First-hand learning about the war
Kentville family visits graves of ancestors who died near Vimy Ridge
For the first part of the year, our family lived in the UK. After having seen a replica of the Vimy Ridge memorial at Citadel Hill in Halifax, our nine-year old son asked if we could go see the real one since we would be “close.”
After a bit of research, we discovered the 100th anniversary celebration would be happening in France while we were there. We applied for free tickets, and then hopped to France for a week. The Vimy Ridge Anniversary Celebration was an incredible day, but that’s a story for another time.
Before going, my mother provided us with information about her great- uncle, Ellis Hooper, who was killed in a battle leading up to Vimy Ridge, and was buried somewhere in northern France.
Ellis was born in PEI and enlisted when he was 22 years old as part of the 105th Battalion. His obituary reads: “He helped materially, as so many Islanders are doing, in freeing that country from the murderous Hun and in reestablishing throughout the world the rights of freedom and justice, so dear to every British Heart.”
Ellis died at the age of 23 from battle wounds, and is buried at the Aubigny Communal Cem- Daniel Duke, left, and his brother Thomas illustrate how closely their great-great-great uncles were buried in northern France during a trip to the area last spring.
The night before we were to visit Aubigny, a cousin on my father’s side wrote to tell me that our great-great uncle was buried in northern France, and if we had the chance, we should go see his
grave. He had died in the battles immediately after Vimy.
Ernest Shaw Marshall, from Yarmouth County, enlisted at the age of 23 to the Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment), 2nd Battalion. At the age of 25, he died of his battle wounds.
When we looked up the location of the cemetery, we could not believe that he too was buried in the Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas-de-Calais, France. There are literally hundreds of war graves throughout the countryside, in farmer’s fields on the side of the highway, or like this one, at the back of a village’s cemetery.
What was the likelihood that my two great-great uncles, from different sides of the family, would be buried in the same place? And, the fact that we just found out the night before made the story all the more remarkable. What if we had missed it?
Aubigny’s cemetery was nestled in a tiny town. We pulled up with the row and section number scribbled on a piece of paper. And, then we found them. Both Ellis Hooper and Ernest Marshall were buried in the same section of the graveyard, a mere 10 rows apart.
We have a picture of each of our sons standing at one of their graves to mark their locations.
Here lie two men who never knew each other: one from PEI, and one from Yarmouth, fighting in different battalions, but in the same war. They died so young, never to meet any of their descendants. But, the blood running in these boys connects both of them. Two men whose families reconnect 60 years later in me, and then in my sons.
Now these men mean so much more to us, knowing their stories, seeing their final resting places and because of the circumstances we found them. We will remember them.