First-hand learn­ing about the war

Kentville fam­ily vis­its graves of an­ces­tors who died near Vimy Ridge

Valley Journal Advertiser - - COMMUNITY - BY LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA

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.

etery Ex­ten­sion,

France.

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

Pas-de-Calais,

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.

LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE

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