The WW1 Names On The Cenotaph Have Stories Of Their Own

February 8, 2020. Recently, Pieter and a friend went to see the British WW1 movie ‘1917’, which is nominated for several Oscars and has a Canadian connection due to a map used in the film.  (For that story see https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/1917-canadian-contribution-1.5450608)  The story takes place in France on April 6, 1917, and is about two men tasked with delivering a message to another unit to warn of a German ambush.  The men go through several towns and villages in France’s Western Front.  Canadians may remember this period as being the lead up to the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.

Pieter found the movie of great interest for several reasons. It was a depiction of the horrors of war… without being overly gory.  After being through the trenches and tunnels in Vimy Ridge a few years ago, he was intrigued to see the way soldiers sat on either side of a trench while waiting to go up into battle.   But the main reason he liked the movie is that it told the story of two people.

Contrary to what we learn in history books and classes, in the end all history is the cumulative stories of individuals.  A list of names on a cenotaph, such as the one outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, is meaningless without knowing who those people were and what happened to them.  This is what started Pieter on the journey to uncover the stories behind the names on the Cenotaph.

Over the years, the stories of those from WW1 have been told in this blog.  24 are listed on the Cenotaph and half of them died in France…. Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT and John Lymon ‘Ly’ WOOD are listed on the Vimy Memorial as their bodies were never identified.    Also killed in France were Kenneth John Martin BELL, James CAIRNS, James Ambrose CAIRNS, Arthur Leigh COLLETT, Bazil CORMIER, Patrick Phillip DEEGAN (DEIGHAN), Joseph Arthur DESROCHES, Percy Earl FARROW (FARRAR), Ellis Moyse HOOPER, and Charles W. LOWTHER.  We were at the Vimy Memorial and visited each grave.

Five men died in Belgium. Two are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, as their bodies were never identified: Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL.  We visited Menin Gate and the area where they died.  We also visited the graves of James Lymon CAMERON, Vincent Earl CARR, and Arthur Clinton ROBINSON.

Vincent Carr, who died during the Battle of Passchendaele on October 30, 1918, was initially buried in a trench with 4 others – two Canadian and two British soldiers.  Decades later, when they were reburied in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, all three Canadians were still identifiable.  The British Army’s cardboard identity ‘tags’ had disintegrated, leaving the two British soldiers as unidentified.  Today, DNA testing can be done to help with identity, but decades ago this was impossible.

Two men died in England.  John Goodwill HOWATT was wounded in France, and died in a British hospital.  Bruce Sutherland McKAY had gotten ill during the transport from Canada to England and also died in a British hospital.

Henry Warburton STEWART survived the war, only to fall ill while in Germany as part of the occupation forces.  He’s buried in a German cemetery in Cologne, which we visited.

James Graham FARROW (FARRAR) was not a soldier, but in the Merchant Navy, transporting vital supplies between England and France, when his ship was torpedoed by a U-boat.

Three men died on Canadian soil.  Leigh Hunt CAMERON died of illness, while Harry ROBINSON died from blood poisoning.  William Galen CAMPBELL was poisoned with mustard gas on May 28, 1918, a few months before the end of the war, but was able to return home.  And yes, we’ve visited those graves as well.

We were also able to tell you parallel stories, such as that of Clifford Almon WELLS, who had many of the same experiences as John Lymon Wood, and also died in France. Another story was that of George BRUCKER, of the German Army, who was taken prisoner during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and survived the war, never forgetting the two ‘tall’ Canadians who didn’t shoot him.  Decades later his son, now in his 80s, is still hoping to thank the families of those two unknown men.

Thanks to Pieter’s curiosity in trying to find out why one Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestone in a cemetery in Cape Traverse was not recorded on the Cenotaph, we were able to tell you the story of Elmyr KRUGER, a soldier from Saskatchewan who died of illness while guarding German prisoners of war from a POW camp in Amherst.

We’ve told the stories of each man, and shared our visits to the various cemeteries and war memorials.  As photos and letters came in, we shared those experiences as well.

We are still missing photos of several of these soldiers, so the quest to put a face to every name and story is still ongoing.  Who are we missing?  Take a look and see if you can help:

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It’s great to watch a movie about fictional characters, but let’s not forget the stories of real life people! There won’t be any Academy Awards given out, but they will be remembered. Research continues to uncover more stories.  If you have a story or photo to share about any of the names mentioned in this posting, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Three WW1 Soldiers Who Were Buried Together At Passchendaele

September 1, 2019.  The very first story uncovered by Pieter, when he began researching the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, was that of WW1 soldier Vincent Earl CARR, who lost his life on October 30, 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.  (See The Cenotaph Research Project Begins)  Why Vincent Carr?  His was the first photo provided for the project by Vincent’s nephew, Delbert Carr of Tryon, and his wife Helen.

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Pieter with Helen and Delbert (seated) Carr of Tryon. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Carr was born May 3, 1894 in North Tryon, son of Robert Carr and Catherine McLeod.  On June 2, 1914, he enlisted in the 55th Battalion in Sussex, New Brunswick, and recorded his trade as labourer.  On October 30, 1915 his unit sailed to England aboard the S.S. Corsican, arriving on November 9, 1915.

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Photo: Vincent Carr in 1915, in the uniform of the 55th Battalion. (Photo courtesy of Delbert Carr collection. Photo colourization: Pieter Valkenburg)

On April 6, 1916 he was transferred to the 36th Battalion, and then 2 months later, on June 23, 1916, he was sent for training at the 86th Machine Gun Battalion, later re-designated as the Canadian Machine Gun Depot.  On July 28, 1916 he became part of the 1st (also called “A”) Canadian Motor Machine Gun Battery and arrived in France with his unit the next day.

In an excerpt from the November 1, 1917 Operation Report for October 28-31, 1917 by Lt C.P. Gilman, Acting Officer in Charge, of the “A” Battery of the First Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade wrote:  … “On the evening of the 29th ….were in position to fire on targets given for the Zero hour, which was 5:50 am morning of the 30th.  As soon as we opened fire, we were subjected to an intense bombardment of our positions, and we were forced to retire 6 hours later, after sustaining 28 casualties…..

Carr was one on those casualties, and is buried in Cement House Cemetery.  When we visited it in 2017, Pieter noticed that the graves on either side of him were Canadians from the same Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade unit as Carr, and that they died on the same day.  We took a photo of all three graves: R. Bellas, our Vincent Carr, and J. B. Willson.  (See On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area)

While we were in Passchendaele, we picked up a brochure ‘Did Your Granddad Fight in Passchendaele 1917?’ from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, inviting people to submit names and photos. The brochure went on to say that “in return for your cooperation you will receive a copy of a trench map with the approximate place where he was killed.  With this comes a short report based on the war diaries of his unit.”  We already had the war diary report, but a trench map was something unique, so we sent in the information, along with the observation that Bellas and Willson were buried near Carr.  Maybe they were in the same trench?

We waited for the trench map with great anticipation and ….. nothing happened.  Almost two years later, though, long after we’d forgotten about the inquiry we’d made, we received an email from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, with the long promised trench map and more information on what happened on October 30, 1917.

On that fateful day, researchers discovered that Vincent Carr, Jack Bingham WILLSON, and Robert BELLAS were all killed by the same high explosive shell on Abraham Heights. This is what we had expected after seeing the graves side by side in Cement House Cemetery, but to our surprise we learned that they had been buried in the same grave on Abraham Heights.

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Trench map showing the coordinates where Carr, Willson, and Bellas were originally buried on Abraham Heights. (Map: courtesy of Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917)

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You can see Abraham Heights towards the bottom left corner of the map. (Map: courtesy http://www.darrellduthie.com/maps/)

The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 wrote us that: “According to the War Diary of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, three machine gun companies were in the field around October 30. ‘A’-Battery from the 28th till the 31st of October, ‘B’-Battery from the 29th till the 31st of October and the ‘Eaton’-Battery from the 30th October till the 1st of November. Although the positions on Abraham Heights (28.D.15.b.7.4.) were abandoned on the 29th to take up new positions just north of Tyne Cot Cemetery (28.D.16.b.6.9.), many runners were sent to the supply stores behind the front to resupply the machine guns on the front line. It’s likely that the men were killed by shellfire while hauling equipment between the gun positions and the back areas.” (Note: The numbers and letters you see in brackets beside Abraham Heights and Tyne Cot Cemetery are the GPS coordinates.)

Private Jack Bingham Willson was born January 17, 1897 in Plattsville, Ontario.  Sgt Robert Bellas was born August 1, 1886 in Morland, Cumbria, England, but had immigrated to Canada.  Both Willson and Bellas enlisted in Toronto.

A 1939 report of exhumation and reburial to Cement House Cemetery confirmed that Carr, Willson, and Bellas were recovered from one grave.  Unlike many soldiers who were never identified, they were identified by the ‘titles’ on the shoulder of their uniform identifying them as Canadian, and the identifying discs that they were still wearing.  The report indicates that two unknown British soldiers had been recovered from the same grave at Abraham Heights.

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A metal shoulder title was worn by Canadian soldiers on both shoulder straps of the khaki service dress uniform. (Photo credit: courtesy of https://www.warmuseum.ca)

We thank the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 for the information they sent. If anyone can provide a photo or more information on Vincent Carr, Jack Bingham Willson, or Robert Bellas, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.   Please note that we are still looking for photos of 10 names listed on the Cenotaph from WW1.  See Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties! for more information.

 © Daria Valkenburg

Canadian War Graves Netherlands Foundation Project

August 4, 2018.  This blog concentrates on the names listed on the Cenotaph Research Project.  We provide a summary of the research results, talk about our trips to monuments and cemeteries, and the families that we meet.  We occasionally mention interaction with other archives, and the information on the names listed on our Cenotaph that we’ve shared.

For example, when we were in France, we left information and photos on WW1 soldiers John Lymon WOOD and Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT with the site manager at Vimy Ridge (See  Visiting The Canadian National Vimy Memorial)  In Belgium, we left information and photos on WW1 soldiers Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL at In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres. (See Sharing Information at In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres) Information on WW1 soldier Vincent CARR was sent to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Passchendaele.  (See On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area) 

In The Netherlands, we did the same for WW2 soldiers William Douglas SHERREN and George Martin MCMAHON, buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Holten Canadian War Cemetery) and George Preston SMITH, buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. PEI Soldiers Buried In The Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek) In addition, we’ve shared information with various university archives and regimental archives.

In this blog entry we’d like to feature a project in The Netherlands, the Canadian War Graves Netherlands Foundation. In this project, which is of special interest to Pieter because of his Dutch roots, the foundations for the three Canadian War Cemeteries in The Netherlands have banded together to create a digital monument for ALL Canadian war graves in their country.   Almost 6,000 Canadian WW2 soldiers are buried there! When Pieter was asked to help find families, stories, and photos, he didn’t hesitate.

Over the past few years, he’s put out a call for help through the various PEI legions.  Several families submitted information directly to The Netherlands, others sent information and photos to Pieter for forwarding.  The families of Carman GILLCASH and Daniel Peter MACKENZIE chose to go through Pieter, and recently the Comeau family in Nova Scotia shared information about Joseph Ambrose COMEAU.  All three are buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery.  We’ve not met any of these family members, perhaps one day.

A few weeks ago, however, Pieter received a request from Alice van Bekkum, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion in The Netherlands, and a tireless advocate for remembering the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in liberating The Netherlands.  Her request was to track down an article entitled ‘A Journey of the Heart’, about a pilgrimage made by the family of William “Willie” Alfred CANNON of Mt. Mellick, who was killed in 1945 in Germany (the article incorrectly says The Netherlands) and is buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.  Pieter had placed flags at his grave last fall, so the name was not unfamiliar.

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Pieter at the grave of William Cannon at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Grave of William Cannon at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

With the help of Jocelyne Lloyd, news editor at The Guardian, the article, written by Mary MacKay and published on November 8, 2008, was found and a digital copy was soon on its way to The Netherlands.  (See article: Journey From The Heart Cannon article from 2008)

The real story came when Pieter got in touch with Cannon’s nephews Carl and Alfred Cannon, and niece Irene Doyle to inquire about the possibility of them donating photos for the Dutch Project.  “Did we want to come to the place where ‘Uncle Willie’ grew up and meet them?” he was asked. This soon became a story of remembrance……

Carl Cannon now owns the homestead, and we expected to meet him and his brother Alfred. But we were in for a surprise! They invited their sister, Paulette Duffy, and their brother Anthony.  Cousin Bill Cannon came over from Nova Scotia.  Cousin Irene Doyle, who was featured in The Guardian story, also arrived.  It was a full house, and a happy occasion, filled with stories of Uncle Willie that they had heard from their parents and grandparents.

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At the Cannon homestead. Left to right: Pieter Valkenburg, Alfred Cannon, Anthony Cannon, Carl Cannon, Paulette Duffy, Bill Cannon, Irene Doyle. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

All of the Cannon nieces and nephews had been born after his death, which made this visit remarkable.  Paulette explained that “memory was kept alive as the family always talked about Willie.”  Bill said that his father Harry, who served in the Navy during WWI, was the closest to Willie.  “They were hellions as children, so the stories were so interesting!” laughed Pauline.

Andy Cannon, Willie’s cousin who was in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, was with Willie the night before he died” said Bill.  “Did you want to talk to his son Garry in Sarnia?”  So another Cannon shared some memories, over a cell phone.

The Cannon family shared photos, letters, and many stories, which are making their way to the digital archive set up in The Netherlands.  Our last stop before heading home was to visit the Cenotaph by St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Church in Vernon River, where Willie Cannon is mentioned.  “Every Remembrance Day I bring a photo of Uncle Willie” Alfred explained.  And sure enough, Uncle Willie’s photo came along on this visit too.

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At the Cenotaph by St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Church in Vernon River. Left to right: Bill Cannon, Paulette Duffy, Alfred Cannon. Note photo of Uncle Willie on the Cenotaph. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you have photos or stories to share about other WW2 soldiers buried in The Netherlands, and haven’t already sent them to one of the cemeteries there, please help them build up their digital archive so that these soldiers will always be remembered.

If you would like Pieter to come and speak about the Cenotaph Research Project, or how Islanders can help with the Canadian War Graves Netherlands Foundation Project, he is open to receiving invitations.  Email him at dariadv@yahoo.ca.

Photos are still needed for many of the names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion.  Please dig out those old albums and take a look.  You can share your photos, comments, or stories by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail In the Passchendaele Area

December 9, 2017.  After we finished placing flags in Belgium in memory of those names on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, we decided to visit some of the memorials in the Passchendaele area.  Anyone who has been here knows that it’s impossible to see everything in such a short time, but we did our best to see as many as we could.

After we left Maple Copse Cemetery, where it’s possible the George Albert Campbell is buried, we went to the 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion – Nova Scotia Highlanders Monument in Zonnebeke.  It was a small monument, located in a farmer’s field.  It was impossible to drive right up to it, so Pieter parked the car and went there alone.

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Information sign about the 85th Canadian Infantry Battalion – Nova Scotia Highlanders Monument in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The monument is in memory of the 85th Canadian Nova Scotia Battalion, which suffered heavy losses during the battle of Passchendaele at the end of October 1917.  One side of the monument has a black bronze plaque with the inscription: “85th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders) BEF. This plaque was erected by the Battalion in memory of their valiant comrades who gave their lives in action before Passchendaele at Decline Copse and Vienna Cottage on 28 to 31 October 1917.” Below the inscription are listed the names of the 12 officers and 132 other ranks who died in these actions.

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85th Canadian Infantry Battalion – Nova Scotia Highlanders Monument in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

From the photo above, you can notice that the sky was dark.  After a day of sunshine, it had started to rain.  But, since we weren’t made of sugar, we kept going.  Our destination was Kitchener’s Wood in Langemark, but along the way we saw a sign marking the location of the final battle of Passchendaele, right beside the Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke.  Of course we stopped to visit.

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Sign on the wall of the Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke says “end of the Passchendaele offensive 25 September 1918. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Entrance to Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

650 Canadians are buried in this cemetery, including Alexander Wuttenee DECOTEAU, Canada’s first Aboriginal-Canadian police officer.  A Cree born on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan in 1887, he enlisted in 1916 and was killed by a sniper during the Battle of Passchendaele on October 30, 1917, the same day and battle in which Vincent CARR, who is listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, lost his life.  After reading about Private Decoteau, we went and put a Canadian flag by his grave.

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Pieter by the grave of Private Alexander Decoteau in Passchendaele New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Our last war memorial trail stop for the day was at Kitchener’s Wood Memorial in Langemark-Poelkapelle.  This was harder to find than we expected, as the car’s GPS directed us to an empty field! A farm with what looked to be a house was across the field and we had a discussion whether to give up or knock on the door and ask directions.

Now, if you are a long-suffering wife, you know who was ready to give up rather than ask directions.  Yep, the guy who could speak the language sat in the car, while the Canadian with poor Dutch skills went and knocked on the door.  It was clear that the door was beside the kitchen as through the window I could see a group of young men around a large table, and one young man washing dishes by the sink.  The man washing dishes opened the door, and to my great relief very quickly found out he spoke as much Dutch as me.  It turned out that he and his companions were all from Poland, near where my maternal grandmother was born!

Obviously we weren’t the first to get tricked by the GPS system as he was familiar with the Kitchener’s Wood Memorial and explained that there was an error in the navigation system.  The memorial was 500 metres down the road right beside a house, on the side of the road opposite to where the GPS directed us to.

With the right directions, we found the memorial by a farmhouse.  The memorial was erected in memory of the soldiers of the 10th Canadian Battalion and the 16th Canadian Scottish Battalion, who were killed during a night attack at Kitchener’s Wood on April 22, 1915 during the first lethal chemical gas attack by the Germans.

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Pieter by Kitchener’s Wood Memorial. (Photo credit; Daria Valkenburg)

French troops had fallen back, leaving a 6 km gap to the left of the Canadian sector.  During the night of April 22 into 23, the 10th Canadian and the 15th Canadian Scottish Battalion counter-attacked and captured a German held position at Kitchener’s Wood.  This prevented a German breakthrough to Ypres and beyond.

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On a polished stone base is a roughly worked stone representing the mutilated oaks of the forest, with the inscription: “Kitchener’s Wood, 22 April 1915″ encircling an oak leaf with an acorn. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This ended our war memorial tour in Belgium for this trip, and we went back to the hotel to relax.  One more stop in Belgium, at the In Flanders Museum in Ypres, and then on to The Netherlands where we will be visiting the graves of WWII soldiers.

Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

Visiting More Memorials In The Passchendaele Area

November 7, 2017.  After visiting Cement House Cemetery and the grave of Vincent Carr, and the St. Julien Monument to commemorate the position where Canadians were during the first poison gas attack, we stopped at the German Military Cemetery in Langemark.  Its official name is “Deutscher Studentenfriedhof”, one of four German cemeteries in the Flanders region of Belgium.   ‘Studentenfriedhof’ means ‘the students’ cemetery’ and is called that due to the large number of young volunteer soldiers who are buried here.

This is the only German cemetery that seems to get visitors at all, especially non-Germans.  It’s an impressive but depressing cemetery.

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Bronze sculpture by Emil Krieger of four soldiers in mourning. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The cemetery has 44,061 burials.  25,000 of these were unknown and buried in a large communal grave.

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Memorial says “In this cemetery rest 44,061 German soldiers from the war of 1914-1918”. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Over the decades, researchers have identified 17,000, whose names are now on bronze plaques positioned around three sides of the cemetery.

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Bronze plaques with the names of identified German soldiers. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

After this rather chilling stop, we continued on to the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial, located on Canadalaan (Canada Lane) in Zonnebeke.

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Canadalaan was named in honour of Canada’s role in the Battle of Passchendaele. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

It was here that we were reminded of the madness of the Battle of Passchendaele. British and Australian soldiers had tried, from July until early October 1917, rather unsuccessfully, to capture the German-occupied Belgian coast.  They made only minimal advances and the commander of the British forces, Sir Douglas Haig, ordered the Canadian Corps to take their place and capture Passchendaele.

20,000 Canadian soldiers arrived in the midst of heavy rainfall and waist-deep mud, and no one seemed to have enough sense or authority to force a rethink to the plan to begin an assault at that time of year.  The only voice of sanity was Canadian-born Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur Currie, who took the time to inspect the battlefield and, after doing so, protested that the planned attack would cost 16,000 Canadian casualties.  No one listened to him.

So, on October 26, 1917, Canadian troops began a series of attacks in the area.  On October 30, 1917, with the help of two British divisions, they began the assault on the village of Passchendaele, inching their way from shell-crater to shell-crater, under heavy fire.  The landscape was already destroyed by shelling and heavy rain.  Roads, trees, and most buildings were gone.  It was in the midst of this that Vincent Carr from North Tryon died, instantly killed by a high explosive shell.

Troops reached the outskirts of Passchendaele during a terrible rainstorm, and held on for five days, waist-deep in mud and exposed to German shelling. Reinforcements arrived on November 6, and by November 10 Canadian troops occupied the village, thus ending the battle.  Almost 12,000 Canadians were wounded, and over 4,000 died.

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Pieter at the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial in Zonnebeke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial has the following inscription on one side, on a granite block, saying:

“The Canadian Corps in Oct-Nov 1917 advanced across this valley – then a treacherous morass – captured and held the Passchendaele ridge.”

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The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial has maple leaves carved in the form of a wreath on the front and back. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

The Battle of Passchendaele, which lasted 100 days, had more than Canadian casualties.  275,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed and wounded, among them the Canadian casualties already mentioned.  220,000 German soldiers were also killed and wounded.

Beside the Passchendaele Canadian Memorial is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Zonnebeke, which concentrates on the Battle of Passchendaele itself.  They have begun a Passchendaele Archives Project of trying to put faces and stories to those who died between July 12 and November 15, 1917 during the battle.  If you have a relative, and a photo, please consider supporting this project. You can email them at archives@passchendaele.be or visit their website at www.passchendaele.be for more information.  They will send you a form to fill out: Passchendaele Archives Questionnaire.

After these two visits, Pieter was finally persuaded to go for a snack before continuing on with the war memorial tour.  Across from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 was a lovely restaurant, Brasserie De Volksbond, where Pieter and I shared Belgian bread and Passendale cheese.

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How could we resist having Passendale cheese for lunch? (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Yes, while we Canadians know Passchendaele for the battle, it’s better known for its Passchendaele beer and Passendale cheese.

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Pieter didn’t get a chance to sample the Passchendaele beer! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you are wondering about the spelling difference, the Belgians have a much simpler spelling of their village and region!

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Passchendaele = Passendale. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Our next stop on the War Memorial Trail, after a much needed lunch break, was Tyne Cot British Cemetery, which was also in Zonnebeke.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

On The War Memorial Trail of Passchendaele and Surrounding Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20170909_131617502 Graves of Bellas Carr Willson in Cement House Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Daria Valkenburg

 

The WWI Names On The Cenotaph

July 28, 2017.  With a plan to have a book and photo memorial ready for the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Pieter wanted to publicize the names of the WW1 war dead.  While we had quite a bit of luck with the names from WWII on the Cenotaph, we weren’t so lucky with the WW1 names.

In some cases, family couldn’t be found.  Sometimes we found family only to be told they either never heard of the person.  Most of the time, the family was aware of the person, but no photo survived, let alone other documents such as letters or postcards.

So here is what we know so far….

  • Patrick Raymond ARSENAULT, born October 14, 1896 in Bedeque to Joseph Arsenault and Isabella, nee Richard. No photo.
  • Kenneth John Martin BELL, born March 28, 1896 in Cape Traverse to William Bell and Lucy, nee Rogerson. No photo.
  • Charles Benjamin BUXTON, born December 8, 1893 in Cape Traverse to George Edward Buxton and Mary Jane (May), nee Webster. No photo.
  • James Ambrose CAIRNS, born March 16, 1895 in Emerald to Terrence Cairns and Elisabeth, nee Hughes. No photo.
  • James CAIRNS, born February 22, 1897 in Kinkora to Thomas Cairns and Mary Jane, nee McDonald. No photo.
  • James Lymon CAMERON, born December 30, 1892 in Victoria to Edward H. Cameron and Susan, nee Harrington. No photo.
  • Leigh Hunt CAMERON, born May 6, 1898 in Albany to Alexander Walter Cameron and Phoebe Ann, nee Murray. No photo.
  • GG.A. Campbell blogeorge Albert CAMPBELL, born July 8, 1895 in Wellington to John George Campbell and Grace Emma, nee Barlow.

Photo: George Albert Campbell.  (Photo courtesy of Gerald Tingley collection)

  • William Galen CAMPBELL, born June 16, 1897 in Wellington to John George Campbell and Grace Emma, nee Barlow. He married Ida May McNally in 1919.  No photo.
  • Vincent CARR, born May 3, 1894 in North Tryon to Robert Carr and Catherine. He married Bessie Carr of Summerside.

1915 Photo Vincent E Carr in uniform.jpgPhoto: Vincent Carr in 1915, in the uniform of the 55th Battalion.  (Photo courtesy of Delbert Carr collection)

  • Arthur Leigh COLLETT, born December 8, 1888 in Victoria to Ella May Simmons, and was adopted by William Henry Collett and Alice M., nee Moore.Arthur Collett blogPhoto: Arthur Leigh Collett.  (Photo courtesy of Paul and Heather Moore collection)
  • Bazil CORMIER, born January 8, 1897 in Tignish to Joseph Cormier and Marie, nee Arsenault. No photo.
  • Patrick Philip DEEGAN, born November 25, 1894 in Cape Traverse to Alexander Deegan and Margaret Ann, nee Tierney. No photo.
  • Joseph Arthur DESROCHES, born August 8, 1891 in Miscouche to Zephirim Desroches and Priscilla, nee Gaudet. He married Mary Ann Wedge in 1910 and had 3 children: Elizabeth Eileen, Joseph Alfred, Lucy Priscilla, and Charles Arthur. No photo.
  • James Graham FARROW, born April 4, 1856 to Henry Farrow and Jan Gouldrup, birthplace unknown. No photo.
  • Percy Earl FARROW (FARRAR), born July 30, 1895 in North Tryon to William Farrar and Margaret Jane, nee McKinnon.
  • Percy FarrarPhoto: Percy Farrar.  (Photo courtesy of South Shore United Church collection)
  • Ellis Moyse HOOPER, born October 20, 1895 in Central Bedeque to Charles Frederick Allison Hooper and Bessie Marie, nee Moyse.

Hooper, Ellis Moyse blogPhoto: Ellis Moyse Hooper.  (Photo courtesy of Lana Churchill collection)

  • John Goodwill HOWATT, born May 8, 1894 in Cape Traverse to Edward George Howatt and Emma May, nee Wood. No photo.
  • Charles W. LOWTHER, born September 27, 1896 in North Carleton to Henry George Lowther and Bessie Cottrell, nee Wright. No photo.
  • Bruce Sutherland MCKAY, born April 15, 1897 in Albany to David McKay and Elmira (Almira), nee Harvey. No photo.
  • Arthur Clinton ROBINSON, born July 20, 1896 in Tryon to Albert James Robinson and Flora P., nee Scruton. His step-mother was Mary Mooney. No photo.
  • Harry ROBINSON, born July 9, 1881 in Augustine Cove to Thomas Robinson and Sarah, nee Campbell. He married Clara J. Wadman in 1905 and had a daughter Merilla. No photo.
  • Henry Warburton STEWART, born April 15, 1884 in Strathgartney to Robert Bruce Stewart and Ann, nee Warburton. No photo.
  • John Lymon WOOD, born July 8, 1897 in North Tryon to George William Wood and Martha, nee Heatly.
Photo Lyman Wood

Photo: John Lyman Wood shortly after enlistment in October 1915. (Photo courtesy of Gene Rogerson collection)

We hope you enjoy this third article that ran in July 2017, “Are You Related To These WWI Soldiers?” in the County Line Courier.    CLC July 5 2017 p4 Are you related to WW1 soldiers

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

© Daria Valkenburg

Learning About The Two Names On The Vimy Memorial

Pieter Valkenburg

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

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

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

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

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

Plan_of_Attack_Vimy_Ridge where Arsenault died

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

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

Map of Battle of Arras near Fresnoy where Lymon Wood died

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

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

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

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

The Cenotaph Research Project Begins

CIMG5472 B&W Aug 5 2015 WWI and WWII memorial at Borden Carleton Legion.JPG

July 28, 2017.  The cenotaph research project began in summer 2016 quietly by enlarging a photo of the cenotaph and showing it to Islanders in the hope that someone would recognize a name.  In the meantime, Pieter started searching the surnames at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (www.veterans.gc.ca) and Library and Archives Canada Military Service Files (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/Pages/military-heritage.aspx) to try and identify the names.  We didn’t have first names, only surnames and an initial.

The search was made more difficult as we soon learned that many Islanders were known by their second name.  The initial on the Cenotaph sometimes referred to the second name or a nickname.  For example, Alfred became Fred and F was the initial he was identified by.

We had no luck with photos until one day Helen Carr mentioned that her husband’s uncle, Vincent CARR, was listed on the memorial.  Did we want a photo of him?  We did, and went to visit Helen’s husband Delbert.  With that photo, Pieter delved into Carr’s military records and learned that he died at Passchendaele.

We had the basis of an article to write, and decided to include someone from WWII whose photo we didn’t have.  Pieter chose Everett Samuel FRANCIS, who died off the coast of Newfoundland when the ship he was on, SS Caribou, was torpedoed.

After the article ran, Helen Carr came to the rescue once again, by finding a relative of Francis, who then was able to put us in touch with Francis’s daughter Greta, who lives in Ontario.  We learned that Francis was on his way to Newfoundland to meet his three week old baby daughter Greta for the first time when he died.  Luckily, Greta had photos of her father and shared them.

We hope you enjoy this first article that ran in October 2016, “Putting A Face And Story To The Names On The Cenotaph” in the County Line Courier.   CLC Page 6-7 Putting a Face and Story to the Names on the Cenotaph

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

© Daria Valkenburg