on November 14, 1925 in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Lewis Wilkieson MARSH was the son of Edward L. and Millicent M. Marsh.  He was an electrician and worked at the Princess Coal Mine in Sydney Mines before enlistment on May 25, 1944 in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

After receiving basic training in Canada, he arrived in the United Kingdom on December 25, 1944 and was transferred to the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR).  By February 24, 1945 he was in North West Europe, and transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders on March 27, 1945.

He was temporarily buried on May 12, 1945 in Bingum, Germany, before being reburied at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

CIMG3278 Oct 3 2019 Holten Lewis Marsh

Grave of Lewis Wilkieson Marsh at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

…. Howard Milo Nicholls Remembered….

Born March 21, 1924 in Mattawa, Ontario, Howard Milo NICHOLLS was the son of Albert and Frances Nicholls.  He was employed by the Dominion Bridge Company in Toronto from January 1941 until his enlistment with the Queen’s Own Rifles on March 31, 1943 in Toronto.  From March to May 1942, he was a member of the Reserve, in the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC).

After training in Canada, Howard was sent overseas in December 1943.  Shortly after D-Day on June 6, 1944 he was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

He was temporarily buried on May 1, 1945 in Bingum, Germany before being reburied at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, The Netherlands.

CIMG3279 Oct 3 2019 Holten Howard Nicholls

Grave of Howard Milo Nicholls at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This concludes the series on the 5 soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders who tragically drowned on April 28, 1945 when the storm boat they were in capsized while crossing the Leda River in Germany.

Missed the previous postings in this series? See:

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.

Unfortunately, we were unable to find a photo of Howard Milo Nicholls.  If you have photos or information to share about these or any Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

Screenshot_2021-02-27 On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg

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© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail…..A Tragic Drowning On The Leda River in Germany – Part 3

May 17, 2021.  When we visited the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in October 2019, we laid flags down at the graves of five soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders who drowned in a tragic accident in Germany on April 28, 1945.

Recap: In Part 1, the 5 soldiers were identified and the circumstances leading up to the accident were summarized. In Part 2, more information on the accident was discussed, as well as a brief story on Lloyd William Murray, one of the 5 soldiers.  The rest of this series features the other North Nova Scotia Highlanders who lost their lives that day.

In October 2018, while we were in Nova Scotia, we were able to meet two nieces of Joseph Ambroise COMEAU, the only family members of the 5 soldiers we were able to meet in person – up to now.

CIMG2715 Oct 11 2018 Simone Comeau Pieter Jacqueline Comeau in Windsor

Pieter with Simone Comeau, left, and Jacqueline Comeau, right.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Simone, Jacqueline, and their two sisters are diligent in remembering their uncle.

IMG-1039 Comeau sisters

The Comeau sisters of Nova Scotia.  Left to right:  Simone Comeau, Jacqueline Comeau, Anna (Comeau) Gammell, and Rose-Marie Comeau. (Photo courtesy of Simone Comeau)

…. Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau Remembered….

Joseph Ambroise Comeau from Simone

Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau.  (Photo courtesy of niece Simone Comeau)

Niece Simone Comeau wrote a brief overview of her ‘oncle Ambroise’.  “… Private Joseph Ambroise Comeau was born on October 1, 1923 in Lower Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, Canada, the fourth of six children to Gustave and Jessie (Saulnier) Comeau.

Ambroise was baptized on October 4, 1923 in Sacred Heart, Saulnierville, the local parish church. He also made his first confession, first Communion, and confirmation, all sacraments of the Roman Catholic faith in this church.

According to records, he had little schooling. Being from a poor family, his farmer/blacksmith father had no financial means to send him to the private local boys’ college. At the time of his draft he was employed as a carpenter for Clare Shipbuilding Company.

One has to wonder as to whether he had a premonition regarding the probability of his not returning to Canada as a veteran, since he was most reluctant to leave, according to the family of his then three old goddaughter, to whom he had brought a gift on his good-bye visit.

Sadly, Private J. Ambroise Comeau (F.602531) of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders was killed on April 28, 1945, a victim of World War II. On June 3, 1945, a memorial was held in Sacred Heart Church where he had practised his faith until his departure for the war. Being ever faithful to his beliefs, at the time of his death he carried a religious medal and a rosary on his person….

Ambroise, who was fluent in both English and French, enlisted on April 28, 1944 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and lost his life exactly a year later.  As part of the Canadian Infantry Training Regiment (CITR) he arrived in the United Kingdom on January 10, 1945.  He was temporarily assigned to the St John Fusiliers, before being reassigned to the CITR.  On March 28, 1945 he arrived in North West Europe as part of the IGU (Infantry General Unit) before being transferred to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders on April 19, 1945.

According to his service file, on May 19, 1945 Ambroise was buried on top of a dike in Leer, Germany before being reburied in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten.

Grave of Joseph Ambroise Comeau

Original grave marker in Germany for J.A. Comeau.  (Photo from the service file.)

CIMG3274 Oct 3 2019 Holten Joseph Comeau

By the grave of Joseph ‘Ambroise’ Comeau at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten in October 2019.  Pieter is standing with Dutch researcher Edwin van der Wolf, left. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

…. to be continued…..

In Part 4 we learn about more of the North Novies who lost their lives.   Thank you to Simone and Jacqueline Comeau for sharing photos and information about their uncle.

Missed the previous postings in this series? See:

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.

If you have information to share about these or any Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.

Screenshot_2021-02-27 On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg

You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.

© Daria Valkenburg