Up the Gatineau! Articles
The following article was first published in Up the Gatineau! Volume 28.
The Chelsea Cenotaph Story
On November 11, 2001, a memorial plaque with the names and details of nine men from Chelsea who lost their lives in World Wars I and II was dedicated at Chelsea's Pioneer Cemetery.
Some time ago, when I was preparing to give a talk on skiing in the Gatineau to our Historical Society I felt it prudent to check some of my facts, since the subject of the talk took place more than 50 years ago. To this end I called Frank Macintyre, a neighbour who had also skied at Camp Fortune in the mid-1940s. After our discussion of skiing memories, we got to talking about other memories of that period, and Frank mentioned that his brother had lost his life while serving with the RCAF in the Second World War. I was astonished to hear this. Though I had known Frank for 40 years, he had never mentioned this part of his life to me. A few days later, I was down at Harky's Garage and shared this story with Harky Milks, who was surprised as well. Then Harky said that he also had a brother who was killed during the Second World War. This was the first I'd heard of Harky's brother, although I'd known Harky also for 40 years. These people, it seemed, were forgotten in the community, and I began to wonder how many others from Chelsea had lost their lives in the wars?
Harky Milks and Del Trudeau, in particular, helped me to identify nine young men from West Hull, as Chelsea was then called, who died in World Wars I and II. The Pioneer Cemetery Cenotaph is a memorial plaque that bears their names. Here is a little more of their story.
Private Stephen Thomas Dunn
27th Battalion, Canadian Infantry
8th May 1917, aged 28
Etaples Military Cemetery
Stephen was born December 23, 1888 in Old Chelsea, the son of John and Ann (Grimes) Dunn. He grew up in the Dunn House, which was then a hotel and is currently occupied by a business, the Joineryco. His father died suddenly in 1896, and his widowed mother carried on the hotel business. When John was still a teenager he went out west, where, according to a family source, his mother set him up with a team of horses so he could be in the lumber trade. He enlisted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in November 1915, giving his occupation as farmer and naming his mother as next of kin. Stephen saw action at the Western Front near Ypres in Flanders, where battles had already raged in 1914 and again in the spring of 1915. It was here in the late spring of 1917 at Messines (a Belgian town whose name is familiar for its Gatineau-area namesake) that he was badly wounded and taken to the hospital at étaples, 27 kilometres south of Boulogne in France. He died of his wounds in the hospital and was buried in the nearby military cemetery, where there are nearly 11,000 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.
Private Allan Sidney Farmer
42nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry
3rd November 1917, aged 21
whose name appears on the
Menin Gate Memorial
Ypres, West Flanders, Belgium
Allan Farmer's enlistment form shows that he was born July 4, 1893, at Kirk's Ferry, Quebec. His occupation was carpenter, and he listed his mother, Mrs. Jane Farmer, as next of kin. The Protestant Cemetery at Cantley had a gravestone for his parents, Frederick W. Farmer, who died July 8, 1914, and Jane Fetherstonhaugh, who died November 1, 1946, which also records Allan Farmer's name and death at Passchendaele, Belgium.
Allan's mother, Jane Farmer, was a widow at the time he enlisted in November of 1915, and her address was "The Maples," Kirk's Ferry. Private Farmer's body was never found after he was killed in action at Passchendaele, near Ypres, and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres.
The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders. Its site was selected for a memorial because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. I have visited this gate, which is a scaled down version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. There are 54,000 names listed there of men whose bodies were never found after the horrific battles that were fought in and around Ypres during the First World War. Each night at 8:00 p.m. the traffic is stopped and members of the local Fire Brigade sound the Last Post in the roadway under the Memorial's arches.
Pilot Officer John Donald Bates
431 Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
20th February 1944, aged 19
Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery
John Bates, the eldest son of Thomas and Janey (Burnett) Bates, was born at Cascades, Quebec, in 1924. When he was three years old, the family moved to the Carman Road (where they have remained to this day) because of the construction of dams on the Gatineau River, which raised the water level and flooded part of the village. John attended school at Farm Point. In his teenage years he worked on the surveying team for Highway 11 (now Route 105) and with the surveyors when the Alcan Plant was being built at Farm Point in the 1940s. John enlisted in the Air Force when he was 18, and received his Air Gunner's Wings in Winnipeg. He was sent almost immediately to England with his crew. On his mother's birthday, February 20, 1944, he and all the crew of their Halifax aircraft were reported missing after night operations over Leipzig, Germany. John never knew that he had been awarded his commission of Flying Officer, because it came through after he left on his last flight
The great majority of those buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery were airmen lost in the raids over Berlin and eastern Germany. The cemetery has 3583 Commonwealth burials of World War II.
Richard Neiland Hammond
Royal Canadian Air Force
22nd September 1943, aged 20
Richard Neiland Hammond was born August 8, 1923, on the family dairy farm in Ironside, a village in West Hull that was then four miles north of Hull's city limits. His parents were Watson and Jane (Barber) Hammond. Neiland, as his family called him, attended the local elementary school and then Hull Intermediate for high school. When he was a child both parents died- his mother in 1930 and father 1935. The farm was then managed by two uncles, who hired housekeepers so that Neiland, his sister and two brothers could stay on the family property.
A short time after finishing high school, Neiland started work at the Electric Reduction Plant in Buckingham, Quebec, but gave up this job to enlist in the RCAF in 1942. He went to Belleville Training School, and then on to elementary flying at Pendleton, Ontario (east of Ottawa). After his graduation from Pendleton, he came back to Uplands (Ottawa) for his service flying training. Here he had to learn to fly the Harvard, a powerful, heavy, single-engine aircraft. On the night of September 22,1943, he was assigned to practice night take-off and landing at a relief field near Carp, Ontario, the present site of Carp Airport. During take-off something went wrong, and he crashed into nearby bush. The authorities listed the cause as "obscure."
Left to mourn were his girl-friend Frances Copping, his sister Jean and brother-in-law William Brisenden, brother James and sister-in-law Mabel (who still live in Chelsea), and brother Felton. Jim Hammond recalls that the news of Neiland's death was delivered to him on the family farm at Ironside on the night that his wife Mabel was in labour for the birth of their first child, Barbara.
Neiland was doing well on the course and would have graduated in a few weeks. He is buried in Beechwood Cemetery's Veterans Section.
Pilot Officer George Frazer Kingsbury
5 (RAF) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
26th June 1944, aged 21
Imphal War Cemetery
George Frazer Kingsbury was the son of Clifford and Mary Kingsbury, whose family farm was on the Mine Road (now Cité des Jeunes) near the Cameron Road (now Mont Bleu). Frazer was a fighter pilot, flying Hurricanes. He was assigned to an RAF Squadron and transferred to the Far East, where he fought in the Burma Campaign, flying over the Himalayas providing cover for the transport aircraft flying "over the hump" into China. In the spring and early summer of 1944 there was severe fighting around the plains and surrounding hills of the Imphal area, as the Japanese made their thrust toward India.
Frazer was ferrying a new Hurricane fighter plane when he went missing. The wreckage of his plane was not found for many months, so it was a considerable time before his family was notified that he had been indeed killed in action. Of all the battles on this frontier of India, the siege of Imphal and its relief in the summer of 1944 rank as one of the most important in this theatre of war. The War Graves Cemetery at Imphal is described as "open and flat, with a pleasant view of the distant hills on its eastern side." There are 1600 Commonwealth burials in the cemetery.
Flying Officer Robert Edward Lee
570 (RAF) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
11th July 1944, aged 24
Surrey, United Kingdom
Robert was the son of Horace and Lily Lee, whose house was in the village of Chelsea along Highway 11 (105) to the south, near the railway crossing. He attended Chelsea Elementary School on Mill Road and then Hull Intermediate on Wright Street in Hull, as did many of his contemporaries.
Robert enlisted in the RCAF and became a pilot assigned to an RAF squadron in England, flying twin-engine Mosquito aircraft. Robert was engaged to marry Rita Slater, a Scottish girl, but on a night sortie off the French coast a few days before his planned wedding (the invitations had been sent out for July 15), his plane went down and he was never found. Robert's and his navigator's names are inscribed on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, south of London. The memorial commemorates 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe and have no known graves.
Rita Slater and her sister Frances visited the Lee family in Chelsea after the war, and saw Robert's home and the area where he grew up.
Flight Sergeant Erle Mayne Milks
570 (RAF) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
23rd September 1944, aged 20
Heteren General Cemetery
Erle's parents were Erle Kenneth and Helen (Christie) Milks. He grew up in the village of Chelsea and attended Chelsea Elementary School on Mill Road and St. Stephen's School in Old Chelsea. Erle enlisted in the RCAF, and became an air crew bombardier attached to an RAF squadron in England. Erle's group was assigned to tow gliders of paratroops to be dropped over Arnhem in the Netherlands, an epic battle that was immortalized in the book and film A Bridge Too Far. Erle was flying in a Stirling aircraft. When it was hit he went back to help the tail-gunner, who was wounded, but when the plane was hit again it crashed in flames.
Marian Milks, Erle's sister, had also enlisted in the RCAF and was posted to Canadian Headquarters in London. Robert Lee used to visit her when he was in London on leave, and it was only a few months after his death that her brother Erle also died. She visited Erle's pilot afterwards in a convalescent hospital in Aldershot, England, and learned some of the details of her brother's fate from him. A record of Canadian Air Force war dead lists Erle and three other crew members killed. One (non-Canadian) crew member bailed out and was uninjured, and the pilot was thrown clear in the crash and was injured.
In summer 2001, I visited Down Ampney, my family's home in England, which is near Cirencester in the Cotswold Hills. In the village church is a memorial window dedicated to all those airmen who left from Down Ampney Air Field (no longer existing) and lost their lives at Arnhem. Erle Milks may have been one of them. He is buried in Heteren, a small village 12 kilometres south-west of Arnhem.
Flight Lieutenant William Joseph Bernard Murphy
467 Sqdn (RCAF), Royal Canadian Air Force
16th July 1944, aged 27
Lignieres-de-Touraine Communal Cemetery
Bill was the son of John Murphy, who was born in Kingsmere, and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte Joyce. Bill was born June 27, 1917 in Ottawa and educated in Ottawa schools, but he and his three brothers and four sisters spent every summer up in Old Chelsea at their family summer home on the Scott Road near the corner of Padden Road. Bill and his brothers were very active in the ball teams so popular in those days. His brothers Rupert and Clarence also served in the war, Rupert in the air force and Clarence in the army.
Bill was a pilot serving with an Australian squadron when he was lost in an action in a night raid over the Loire Valley region of France. When he was reported lost it was Stephen Dunn, a young boy at the time working at Donovan's Store (now the épicerie Générale du Parc, known as the Parkway Store), who received the call at the store. Because not many people had phones in those days, Steve had to go to the Murphy home to tell them to telephone the war office about William. (Steve Dunn now lives in Wrightville, part of the city of Gatineau.) William is buried in the Lignieres-de-Touraine Communal Cemetery, Indre-et-Loire, where there are 15 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.
Gunner James Allan Reid
23rd Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
7th September 1944, aged 21
Adegem Canadian War Cemetery
Maldegem, East Flanders, Belgium
James Allan Reid was born in Farm Point, Quebec, the son of Levi and Elizabeth Reid. He grew up in that area, where, across the river, his extended family farmed on land that is now part of Mont Cascades Golf Club. He had one sister, Anna, who joined the CWAC, and several half-brothers and sisters.
Jimmy attended the local school and Mabel Hammond, who was a classmate, recalls that he was quite a tease. Jimmy had been working on his father's farm for a number of years, and when war broke out he volunteered for the army. He was a gunner in his artillery regiment, and died in action in France near Bergues, a few kilometres from Dunkirk in the Pas-de-Calais region. He was buried with religious rites in a temporary grave in the village of Soex. Later his remains were moved to a military cemetery which was established at Maldegem in Belgium. The cemetery at Maldegem has 1100 graves from the Second World War.
In addition to those from Chelsea whose names are inscribed on the memorial plaque, I would like to pay tribute to the name that started me thinking about this whole project.
Flying Officer John Scott Macintyre
429 Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force
23rd June 1943, aged 20
Reichswald Forest War Cemetery
John Macintyre, the son of Colonel D. E. (Duncan) and Marjorie Macintyre, was born in Owen Sound. He moved with his family to Ottawa in 1940. In 1945 his parents moved to Larrimac, where Col. Macintyre established Macintyre Realties. John was a navigator who died on a bombing raid over Germany. He is buried in a cemetery near Kleve, Germany, along with 7500 other Commonwealth war dead from the Second World War.
Shortly after the plaque was mounted, another Chelsea name from World War I came to our attention.
Private Richard Gardner
2nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry
(Eastern Ontario Regiment)
24th April 1915
whose name appears (without his age, 35,) on the
Menin Gate Memorial
Ypres, West Flanders, Belgium
Richard, the son of Philip and Marie (Latendresse) Gardner, was born in Chelsea on April 20, 1880, and grew up in Ironside. His father worked as a lumber culler, and Richard followed him in the trade. He was still living at home in Ironside in 1901, but later went up to River Desert (near Maniwaki). He was 34 years old and married (his attestation papers name Mrs. Desneiges Gardner as his wife) when he enlisted on September 22, 1914.
Richard Gardner was first reported missing and then presumed killed in action on the Western Front at Ypres on April 24, 1915. His name is recorded on his parents' stone in St. Stephen's Cemetery in Old Chelsea, and is one of the 54,000 names on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres, Belgium.
Private William Patrick Reynolds
(Eastern Ontario Regiment)
16th October 1918
Bucquoy Road Cemetery
William Patrick Reynolds was born May 23, 1897, in Old Chelsea, the eldest son of John and Bridget Reynolds. The Reynolds family also included twin daughters Ellen (Nellie) and Mary, and William's brother, Joseph, later became Chelsea's first police chief.
William Reynolds enlisted in Ottawa on March 15, 1918, when he was 20 years old. He was reported wounded (dangerously ill) on October 12, 1918, and died of his wounds a few days later.
Bucquoy Road Cemetery, 9 km south of Arras in the Pas-de-Calais region, has 1091 graves and commemorations from World War I, and another 136 from World War II.
Several Web sites provide information about Canadians who died in World Wars I and II. These include:
Commonwealth War Graves at www.cwgc.org.uk
Veterans' Affairs Canada's Canadian virtual war memorial at www.virtualmemorial.gc.ca
National Archives of Canada (World War I) at www.archives.ca.