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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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© Daria Valkenburg