Keep­ing a prom­ise

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY SALLY COLE sally.cole@The­Guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Sal­lyForth57

Leo Chev­erie grew up lis­ten­ing to his grand­mother Anne Jane Hen­nessey’s sto­ries about his great-un­cles, Joseph Hol­land (Joe) and Thomas Vin­cent Hol­land (Tom), who fought in the First World War.

“I was prob­a­bly as old as seven or eight when she showed me pho­tos of her brothers. She talked about them go­ing off to war, high-spir­ited; think­ing that they would be back by Christ­mas. But then the war dragged on and on,” says Chev­erie.

It must have dragged on for the brothers, too, as they con­tin­ued to serve into what would be the last year of the war. How- ever, they never saw P.E.I. again as they were both killed in 1918; one in Au­gust and one in Septem­ber.

“Sev­enty years later she was still sad­dened by the loss. And this made a huge im­pres­sion on me. She also talked about how sad­dened her fam­ily was and how her par­ents were im­pacted,” says Chev­erie, not­ing that two ad­di­tional brothers (Philip and Jack) also went to war and re­turned.

Look­ing back, the loss was heavy for ev­ery­one.

“My grand­mother had to come to terms that these brothers had died far too young and that fol­lowed her for the rest of her life,” says Chev­erie, adding a nephew raised by Hen­nessey was also killed in the Sec­ond World War.

As his grand­mother told and re­told the fam­ily sto­ries, it im­pacted each of her eight grand­chil­dren, mak­ing them re­al­ize the cost of war.

“In the First World War, over 7,000 from P.E.I. went over­seas. Of that num­ber 503 peo­ple were killed and more than 1,000 peo­ple were wounded. So, we know that those costs to P.E.I. and our com­mu­nity res­onate into fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

When some­one is killed, it can af­fect the lives of an en­tire gen­er­a­tion.

For ex­am­ple, Chev­erie knows the story of a woman whose fi­ancé went off to the First World War and was killed in ac­tion. Be­cause of her love for him, she never mar­ried.

“The costs we put on fam­i­lies, the costs we put on sur­vivors, who are wounded, through ob­vi­ous wounds or through PTSD. (They) pay a life­time price for that.”

His grand­mother’s sto­ries im­pacted Chev­erie in an­other way. He promised her that he would visit his great-un­cles’ graves.

His grand­mother died in 1991. And his grand­fa­ther, Pa­trick Hen­nessy, died on April 28, 2002. A few weeks later Chev­erie went to France on a pil­grim­age to fol­low her brothers’ foot­steps.

“I was able to stay in Ar­ras and travel to the Vimy Mon­u­ment and my great-un­cles’ graves

“I felt like I was ful­fill­ing a prom­ise to her. I also felt it was very pos­i­tive for me to go and do that.”

Along the way, he learned more about what hap­pened to the brothers in the First World War.

“Tom had signed up with the 105th reg­i­ment from P.E.I. But, later was as­signed to other reg­i­ments. So, when he was killed in Au­gust 1918, he was with the New Brunswick Reg­i­ment,” says Chev­erie, adding his grave is lo­cated in the Sun Quarry Ceme­tery, Pas de Calaise, France.

Joseph was in the 25th Bat­tal­lion of the Nova Sco­tia Reg­i­ment. His grave is in the On­tario Ceme­tery, Sains-Les-Mar­quion in France.

“I was able to visit his grave and signed the book.”

As he hitch-hiked and walked out to Vimy Ridge, be­cause there was no pub­lic trans­porta­tion, he no­ticed the num­ber of grave­yards scat­tered through that area of France. And he was over­whelmed.

“It re­minded me of a song by Eric Bo­gel, ‘Wil­lie McBride’ or ‘The Green Fields of France’, which tells about him go­ing to the grave of a First World War sol­dier, think­ing about that sol­dier’s life and the peo­ple who were miss­ing.

“As I vis­ited those graves I was re­minded of that song, know­ing that there were so many sto­ries, not only of my great un­cles, but of all the other peo­ple who were killed. It made me won­der who they left be­hind and what it meant, in terms of a lost gen­er­a­tion and the sto­ries that will never told.”

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

P.E.I. res­i­dent Leo Chev­erie shows the medals that were awarded to his great-un­cles, Thomas Vin­cent Hol­land and Joseph Hol­land, for their ser­vice dur­ing the First World War. They were both killed in 1918, in the last 100 days of the war.

Thomas Vin­cent Hol­land

Joseph Hol­land

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