A member of the 116th Independent Field Battery is getting a hands-on lesson in history. Bombadier trainee Stephen Traini of Dryden is part of the centennial celebrations for the Battle of Passchendaele.
"We're going to be there completing Remembrance Day ceremonies with a bunch of drill and tours, probably a bunch of unit history, how each of our individual units contributed to Passchendaele," Traini said, before his departure.
"I'm pretty excited. It's my first trip to Europe. I was hoping to do it with the Canadian Armed Forces. It's all working out for the best," he added.
For those who were there, they described it as Hell on Earth.
After the success at Vimy Ridge, in the summer, the Canadian army was called upon for a third victory. The Allies wanted to reach the sea, and stop submarines from sinking supply ships.
Launched at the end of July of 1917, the Battle of Passchendaele raged like no other, until mid-November. By the time the battle was over, 500,000 German and Allied soldiers were dead.
About 16,000 Canadians were killed wounded or listed as missing in the quagmire of mud and rain. The dead and their horses literally disappeared into the mud, according to accounts from the battlefield. Some soldiers had to step on the dead, so they wouldn't disappear themselves. The dead -- who could be recovered -- were stacked like cords of wood.
According to the Great War Project, Pte. Moses Land of Wabaseemoong Independent First Nation joined the 44th City of Winnipeg Battalion in 1916, but died at Passchendaele a year later in 1917 at the age of 21.
James Adams was born in Keewatin, before his family moved to Quebec. He enlisted in New Brunswick in 1915, and became a member of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Wounded in both legs and an arm 1916, he was sent back to the front in 1917, where he served at Vimy Ridge. While holding the line, he was wounded in the head, but recovered in time for Passchendaele, where he was killed.
Walter Woods was born in East Rat Portage, but moved to Winnipeg after his father died. Woods enlisted in Winnipeg in 1915 with the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion, and he made it overseas in time for the Battles of the Somme. It would cost 7,200 Canadian lives.
Lance Corporal Woods was reported as killed in action on Nov. 6, 1917. The exact details of his death are unknown.
The Battalion’s War Diaries for that day says:
“The Battalion assembled for the attack on Passchendaele with Battalion headquarters at Hamburg. Assembly was complete at 4 A.M. Zero hour was at 6 A.M. The attack proceeded exactly as planned and all objectives were captured by 7:40 A.M.” “Owing to the length of the trail and the terribly heavy “going” it was impossible to carry out the dead other than Officers. However, the dead in the advance of the original front line were all buried where they fell before the Battalion was relieved in the line.”
According to the Commonwealth War Graves Registers, Walter Ralph Woods’ body was later exhumed from where he had fallen, and it was subsequently interred in the Tyn Cot Cemetery in the area of Passchendaele. As the final resting place for over 11,000 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces, it's the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
Locals killed in action Passchendaele:
Adams, James Andrew
Fuller, Charles Herbert
Lodge, William Stephen
McDiarmid, Findlay Howard
Murphy, James Anthony
Scott, James Young
Smith, Herbert Douglas Sinclair
Woods, Walter Ralph
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