As Remembrance Day approaches we tend to think more about veterans, those who fought in World War II, those who are still fighting in the Canadian forces. At the end of the First World War a pledge was made by those who had survived, “Lest We Forget.” This slogan appears on countless memorials through out Saskatchewan and Canada, but beyond Remembrance Day, how many people stop to look at the memorials? How many read the names and remember the face that is attached?
For the names from the First World War, few, if any remember the fallen.
Their hopes and dreams and ideals died with them the day they decided to step onto a boat and cross the ocean. There they fought for what they thought was right, for King and Country.
This was a difficult time for Canada. It was still a relatively young country that had not yet proven itself on the world stage. Many still saw it as a British Colony. During the First World War this changed. At the Battle of Ypres in Flanders, Belgium, the newly arrived Canadian forces held their line against the recently developed chlorine gas weapon. Many soldiers were left behind, either too badly wounded to be identified or buried beneath the soil, their resting place a mystery.
As the day of remembrance draws closer, I decided to do some research into some of the men in Radville and area who did not make it back from the front. One of these men was Thomas Ernest Hone of Ceylon.
Private Hone had been born in England. His parents moved to Canada in 1914, just as the War was beginning. His enlistment papers describe him as 5’ 10” with a ruddy complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was 20 years old in March of 1916 when he went to the enlistment office in Weyburn. He, like many soldiers at the time was a farmer. He joined the 5th Battalion, later known as the Western Cavalry, and only a year and 5 days after his enlistment, was listed as killed in action. He was survived by his mother, father, brother and one of his two sisters. He was buried in France.
Another man, this one from Radville, also served in the 5th Battalion. William Henry Butterworth was 32 years of age when he enlisted. His “Civilian Occupation” is listed as clerk. Like Private Hone he died only a year after enlistment. His cause of death was wounds. He was described as having a fair complexion, brown eyes and hair. Before enlisting with the Canadian Infantry, William Butterworth served in the Territorial Army, a volunteer reserve force. While in the Canadian Infantry he served in Europe. He too was buried in France. The date of his death was April 9, 1917, the day Vimy Ridge was stormed by Canadian troops. He left behind his mother, Sarah Ann Butterworth.
Known around town as Eric, Salem Eric Broman of Radville, enlisted in the 1st Canadian Mounted Cavalry on March 6, 1917 at the age of 18. His family was Lutheran, and he was a farmer. Standing 5’ 8 ½” tall, Private Broman died on September 29, 1918. He left behind a large family, including his father Henry Broman, his mother, four brothers and two sisters.
Both Eric Broman and Moses Ostic were likely killed when their regiment participated in the battle to break through the Hindenburg Line, one of Germany’s last defences, on September 29, 1918. Both men were buried in the Raillencourt Cemetery Extension in France, far from home.
Veterans and those killed in World War Two are better remembered. Unlike the Veterans of World War One there are still many who are around to keep that memory alive. There is no doubt that the survivors saw things they would rather not talk about, but one thing they all agree on is the need to remember the ones who didn’t come home.
Wallace Peterson was born on his parents homestead near Radville. He had nine brothers and sisters and they all lived on their parents’ farm in a house that was only 16 x 24 feet. Wallace was drafted by the Calgary Highlanders after they had sustained heavy casualties. He was sent overseas and was killed by a sniper only seven days after arriving in Normandy. He was a Lance-Corporal.
Jerry Bertrand was born in Toronto and came to Radville when his father decided to open a dental practice here. His boyhood dream was to see Radville’s streets lined with trees. He raised the money and rallied the town behind him, planting many of the trees that still stand today. He was the older of two sons and was studying engineering at the University of Saskatchewan when he decided to enlist on the First Canadian Survey Regiment. By the age of 20 he was a corporal and a year later he married Jean Wilkinson of Radville. In July of 1941 he was shipped overseas. Two years later, at the age of 23, he was killed in England while on manoeuvres. He would never see the trees he had planted grow to maturity.
Herbert Cressman was born in December of 1916, the son of Alvin and Nora Cressman of Ceylon. He married Barbara Kaip of Minton and had two children. When war was declared Herbert joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1944, while overseas, he was killed in action.
Throughout Canada’s relatively short history, men and women have risen to the challenge of defending their country. That still stands true today. Most recently, Master Corporal Byron Greff with ties to Radville and district was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. He is the latest soldier from the area who hasn’t made it back home.
Corporal Devin VanDeSype currently serves in the Royal Canadian Air Force. When he decided to join the military it was because he wanted to see a bit more of the world. He has been to Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Arctic. He has fought forest fires in BC and served as part of the security force for the Olympics and the G8 Summit. He is currently posted in Cold Lake, AB and will be there for the next three years.
When asked what Remembrance Day means to him, Devin explained that it use to be about the veterans. Now that he is a member of the Canadian Forces it has become a time to reflect and pay respect to others. To think about fallen friends and those he has left behind. Wherever he is posted, Devin likes to go to the Legion Halls and talk to the veterans. It is a way to find common ground and is a link to the past.
This year on Remembrance Day, take the time and really think about the men and women whose names are inscribed on your local war memorial. Every one of them has a story and with a little digging it is easy to discover. Community history books provide a wealth of information and when all else fails, visit your local legion or talk to a veteran, they hold a abundance of information and stories.