Remembering the Fallen
Victoria Vanier, Ottawa
People pay their respects to fallen Canadian soldiers and Veterans in different ways; sporting a bright red poppy on a lapel or overcoat at this time of year is the most popular. Many of us will attend a Remembrance Day Ceremony or, at the very least, bow our heads for a minute of silence on November 11th.
Two former Stanstead residents, Diane and Jacques Bouchard, have gone one big step further from the traditional when it comes to paying their respects to Canadian soldiers: they went on a pilgrimage to visit all the World War I monuments to Canadian soldiers in Europe. “Our whole trip was planned around where the Canadian soldiers distinguished themselves,” explained Diane from her home in Ottawa. “We visited the St. Julien Memorial of a praying soldier in St. Julien, Belgium, the Vimy Ridge Memorial, all the monuments to Canadian soldiers that we could find on the World War I website.”
The trip, which lasted twenty-two days, took months to prepare for. “A friend who works for National Defense lent us some books and I read John Mcrae’s biography before going,” said Diane. The Bouchards also went to the Stanstead Legion to learn the names of local men who had died in the World Wars. Stanstead Legion president David Woodard supplied them with the names that can be seen on local monuments in Stanstead, the Rock Island and Beebe sectors, and Georgeville. “my husband and I were so moved to see those lists of nineteen, twenty and twenty-one year-olds. It was so sad; we had children that age.”
The Bouchards wanted the list of fallen, local men so they could try to find where some of them were buried in Europe. “We were able to find the address of the grave of a Private Arthur Roy, from Stanstead, from a National Defense website. So when we were in Europe we went to that cemetery,” mentioned Diane. Once at the cemetery, a map helped the couple find the grave of Arthur Roy from among 25,000; row upon row of identical, white headstones, many never visited by faraway relatives, some forgotten entirely. They reverently placed poppies at the grave of Arthur Roy, son of Joseph Roy, of Stanstead.
The Bouchards also took a photograph of Arthur Roy’s grave, hoping to find one of his descendants when they returned home to give it to. “I contacted a few Roys when we came back but so far we haven’t found the relatives.”
Through their research, Jacques and Diane discovered a website that may be of interest to people who have late friends or relatives buried in a military cemetery overseas. At www.
twgpp.org, photographs of the graves of thousands of fallen soldiers are available to look at or to order copies of. Not all of the graves of soldiers have been photographed; it’s a work in progress. Diane and Jacques were able to find the photographs of the graves of these local men on the website: Private Gordon Hume Hand, Lieutenant Allan Routledge, Sergeant R.C. Feltus, Flight Sargeant Arthur James Henderson and Flying Officer Wendell Stuart Curtis. “Now relatives and Veterans who can’t go to the cemeteries can still pay respect to their relatives or to their old friends,” commented Mrs. Bouchard.
Diane and Jacques were both impressed by how well-kept the military cemeteries are in Europe. “At all the cemeteries there were flowers and the grass is kept mowed. There are maps, lists of names and grave references, visitors books.” They also visited an American cemetery while there to pay their respects to a relative who died in the First World War. “At the American cemetery of St. Raphael, an employee was at the gate to welcome visitors.” The employee didn’t only help the Bouchards locate the grave they were looking for, he also filled the weathered letters on the gravestone with brown sand so the letters would be readable in the photograph. After taking the picture of the grave, they placed a cross, a poppy and an American flag.
The Ottawa couple is now planning a second trip, this time to trace the steps of Canadian soldiers in the Second World War. “We’re really looking forward to doing a lot of research and visiting the World War II sites and monuments.”
Thinking about the first trip, Diane commented: “I never forgot the feeling in the cemetery. As a mother of young men, I could relate to the loss of so many young lives. 600,000 Canadians participated in this War and 60,000 lost their lives. November 11th is a day of Remembrance and as we live in Ottawa, we are present at each celebration. It is very important that we remember.”
Diane and Jacques Bouchard paid their respects at the grave of Stanstead’s Arthur Roy who was killed in the First World War at 22 years of age.
Military cemeteries in Europe, such as the Lijssenthoek Cemetery in Belgium where Arthur Roy is buried, are kept in immaculate condition with well-tended gardens and lawns.