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Post-armistice CEF deaths burials and controversies


John Gilinsky
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George Anderson Wells one of the senior chaplains to the CEF relates in him memoirs "The Fighting Bishop" published in Toronto in 1971 on pages 211 - 212 how he buried after the November 11, 1918 armistice 2 officers and 21 other ranks from the CEF who had been killed or died of wounds AFTER November 11,1918 apparently he implies earlier due to the cease-fire orders not reaching them on time.

1) Is this version correct?

2) Who were the 23 individuals involved and where are they NOW buried?

3) Wells relates how he buried these CEF members in a German military cemetery at Saint Symphromier about 9 miles south-west of Mons, Belgium which the Germans had used from 1914 onwards and in which they had erected a monument (shaft) to the brave British soldiers who had died fighting at Mons in August 1914. Does this cemetery still exist? Does this German monument to British dead still exist?

4) Does anyone have anymore details as to the circumstances of how these 23 CEF members died? Apparently it became part of Sir Sam Hughes post-war attempt to discredit Currie though the latter successfully sued Hughes in the late 1920s over the former's allegations of needless waste of lives etc....

Thanks,

John

Toronto

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3) Wells relates how he buried these CEF members in a German military cemetery at Saint Symphromier about 9 miles south-west of Mons, Belgium which the Germans had used from 1914 onwards and in which they had erected a monument (shaft) to the brave British soldiers who had died fighting at Mons in August 1914. Does this cemetery still exist? Does this German monument to British dead still exist?

John.

Click here...St.Symphorian. The monument was erected to the "Royal" Middlesex Regiment and is still there today.

Dave

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Thanks Dave. Just chekcing the site cemetery reports for this cemetery. Quite a fascinating cemetery but there are only TWO CEF members listed amongst the now 408 burial plots. What happened to the 23 officers and men that Wells says he buried AFTER the armistice presumably here? His description though puts the cemetery at some considerably further distance from Mons than the one you stated.

Can anyone clear this up?

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John

RE: identifying the men.

The VAC search engine can be used in date of death mode (the advanced search):

http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm...almem/advsearch

So you can get a list for one specific day. Obviously, one can't tell if they were KIA or DOW, but

- if you have a copy of Wigney's Roll of Honnor of the CEF, then you can sort the KIA from the others (you should be able to get a copy by inter-library loans).

- otherwise, you can do some "guesswork": if you look at their respective units, correlate with WD, it can give you an idea. If 10 amongs 39 are from a single unit, the unit having seen combat on that day, but not in the previous ones, it is a clue (but no a proof) that some were KIA.

Once you have the names, the rest should be easy.

Not a quick and easy job, but that's what you get for "going where no one has gone before" :D

Regards,

Pascal

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It would help to know what 'After November 11, 1918' actually meant in terms of date.

CWGC records 32 Canadians as died on 11.11.18 and 33 on 12.11.18 - worldwide.

No particular cemetery springs out but Auberchicourt has five and Valenciennes (St Roch) has eleven. However, that does include Unknowns.

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I still think that pursuing Currie's papers and his trial record or transcript of the 1920s might shed further light on this episode. It is quite fascinating as it really does deal with not just Private Price the last known CEF member and I think the last British Imperial forces soldier to be killed in action before November 11, 1918 at 11:00. Was there a Canadian operation (unauthorized but apparently inadvertently so) AFTER 11:00 or in fact ongoing at 11:00 and continuing due to ignorance of orders as these advanced party presumably an reconnaissance party(?) got caught up in the sweep of the advance?

It would be curious to know if any of the 2 officers or the nco's with this small party had any problems. Taking undue risks as Dr. Rivers explains in Regeneration was one of the first major signs of "shell shock!"

John

Toronto

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. . . snip, snip . . .

4) Does anyone have anymore details as to the circumstances of how these 23 CEF members died? Apparently it became part of Sir Sam Hughes post-war attempt to discredit Currie though the latter successfully sued Hughes in the late 1920s over the former's allegations of needless waste of lives etc....

Thanks,

John

Toronto

I don't think there were any post armistice goings-on thereabouts. This would have been in the 2nd Cdn Division area. The 4th Brigade had been advancing since November 9th, and the 6th Brigade had been ordered to pass through and take the offensive early on the 11th. On the 9th, 10th, and 11th, the 4th Brigade reported 4 officers and 18 other ranks killed, which would pretty much account for these burials. The diaries of all units are quite detailed for this period and one would have to suppose a sophisticated cover-up if things were otherwise.

On the other hand, it is easy to speculate where such stories came from. For example, the cease fire order arrived at Division about 6:30 A.M. (to take effect at 11:00). The 6th Brigade, when repeating the order to the battalions, affixed an order to press forward so as to occupy as much ground as possible before 11:00. This information would have got out, and many officers and men would have been annoyed that lives were put at risk for this purpose at this late date.

Or so it seems to me!

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Thanks jhill for your input and your interpertation which so far makes the most sense. While told thus of the 11:00 ceasefire CEF infantry were encourage to obtain as much ground as possible. Motivated by self-interest (imagine capturing some beautiful hotel....uh em?!)as well as by the offensive spirit which had carried the Canadian Corps from Amiens relentlessly forward despite heavy casualties as well as what the Canadians may have underestimated somewhat German opposition it is possible that some casualties were needlessly sustained. We will probably never know without thorough archival research.

Thanks

John

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  • 2 weeks later...

John, you might find this thread of interest, link.

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