Sharing Information at In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres

December 12, 2017.  Our last war memorial trail stop in Belgium was in Ypres, at the In Flanders Field Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the story of World War I in the West Flanders region.  Pieter had arranged to donate photos, information, and the memorial plaques about Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL to their Knowledge Centre.

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Photos and plaques of WWI soldiers Buxton and Campbell. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

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Entrance to the Knowledge Centre of the In Flanders Field Museum (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Pieter met with the Registrar, Frederik Vandewiere, who seemed very happy to receive information on two Canadian soldiers, and gave Pieter a book about the museum and the work it does in preserving the past.

CIMG8906 Sep 11 2017 Pieter with plaques given to Frederik Vandewiere of In Flanders Field Museum in Ypres

Pieter donates plaques and photos to Frederik Vandewiere, Registrar at the In Flanders Field Museum’s Knowledge Centre. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Besides collecting information on soldiers and battles, photos, and other artifacts, the Museum also has a collection of WWI related art.  Considering the war memorial trail we’ve been following, one very poignant one recorded sentiments that were very telling.

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Poignant artwork seen at the In Flanders Field Knowledge Centre. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This ended our war memorial tour in Belgium.  We were eager to continue on to The Netherlands, where our first stop would be in Harlingen to visit the grave of WWII pilot Elmer Muttart, whose story has been told previously on this blog. (See The Elmer Bagnall Muttart Story).  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Last Post Ceremony At The Menin Gate Memorial In Ypres

November 23, 2017.  In the morning we’d visited the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres and found the listings for two men whose names are on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion: Charles Benjamin BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres).

We returned in the evening for The Last Post Ceremony, which occurs at 8 pm every day at Menin Gate Memorial, rain or shine.  It began on July 2, 1928, after the Memorial opened in 1927, as a way for the citizens of Ypres to express their gratitude towards those who had died in defence of Belgium’s freedom.

The only time the ceremony was not held in Ypres was during the German occupation during World War II.  Instead, a daily ceremony was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England.  On September 6, 1944, the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second World War, the ceremony at Menin Gate resumed, even though heavy fighting was still taking place in other parts of Ypres.

Bands and choirs from around the world apply to participate in the ceremonies. On the evening we attended the ceremony, the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands was there.  It was very apt since Pieter is from The Netherlands, and that was going to be the next country on our war memorial trail.

CIMG8802 Sep 9 2017 Daria with two members of St Cecilia Helden band before Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate

Daria with two members of the St. Cecilia Helden band from The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Mieke de Bie)

We quickly saw that if we wanted to get a spot with easy visibility of the ceremony that we would have to line up at least 1 ½ hours early!  We did and so were lucky to have a front line view, and watched the band march through Menin Gate Memorial to stand on the outside of the Memorial.

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St. Cecilia Helden band marched through Menin Gate before the ceremony began. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Police cars soon barricaded the road on either side of the Menin Gate Memorial so no traffic could get by.

Just before 8 pm three buglers from the local fire brigade arrived and played ‘The Last Post’.  (For a video clip made by Pieter Valkenburg, which shows where he manages to capture Buxton’s name on the Memorial, email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca)

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Buglers from the local fire brigade in Ypres play ‘The Last Post’ at 8 pm. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

‘The Last Post’ was followed by the Exhortation, where a dignitary said the words we are all familiar with from Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada.  Taken from the 4th verse of Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For The Fallen’, first published on September 21, 1914, he recited, in English:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

This was followed by a minute of silence, and then wreaths were laid by various groups while the St. Cecelia Helden band played.  We were sorry we hadn’t thought of asking to lay a wreath as a way to further commemorate Campbell and Buxton.  Following the wreath laying the final bugle call, ‘Réveille’, was played and the ceremony was over.

We were lucky to be right at the spot where the fire brigade walked past, and they graciously posed for a photo.  Of course, we gave them Canadian flag pins, and to our surprise we received a Menin Gate Memorial pin in exchange.

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Buglers from the local Fire Brigade in Ypres. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

This was a beautiful ceremony, with respectful visitors from many countries.  Behind us was a family from Poland, a poignant reminder of the Polish allies who liberated Ypres during WWII.

We returned to our hotel in a thoughtful mood, after the day of visiting memorials and cemeteries.  We still had a few places in Flanders to visit before going on to The Netherlands, but that would have to wait for another day.

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

© Daria Valkenburg

A Visit To Sanctuary Wood

November 19, 2017.  After visiting the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Memorial in Zonnebeke, Belgium, we went to Sanctuary Wood in Zillebeke to the Hill 62 Monument overlooking Mount Sorrel.  This memorial commemorates Canadian forces who served in Ypres Salient, especially during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916.

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Sign at the entrance to Hill 62 (Sanctuary Wood) Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The road leading to the memorial, Canadalaan (literally Canada Avenue, but also known colloquially as Maple Avenue), once formed part of the Canadian front line.  After the war, the avenue was planted with maple trees as a mark of respect for the Canadian sacrifice.

Two of the men listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion lost their lives here, during the Battle of Mount Sorrel: Charles Benjamin BUXTON of the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry, and George Albert CAMPBELL of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles.  Both men have no known grave and are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. (See A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres )

Before going to Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Maple Copse Cemetery, places where perhaps our two soldiers are lying in an unmarked grave, we wanted to know more about what exactly happened here during the defence of Ypres in 1916.  The first thing that struck is was how close Ypres was.  We could see it clearly from the memorial!

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The spires of buildings in Ypres can be clearly seen from Sanctuary Wood. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Sanctuary Wood, also known as Hill 62, was the place where Canadian troops fought as a national unit for the first time.  During the battle, which was fought between June 2 and June 4, 1916, 8,430 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing.

We were curious why it was called Hill 62, and a bit bemused to realize it was called that because the hill was 62 metres above sea level!

Hill 62 and nearby Mount Sorrel were the only places of a higher elevation that were not controlled by the Germans….and they wanted it.  Canadian troops were almost alone in defending this territory, having only the support of British artillery.  The rest of the British troops were preparing for the Battle on the Somme in July 1916.

So what happened?  On June 2, 1916, the Germans attacked the Canadian positions with artillery and the detonation of 4 large mines under Mount Sorrel.  You can imagine the deadly effect this had in the trenches.

As per the map of the battle, Buxton’s unit (PPCLI) was at Sanctuary Wood, and suffered 400 losses.  Campbell’s unit was a support brigade at Maple Copse, and by the end of the day 59 were killed, 272 wounded, and 50 missing. Buxton and Campbell were among the casualties.

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Map of Battle of Mount Sorrel on June 2, 1916. (Credit: http://www.canadiansoldiers.com)

It only seemed right to place the photos and plaques we had of these men, which we’d taken to Menin Gate earlier in the day, here at Sanctuary Wood Memorial.

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Plaques and photos for George Albert Campbell and Charles Benjamin Buxton. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG8894 Sep 11 2017 Pieter at Sanctuary Wood with photos and plaques of Buxton & Campbell

Pieter holds the photos and plaques of Buxton and Campbell at the Sanctuary Wood Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We decided we had to visit both Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Maple Copse Cemetery and learn exactly what happened to each man, but that would have to wait for another day.  It was getting late, and we wanted to get to Ypres for the Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate.

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

© Daria Valkenburg

 

 

Visiting Lt. John McCrae’s Field Hospital Bunker Outside Ypres

October 29, 2017. Lt. John McCrae (November 30, 1872 – January 28, 1918) is famous as the author of the poem we recite every Remembrance Day, “In Flanders Fields”.  So it was an honour to visit the place where he wrote the poem and have a look at the horrendous conditions in which, as a military surgeon, he had to work in his field hospital bunker (dressing station).

The Canadian government has a memorial to John McCrae that features “In Flanders Fields” at the site of this field hospital bunker located beside the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Essex Farm Cemetery. The Belgian government calls this site the “John McCrae Memorial Site”.

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John McCrae Memorial with the poem “In Flanders Fields” in his handwriting at the far right. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

During the Second Battle of Ypres, fought from 22 April – 25 May 1915 for control of Ypres, McCrae treated the wounded from a hastily dug, 8 foot by 8 foot bunker dug in the back of the dyke along the Yser Canal in Boezinge, about 2 miles north of Ypres.

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Pieter at the entrance to the field bunker hospital where Lt. John McCrae worked as a military surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres. Note that it was built into the dyke. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

After his friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, legend has it that McCrae wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields”, on May 3, 1915 as he sat upon the back of a medical field ambulance near this bunker at Essex Farm.

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The poem “In Flanders Fields” in his handwriting on the John McCrae Memorial. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

In June 1915, McCrae was sent to set up No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Dannes-Camiers near Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France.  It was there that he died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918.  We wonder if he was aware that over a hundred years after he wrote the poem, the poppy and his poem remain a symbol of remembrance to the fallen.

We were deeply touched by the visit to the field hospital bunker, and weren’t surprised in the least when it started to rain.  It seemed as though rain was part of the memorial.  No one from the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion was buried at Essex Farm Cemetery, so we went on to Cement House Cemetery, which will feature in the next blog entry.

Have you been to the John McCrae Memorial Site?  Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

A Daytime Visit To Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

October 26, 2017.  Menin Gate (Menenpoort in Flemish) is a large archway, with a bridge over a moat that surrounds the city of Ypres. Between October 1914 and September 1918 hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers marched through it on their way to the battlefields.  300,000 of them died, and 90,000 have no known grave.

Ypres was at the centre of a road network and essential for the Germans to capture in order to take the English Channel ports through which British support came into France during World War I. For the Allies, Ypres was important as it became the last major Belgian town that remained out of German control.

Five major battles occurred around Ypres. During the First Battle of Ypres the German army’s advance to the east of the city was stopped.  Eventually, however, the Germans surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war. The Second Battle of Ypres was the second German attempt to take the city in April 1915. The third battle, which we know as the Battle of Passchendaele, occurred over five months in 1917. The fourth and fifth battles occurred during 1918.

Today, Menin Gate is a memorial to 54,616 Commonwealth soldiers who died before August 16, 1917 and have no known grave, about 6,983 of them Canadians.

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Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Two of those Canadians are listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion: Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON and George Albert CAMPBELL.  So, of course, we went to find their names on the Menin Gate Memorial.

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Inscription on the Menin Gate Memorial. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Inside the archway is a Hall of Memory, with stairwells on either side of the archway, and panels listing the names of each of these soldiers.  One wall by the stairwall lists the names of Canadian soldiers, and we first found Charles Buxton, listed under the names of those from the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.  Pieter stood by the wall listing his name and held up Buxton’s photo and a plaque that he’d asked Kevin Peddle of Prince County Trophy and Awards in Summerside to make for him.

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Pieter at Menin Gate Memorial, holding up a photo of Charles Buxton and a memorial plaque. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Memorial Plaque for Charles Buxton that Pieter had made. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

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Charles Buxton. (Photo: courtesy of John Marchbank Collection)

We then searched for the listing for George Albert Campbell under the Canadian Mounted Rifles, and repeated the procedure, holding up a picture of Campbell and a memorial plaque.

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Pieter at Menin Gate Memorial, holding up a photo of George Albert Campbell and a memorial plaque. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Memorial Plaque for George Albert Campbell that Pieter had made. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

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

If you were paying attention at the beginning of this entry, you read that 90,000 WWI Commonwealth soldiers have no known grave, but only 54,616 are listed on Menin Gate. Why?  When the memorial was completed, it was too small to contain all the names of the missing and unidentified soldiers, as had originally been planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of August 15, 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 British soldiers missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead. The names of missing and unidentified soldiers from New Zealand and Newfoundland are listed on separate memorials.

With advances in DNA and stories about finding skeletons in various graves in fields, we wondered what happened if a soldier was identified.  Any remains are reburied in a cemetery, and if the soldier can be identified the name is removed from the Menin Gate Memorial.

We were glad we had the opportunity to visit Menin Gate Memorial in the morning, before it got busy and before the Last Post Ceremony in the evening, which we would come back to attend.

We also wanted to visit Maple Copse Cemetery, where Campbell is believed to be buried, and Sanctuary Wood, where Buxton lost his life during a battle, and have a chance to tell their stories in the spot where they were last.

First, though, we decided to visit areas in and around Passchendaele, beginning with Lt.  John McCrae’s field hospital bunker, the subject of the next blog entry. Comments or stories?  You can share them by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

A Visit To Chester Farm Military Cemetery

October 22, 2017.  After we paid our respects to Arthur Robinson at La Laiterie Military Cemetery in Belgium, we made our way to Chester Farm Military Cemetery, 5 km south of Ypres, where another WW1 soldier, James Lymon CAMERON, is buried.  The cemetery, one of three in the area, is in a farming area.

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Directional sign to Chester Farm Cemetery. Note the John Deere dealership. We are in a farming area, only 5 km south of Ypres. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Chester Farm was the name given to a farm about 1 km south of Blauwepoort Farm, on the road from Zillebeke to Voormezeele.  The names of these two places may be almost unpronounceable, but we encountered them over and over again as scenes of many fierce battles.

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Stone marker on gate of Chester Farm Military Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The cemetery opened in March 1915 and has 420 Commonwealth burials, 7 of them unidentified.  It’s in a beautiful location, surrounded by cows.  It seems fitting for an Islander to be in such a rural location.

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Chester Farm Military Cemetery, surrounded by cows. Pieter had already placed flags on the grave of James Lymon Cameron. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Private James Lymon Cameron was born December 30, 1892 in Victoria, PEI, the son of Edward H. Cameron, a carpenter, and Susan Estelle Harrington of Hampton.  The family was Roman Catholic and worshipped at the church in Kelly’s Cross.

With such a background on the island, it was a mystery to us why no one seemed to know the family, until Pieter’s research revealed that the family must have moved around quite a bit for Edward’s work.  In a 1900 US census, the family was living in South Bend City, in the state of Washington, and James Lymon’s sister Ethel was recorded as having been born in New Hampshire in 1889.  He had an older sister Lucy who was born on PEI, but was not listed in the 1900 census, suggesting that she was no longer alive, and a younger brother Otto, who was born on PEI.

In a 1921 census from Vancouver, another younger brother, Edward, is recorded as having been born in the USA around 1906.  Ethel is living with her parents and brother.  She is recorded as married with the last name Gilbert, but her husband is not with her.

At the time that James Lymon enlisted on March 18, 1915 with the 47th Battalion (BC) CEF, the family was living in Vancouver, and he was employed as a marine oiler.  By October 1915 he was on his way to Europe, and transferred twice, first to the 30th Reserve Battalion, and then to the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (1st British Columbia).

On July 24, 1916, he was killed by enemy shell fire at ‘The Bluff’ at Ypres Salient during The Battle of The Bluff near St. Eloi.  The Bluff is a mound near St Eloi, south-east of Ypres, which was created from a spoil heap during the digging of the Ypres–Comines Canal before the war.

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Pieter by the grave of James Lymon Cameron at Chester Farm Military Cemetery. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The war diary of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion for July 2, 1916, explained what happened in three terse lines:  “Bombardment of Front Line. Headquarters Shelled. Our retaliation effective.

Unfortunately, this is all we know about James Lymon Cameron.  We don’t even know what he looked like.  If you can add any further information or provide a photo, please let us know.

In the next blog entry we visit Menin Gate in Ypres. 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 in Belgium and a Visit to La Laiterie Military Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Who Can Put A Face To Charles Benjamin Murray Buxton?

July 30, 2017.  One of the names on the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph is Charles Benjamin Murray BUXTON.  This fall we plan to visit Sanctuary Wood in Belgium, the place where the Battle of Mount Sorrel was fought, and where Buxton gave his life. He has no known grave and his name is mentioned on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium.  No one is even certain of his exact date of death.  According to the war diary he was declared missing on June 2, 1916 and declared dead two days later when there was no evidence that he was still alive.

Unfortunately for Buxton, no family has come forward with a photo or any information, a poignant state of affairs for a man who gave his life and lies buried in an unknown spot.  When we go to Sanctuary Wood and Menin Gate to pay our respects, it would be nice to have a photo, to make him more real.

So here’s what we do know about Buxton’s life prior to enlistment.   He was born December 8, 1893 in Cape Traverse, the son of George Edward Buxton and Mary Jane (May) Buxton (Webster).  He had two sisters, Bertha Alice and Reta.  Buxton’s mother died in 1901 at the age of 29.  The children were then brought up by May’s sister Kate, who was married to Gordon MacFarlane of Augustine Cove.

All three children became teachers. Bertha Alice, who died in 1949, became principal of the school in Crapaud and married Ralph A.  Beairsto.  Reta later retrained to become a nurse and lived in Brooklyn, New York and died in 1997 in Toronto, at the age of 100.

In 1910, Buxton won a provincial scholarship for Prince County to attend Prince of Wales normal school, graduating two years later.  He was the teacher/principal in Cape Traverse School.  In 1915, he became a school inspector in West Prince, but later that year he enlisted in 1st University Company to reinforce the ranks of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry.

One of Buxton’s letters to an aunt, Mrs. Minnie Marchbank of Alma, written August 3, 1915, and telling her about her son George, was published in The Guardian on August 24, 1915, and an excerpt is included here…..

Dear Aunt Minnie,

George is lying down beside me reading a paper.  I am just trying to get a few letters written.  We spent last night in a hay mow and certainly had a good sleep and this morning a good breakfast.  Your letter written July 11th arrived last night just as we were about to climb the ladder for our bed.  We are not allowed to tell where we are or what we are doing. ….. So far we have had no colds.  Fred White and the three of us bivouacked for a few days together.  He was glad to see the boys.  The war has not hurt him any as he looks well.

The outlook is not as good as it was but no matter what happens do not for a minute believe the Germans can win.  …..

With love.

Charlie

Less than a year after that letter was sent, Buxton perished.  The only other mention of him came, oddly enough, in 1954, when a display of hockey photos was found at Myricks store in Alberton.  One of the photos was of the 1915 Alberton Regal Hockey Team. One of the players in the photo was C. B. Buxton!  Pieter has been on the trail of that photo, so far without success.

Can you help to put a face to Buxton?  Email us at dariadv@yahoo.ca.  Comments or stories?  You can share them by email or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg