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Campaign Diary

Periodically, we will continue to update our site visitors with the progress of our Study and let you know what other events will be happening along the way. As originally planned, The Far From Home project is still on schedule and will be completed over the next two years.

Our original challenge was to visit 3885 Canadian casualties in 836 locations when we launched the ‘Far From Home’ project in 2007. Over the intervening ten years, the number of casualties has steadily risen to 3898 and the number of locations has escalated to 868.

By the beginning of 2017, we had visited 3856 of the 3898 casualties and will have travelled to the final 42 casualties in 40 different locations across the United Kingdom before the end of next year.

The names of the following 14 additional casualties were originally recorded by the CWGC in either their United Kingdom or Canadian Books of Remembrance because their final resting place was ‘Unknown’.

So far this year…………

We have undertaken four short road trips which necessitated our staying overnight in modest motel accommodation. For this reason, we remain open for sponsorship towards the costs of our forthcoming travels.

Road trip one - January:

Our first port of call was St Bartholomew’s Church at Haslemere in Surrey to visit the grave of Captain William Dowler. He served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps but never returned to Canada when the war ended. Instead homeless, William wandered the area and in November 1919, was found dead in a farmer’s field after he had cut his own throat. We can only speculate what state of mind he had endured throughout his years of service. Captain Dowler was buried in an unmarked grave in the Churchyard Extension. We were able to locate the exact spot where he was laid to rest, which is where the CWGC has recently erected his headstone.

Leaving Surrey, we headed north west for Wiltshire to the church of St Michael at Melksham. Gunner Frank Stanley Arthur died on the 5th August 1920 and was buried somewhere within the Churchyard. Unfortunately, as his exact grave was never marked and the church records are inconclusive, his newly installed headstone reads: “Buried elsewhere in this cemetery”. However, Frank’s name does appear on the local War Memorial in the town centre.

The third location for this trip was to Swindon Village in Cheltenham. In March 1921, Private Alfred Tinsley Whitaker was laid to rest in the grounds of St Lawrence Church. A new headstone now marks the spot for perpetuity.

Our final destination was Greenbank Cemetery at Bristol in Gloucestershire. We located and photographed the new headstones for two men, Private John Dyte and Private James William Webb, who both served with the Canadian Infantry.

Road trip two – Easter:

This time, we needed to travel to three locations in Devon, which is the south-west area of England. En route to our main destination of Plymouth, we took a minor detour to All Saints Church at Okehampton. We had discovered Sergeant John Oag had been buried in the churchyard, but that his actual grave reference was unknown. With such a large churchyard made up of several separate sections, we needed to determine by the burial dates on the headstones, which section was the most likely to contain our Canadian. After establishing John would almost certainly have been buried in the original churchyard, we carried out a row by row search for him and were delighted when we found not only his grave, but an adjacent one also belonging to other members of his family. As the engraving on John’s original private headstone is still in extremely good condition, the CWGC are satisfied that Sergeant Oag is adequately commemorated.

Whilst we were at All Saints, we were also able to inform the Church Officers that they had a First World War Canadian in their care so that they may now add his name to the war memorial in the churchyard. We have also informed the local British Legion about Sergeant Oag and they have assured us that John will be remembered alongside all the other war veterans each November 11th.

The following day, we arrived at Torquay Cemetery in Devon, where we found the grave for Sergeant Percy Leonard Shepherd who died on the 3rd April 1920. His pristine new headstone now marks his place ninety-seven years after his death and sits in a large section of what appears to be largely unmarked graves.

Our final location was St John The Evangelist Church at Plymouth Hooe in Devon. Lieutenant Colonel George Michael James Giles was originally one of the 44 names commemorated on the 1914-1918 Memorial Wall at Brookwood and his burial place was recorded as “Unknown”. In fact, George did have a substantial family memorial erected when he was buried in this Churchyard. At the time of his death on 24th August 1916, Lieutenant Colonel Giles was 62 years old and was serving with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Road trip 3 – June

This spur-of-the-moment road trip to two towns along the south coast of England was to visit and record the new headstones recently erected for two Canadians whose names were also on the Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial Wall.

Private William Rogers was another 1921 death but still qualifies as a war casualty. He was found to have been buried in Brighton and Preston Cemetery in Sussex.

Travelling onto Portsmouth in Hampshire, we found the grave for Thomas James Tremble. This Canadian was not a soldier, but was the Headmaster of HM Colonial Training Ship “Niobe”. When he died aged 59 years on the 8th October 1916, Thomas was buried in Kingston Cemetery at Portsmouth.

Road trip 4 - August


Our final trip for 2017 was to four locations so that we could maximise our available time away from home.

Two years ago, we were able to determine that L/Corporal Harry Day had been buried at Welwyn Parish Cemetery in Hertfordshire. He was born and raised locally before emigrating to Canada but died at Welwyn on 25th March 1919. With help from the two local historians (Peter Shirley and Paul Jiggins) and the cemetery groundsman, John Quinton, Harry’s exact spot was identified by a metal marker in June 2015. We revisited the cemetery with Peter Shirley and were delighted to see the CWGC had erected a headstone to L/Corporal Day just a few weeks ago.

After driving south to East Finchley in London, we were able to photograph the new headstone for Private John Desmond (17 May 1881 – 17 September 1919). His headstone, in St Pancras Cemetery, can only reflect the general area in which he was laid to rest so his memorial is marked accordingly with “Buried Elsewhere in the cemetery”. The important fact is that John has at last been memorialised with a marker in the actual section where he was buried.

Private Robert Brunt is buried in Islington Cemetery but like Private Desmond he was previously commemorated on the 1914-1918 Memorial Wall at Brookwood . Robert died on 9th May 1921.

Islington Cemetery is immediately adjacent to St Pancras Cemetery and both are managed by Sean Holloway to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. Without his help and patience during our three separate visits over the last two years, we certainly would have been hard pressed to locate either Private Desmond or Private Robert Brunt. Measuring over 190 acres in total, the vastness of both these cemeteries does require an intimate knowledge of their layouts, where one cemetery ends and the other begins.

Turning towards home, we called into Chingford Mount Cemetery in Essex to pay our respects to Private Philip Edgar Soall, (1921) whose new CWGC headstone was found next to a family memorial nestling up against the back boundary of the site.
Having recorded and photographed all these new headstone, they will now be added to each County volume and the profile for all the men completed.

As we discover and visit each casualty around a century after their deaths, it is very gratifying to have been instrumental in ensuring that all these Canadians have suitable memorials and allow for future generations to pay their respects.


2018, we are planning one-off first time trips to Jersey (3 locations each with one casualty), Guernsey (1 location and a single casualty) and the Isle of Man (again, 3 locations each with one casualty) to complete our commitment to Far From Home. Once again, with the additional expense of costly sea crossings to these islands, we are still actively looking to secure sponsorship for these final laps of our marathon journey which to date has spanned over nine years.

In addition, our travels will see us retracing our footsteps to locations in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to visit the casualties whose final resting place has finally been identified over the last few years. It is a great honour for us to have played our part in these acts of remembrance.
If you would like to contribute to our Centennial Memorial Project, please click here. All sponsorship will be acknowledged on this site and highlighted in any future hard copy reports or seminar papers produced by us. Your support will be hugely appreciated.

In 2018, our 868th and final destination is likely to be at St Peter Port, Guernsey in the Channel Islands, Subject to prior approval from the local authority, we are planning to plant a Canadian Maple Tree. It will be a fitting way to mark the end of our Far From Home project and will be a permanent reminder of the huge sacrifice given by the Canadians who fought with Britain during The Great War.

Our next article about the Great War Canadians has been completed and submitted to the Editor of the Western Front Association Magazine “Stand To!” We look forward to seeing it in print in the next couple of months.

Currently, we are able supply an individual DVD for any one of the 3898 Canadian service men and women who are commemorated in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition, our website can also supply an individual DVD by location or county. Please refer to Our Catalogue (click here) for full details.

With the final addition of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, Our Catalogue will include all 3898 casualties in our Far From Home project.

Thank you.

Diana & Adrian

August 2017

 


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