May 2016
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Netherlands Remembrance and Liberation

Posted By on May 4, 2016

Wageningen. The building on the right is the location where on May 5, 1945 the 1st Canadian Corps accepted the unconditional surrender of the 25th German Army.

Wageningen. The building on the right is the location where  the 1st Canadian Corps accepted the unconditional surrender of the 25th German Army, May 5, 1945 .

May 4th – May 5th

It’s a fine day as the classical notes from a flute drift across the airwaves into the clubhouse. I turn towards the retro-styled ’30s radio as the tempo rises, lowers and then gently hovers as my thoughts cascade towards these day in 1945 – May 4th/5th, the Netherlands and the Canadian Scottish.

It is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands (May 4th) – a time when their citizens commemorate those who gave of themselves…for this nation. It is when this solemn understanding is passed on to their younger generations and it is followed by Liberation Day (May 5th), an event that many Canadian veterans have participated in.

Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery.

Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery.

For 129 soldiers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment whose short lives are part of the Netherlands national memory, they can be found whilst trekking across this grateful nation at Bergen-op-Zoom, Groesbeek and Holten. I have been there walking these places and today, as a piano hurls its notes from the broadcast, I take myself back to my last trek across Netherlands – the Walcheren, the Scheldt, Middelburg, Berg en Dal, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nijmegen and Arnhem.

Mario Ruaben. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. A family friend of my father.

Mario Ruaben. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. A family friend of my father.

I recall walking the cemetery at Groesbeek knowing that my father journeyed here in the 1950s to visit a family friend from Lethbridge, Trooper Mario Ruaben of the Fort Garry Horse. The image that Cpl. E.W. Ferguson took that day remains in the family photo album, marking an important visit for my dear father. It is in these footsteps that I have returned.

I call my father as a cellist climbs and dives along the fingerboard in search of each perfect note.  I enjoy the cello as it its tone etches into my being and briefly I think upon a Canadian chaplain, a Victoria Cross recipient himself, who enjoyed helping his cello with its voice. It was my father who developed my tastes and interest in music and as we part for today I know that today’s musical metaphor is not without its purpose.

Private E.S. Hansen, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Private E.S. Hansen, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Music kindles memory – it reminds us of places and people – where we were, perhaps, when we first heard the James Bond theme, the Pink Panther theme or that well known theme by John Williams (a film incidentally celebrated this day, May 4th, by its many fans). As the cello softly finds its passion I wonder, what these days of May 1945 were like for the Canadian Scottish? As their pipes played somewhere across the Netherlands I think of those who survived and of those who remained.

Dutch visitors to Holten Canadian War Cemetery. During our visitor we were fortunate to answer questions of several locals. Memorable for all.

Dutch visitors to Holten Canadian War Cemetery. During our visit we were fortunate to answer questions from several locals. Memorable for all.

At the Canadian Scottish 100th Anniversary gala I met a veteran who was happy to show me a picture from the anniversary publication. It was of Wageningen – he had been there – 1945 – and he told me a story or two. His voice then spoke of his brother whose time in the Netherlands is forever marked at Groesbeek. It was a touching moment. The picture, our Canadian Scottish veteran pointed to, was one that I had taken and I felt honoured that he wanted to share his story because of this one image. There was more though. I recognized the veteran’s surname when we were introduced. It had been previously etched into my memory as I had written, sometime previous, his brother’s biography. And so the path continues that I may be fortunate to return and seek out his brother at Groesbeek.

Victoria's Peace Tulip Garden.

Victoria’s Peace Tulip Garden.

As the cello fades I reach over and turn down the volume. The silence is soon replaced with the steady clop of a horse and carriage taking its visitors towards the inner harbour where on many days the sound of the pipes rises in welcome near to the Netherlands Peace Tulip Garden and Centennial Carillon.  The Netherlands remembers Canada May 4th, May 5th and all year round.

Gardener at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardener at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Netherlands Honours to the Canadian Scottish Regiment

Bronze Cross
Lieutenant (Acting Captain) K.S.D. Corsan
M106087 Corporal W. Lawrence

Bronze Lion

Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Crofton
K62895 Corporal F.J. Nicol
M105556 Corporal W. Paradis
K71271 Private R.H. Rideout

Archival Film: Making the Victoria Cross

Posted By on April 30, 2016

Unpretentious Little Workshop: Hancocks the Manufacturer

“After several submissions and amendments, designs submitted by Lord Panmure were approved and in March 1856 the war office instructed Hancocks to produce 106 Victoria Cross medals. A duty that the firm proudly upholds to the present day.” (Hancocks website)

Thanks to British Pathé(via Youtube) for this small feature, made in 1945, on the production of the Victoria Cross. The short film features Hancocks craftsman Alec Forbes. Hancocks is now situated at Burlington Arcade, London.

Visitors may also be interested in the following:


British Pathé

 A Family That Loves Me

Posted By on March 7, 2016

Percival Joseph Barnes, 31st Battalion CEF

Percival Joseph Barnes, 31st Battalion CEF

Information of Any Description

There from one of many pages turned during last evening’s research, a soldier’s portrait…

“PTE. PERCIVAL J. BARNES (183648) / CANADIA [sic] INFANTRY, (MISSING/ SINCE SEPT. 27). / Information of any description will be / welcomed by Miss E.M. Barnes, 68, / Durley Road, Stamford Hill, London, / N.” (Canada Weekly, January 6, 1917).

A family's search

A family’s search for their loved one.

There would be no welcome home for Percival, perhaps known to the family as Percy or Perce. Percival was eventually found and buried at Regina Trench Cemetery, France. Son of Joseph and Jane Barnes. Brother to Ethel Millie Barnes who forwarded to the Imperial War Graves Commission her brother’s memorial inscription “VINCIT”.

Ethel’s words with the passing years a reminder of the pain felt, an empty chair at home, memories and passing years. Perhaps someone here, a reader, may know how the family remembered or continues to remember to this day?

Private P.J. Barnes served with the 31st Battalion CEF, of the Second Canadian Division.

Behind the Wire 1915

Posted By on January 18, 2016

Great War Canadian officers interned in Holland.

“Interned in Holland”
Photo taken at Schevenigen of Canadian officers taken prisoner of war at the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915. Captain B.L. Johnston (3rd Battalion CEF), Major R.Y. Cory (15th Battalion CEF “48th Highlanders”), Lieutenant V.A. MacLean (16th Battalion CEF “Canadian Scottish”), Lieutenant F.W. MacDonald (15th Battalion CEF “48th Highlanders”). From  Canada Magazine, an Illustrated Weekly Journal.

16th Battalion C.E.F. Prisoners of War (Part 1)

At long last the first installment of Canadian Scottish soldiers captured during the Great War. This work would not have been possible without the tremendous effort of the late Ted Wigney whose work, in recording and publishing (for all) a record of CEF prisoners of war, was a fine accomplishment.

No matter how often one walks these fields of France and Flanders attempting to learn more about these days of fury, there is always one more feature or landscape , one more place to visit, one more path to walk. It is this call to the heart that builds upon my memories of previous visits, – these investigations into the soul of this earth, water, and sky. The feelings we sense of these places, the quiet now, the combat then, the light, the dark, the known, the unknown, all felt or witnessed by those who were here before us. Research is my kindling, fanning the spark to return time and time again.

Next visit will include a return to Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery where my kindling of research has led me to the burial sites of two 16th Battalion prisoners of war. I wonder what we will feel this time as our ever watchful eye wanders across the horizon always searching…


 April 22, 1915

Wood, Andrew
Private        28691
Released December 27, 1918 

April 23, 1915

Adams, Charles John
Private      29178
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War April 23, 1915
Commemorated Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium

Annand, Archibald
Private       29176
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War August 7, 1915
Buried Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, Belgium

Barlow, Frank
Private        28565
Released January 7, 1919

Bushnell, Lucien Hamilton
Sergeant       29072
Released November 18, 1918

Dougall, Thomas
Private        420842
Released December 18, 1918

Guilbride, Samuel Arthur
Private        28627
Released December 10, 1918

Hayward, Harold Blakeney
Private        28633
Released December 24, 1918

Hill, Bertram Thomas
Lance Corporal     28743
Released December 27, 1918

Hobbs, Selwyn
Private        29330
Released November 25, 1918

Houston, Richard
Private        29332
Released November 24, 1918

Long, Fred
Prvate        29113
Released December 7, 1915

Barbed wire picquet

Great War barbed wire picquet near Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery Belgium.

Siberry, Richard
Private        29268
Gunshot wound lower left leg
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 6, 1915
Buried Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, Belgium

Speirs, Lewis Maurice
Private        28867
Escaped May 2, 1918
Awarded the Military Medal
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Walker, William Harry
Private        28685
Released December 7, 1918

Warwick, Albert George
Private        29280
Released December 15, 1918

April 24, 1915

Bruce, Joseph Charles
Corporal        28715
Released November 18, 1918

Buchan, William
Private        21678
Released January 10, 1919

Bullock, Cecil Hurst
Private        29074
Released January 6, 1919

Chiverall, Sidney Joseph
Private        28853
Released October 7, 1915
Leg Amputated

Giles, Frederick
Private        29446
Released February 15, 1919

Grant, Peter Martin
Private        28976
Released December 19, 1918
Mentioned in Despatches

Hamilton, Harry Edgar
Private        28629
Released January 7, 1919

Hoggarth, Thomas Emanuel
Private        29106
Released December 9, 1918

Kiloh, James
Corporal        29565
Released December 27, 1918

McAuley, Malcolm Angus
Sergeant        23029
Released December 27, 1918

McNicoll, Donald
Private        28653
Released December 18, 1918

Ragbourn, Herbert William
Private        28866
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 4, 1915
Buried Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

Robinson, Peter Herman
Private        23045
Released December 23, 1918

Royston, Richard Cuthbert
Private        29015
Escaped April 15, 1918
Awarded Military Medal
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Williams, Edmund John
Private        29032
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War May 1, 1915
Buried Niederzwehren War Cemetery, Germany

April 26, 1915

MacLean, Victor Alexander
Released November 18, 1918
Awarded the Military Cross and the Russian Order of St. Anne 4th Class
Military Cross announced in Supplement to the London Gazette 30 January 1920, page 1219
“In recognition of gallant conduct and determination displayed in escaping or attempting to escape from captivity which services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5 May 1919″.

Army Order 193 (1919)
“Rewards for Officers and Soldiers for services in the field and for services rendered in captivity or in attempting to escape or escaping therefrom.”

List of Prisoners of War (16th Battalion CEF) compiled from:
Wigney, Edward H. “Guests of the Kaiser; Prisoners-of-War of the Canadian Expeditionary force 1915-1918”, (CEF Books, 2008)


Posted By on January 5, 2016

Berlin Wall fragment

“CHANGE YOUR LIFE”. Part of the Berlin Wall on the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, London, 2012.

Bridge of Spies and my Zweibrücken (Two Bridges)

I step into the cold December night and wander towards the theatre. Tonight was to have been a blog about prisoners of war of the 16th Battalion CEF, but as I watch the blog become scrambled across the page I realize tonight is not the time to sort out the fineries of my document. There is a film to see and one I have been waiting to catch since its release – October 4, 2015.

Lately I have watched a number of films on the big and bigger screens, Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible Rogue – Nation, Spectre, Mr. Holmes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And there have been more…Mr. Turner, Beware of Mr. Baker,  Searching for Sugar Man, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

As I quicken my pace through the darkness and watch my shadow grow beneath the lamps, I wonder what this evening’s feature will bring. Tonight is the story of other prisoners – Colonel Abel and Lieutenant Powers, the cold and the shadows. As I watch the opening credits I smile as I read, Based on True Events. Set during the Cold War of the late 1950s and early 1960s Bridge of Spies is somewhat set in my era, in a country that I lived in for three years. It makes me think of those years when the family Ferguson were residents of 3rd Fighter Wing (RCAF), Zweibrücken, Germany.

As the film unfolds its characters and story I am enthralled by the performance of Mark Rylance, as Rudolf Abel, and this evening as I read through Rylance’s profile I wonder why I have not encountered this actor before. His resume is wonderful, with a wide range of recognition and honours for his performances on the big screen, television and in theatre. However, it is not just the performance of Mr. Rylance, Tom Hanks and the cast of Bridge of Spies, it is the film’s staging and props, the cold and shadows and familiar imagery of my time in Germany that makes me recall my two bridges. Walking to school, Kindergarten, Grade 1, inoculations, Measles, the Beatles, Canadian Armed Forces Radio, the Rosengarten, Cameras, John F. Kennedy, James Bond, Bunkers, Tadpoles, Summer Recreation, Atomic Bomb Drills, Jets, filling jerricans, Canadian licence plates, the Army Post Office, softball, hockey, our German landlord, my teachers, students and Mom and Dad.

Enjoying these recollections of my youth I start to ponder the much larger political events of the same time. As I watch Tom Hanks become witness to individuals attempting to clear the Berlin Wall, I wonder what events occurred during my time of Cold War occupation. I find myself looking for casualty figures about my time in West Germany where some ways away a wall in Berlin, the great hurdle and barrier between West and East, led to the death of at least 90 individuals during the 1960s. I think about Spandau Prison (West Germany, 1947-1987) where the Four-Power Authorities (USA, the United Kingdom, the USSR, France) continued to meet throughout the Cold War…the Berlin Wall (1961- 1989) and how the Iron Curtain finally faded in 1991.

Bridge of Spies did not disappoint and I am refreshed by the creativity of the team. As I leave the theatre this evening I return to the cold, follow my shadow towards the clubhouse where I can return to the familiar clatter of the keyboard.

Did you know?

James B. Donovan

James B. Donovan, American lawyer. Defender of Rudolf Abel and negotiator of prisoner exchange that included Abel for American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederic Pryor.

In 1945 James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) was assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg trials in Germany. Seven Nazi war criminals convicted at Nuremberg were imprisoned at Spandau Prison.

Picture Credit:
“James B. Donovan” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –