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Webmatters : Memorial cross to the 15th Battalion CEF at Écurie : The Roll of Honour

15th Bn Canadian Infantry

The Roll of Honour

One of the mysteries of the cross is why some names are on it but others are missing. Almost all of those soldiers buried at CA 35 feature as an addition to the original listing, yet not all of those buried at CA 39 were included at the top. A few names were added from later dates, perhaps as news reached the carpenter, and the final name, Lieutenant Munro, was killed on 1st May 1917. It will be noticed that he was added at the top of the cross to put him closer to the other officers, thus explaining why his name comes before Major Wallace.

The upper section of the 15th Bn Vimy Cross

The upper section of the cross was in rank order.
Lieutenant Munro was added afterwards at the very top

There appears to be no rhyme nor reason as to whom was commemorated on the cross. They are not from any particular Company ; they are not on one single listing of the dead ; not everybody recovered from a particular location after the war gets a mention ; the official Regimental History mentions names who were not included ; even one of the officers is missing so rank was not a consideration.

Those in the original list at the top do have one thing in common : they were buried by Lieutenant Andrews on either the 10th or 11th of April in CA 39.

John Jenken's Record of Service Card

The rear of John Jenken’s Record of Service Card

The odd man out being John Jenken who was noted as being buried by him at CA 39 but was later recovered at CA 35. As he is buried with the other CA 35 burials in Plot I, it is most likely that his Service Card is in error. However, two of that CA 35 grouping : Private Arthur Markham and Private John Monkman are not mentioned on the cross.

Exhumation return for CA 35

The exhumation report on CA 35 relocating them all to Plot I, Row E at Nine Elms Military Cemetery

One of the other soldiers, Private Edwin Keen listed on the cross in the lower CA 35 section was buried apart from them at A 16 b 20 30 alongside another, but unidentified, Highlander.

Map showing some of the burial locations

The general area of where bodies were later recovered from. The red outline is 13th Battalion’s reference.
In brief : British maps were divided into lettered squares and then subdivided into numbered squares. Each numbered square was then divided into four, a,b,c,d. These were used in either tenths or hundredths to finalise the location.

Three others buried in the same location : Sergeant Leo Monaghan, Corporal Wray Hunter and Private Samuel Smith are not mentioned on the cross (though ironically, it is in front of their graves that the cross was eventually placed at Nine Elms Military Cemetery).

All three of the latter were in No 4 Company and the regimental History is quite clear that Monaghan was killed alongside Lieutenant Lisle Ramsay — who isn’t on the cross either.

In that same row of graves (Plot I, Row G) is another unidentified 15th Battalion soldier who was recovered at A 16 b 40 70. And so the story continues with soldiers buried here and there across the battlefield.

Corporal Frank Honey, who died of wounds on the 17th April 1917, is recorded as having been buried in CA 39 and yet he is now commemorated on the Vimy memorial and not the Arras Road Memorial.

That memorial (from the original name of CA 39) is another conundrum. According to the CWGC :

ARRAS ROAD CEMETERY, THELUS, on the roadside a little North of Nine Elms Cemetery. This graveyard, originally called “CA 39,” contained the graves of 46 Canadian soldiers, 39 of whom belonged to the 15th Battalion, and most of whom fell on the 9th April 1917.

There are forty-four names on the Arras Road Memorial. Seven of them are not 15th Battalion (One from the 5th Bn, two from the 10th Bn, one each from the 13th and 16th Bn and two from the CMGC). That leaves thirty-seven lost Highlanders and two burials. However, there are three named Highlanders buried in the cemetery from CA 39’s location (A 11 c 30 00).
  • Private Francis Bradley (Grave IV D 3)
  • Lance Corporal Robert Park (Grave IV D 1)
  • Private James Weaver (Grave IV B 9)

Bradley’s Service Card is quite clear : Buried at A 11 c 30 00 by Lt Andrews 10/4/17. These three men were found alongside twenty-one unidentifiable graves most of whom must be Highlanders on the Arras Road Memorial — even if the CWGC states that they were destroyed.

Other special memorials record the names of 44 soldiers from Canada and ten from the United Kingdom, buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

Frank Honey's Record of Service Card

The rear of Frank Honey’s Record of Service Card

In addition, we also have Corporal Frank Honey (Vimy Memorial) whose card says he was buried in : Nine Elms, Lens Arras Road, A 11 c 3 0, Bn Cem. That seems to give us one if not two more burials in CA 39 than were registered !

What might be considered interesting is the absence of Lieutenant Lisle Ramsay of No 4 Company. He had died of wounds on the 9th April and is buried at Ecoivres Military Cemetery (IV D 1). Although news of his death may have taken a moment to reach the Battalion, it appears on the same Part II Orders (17/04/17) as Major Wallace and Lieutenant Cameron, who are the only two out of the eight names on that order, to appear on the cross. Ramsay’s death would, most certainly, have been known before Lieutenant Monro was added in May.

According to the Regimental History, Sergeant Leo Monaghan is alleged to have fallen alongside Ramsay. Monaghan’s Service Card states that he was buried by Major Creggan (The Brigade Chaplain) at A 16 a 85 45 which is the same reference as six of those in CA 35. However, his card also states that he was later reported to have been buried on the 23rd May at A 16 b 70 40. The CWGC in turn state that they found him in 1919 at A 16 b 20 30 with Private Wray Hunter and Private Samuel Smith, whose cards carry the same story. All three were from No 4 Company and are mentioned in the first major listing of the dead : Part II Orders of 24th April.

That Order contains sixty-one names but only forty-two of them are on the cross. All the CA 39 burials are mentioned as are many (but not all) of the CA 35 burials. Private Keen is also included. The only two CA 39 burials on this order that are not on the cross are Privates William Ford and Henry Kane. They were both buried by Lieutenant Samuel on 12th April.

The Part II Orders of 30th April add a further twelve names. Nine of the soldiers are on the cross. Of the three who are not, Corporal Frank Honey died of his wounds on the 17th April and was buried in CA 39. His is the grave that was lost and he appears on the Vimy Memorial. Private Joseph Capewell died of his wounds on the 18th April and he is buried at Aubigny Communal Cemetery Extension (Grave II B 3). The third soldier, Private Walter Morral died on the 9th April and was buried by Lieutenant Samuel on 12th April in CA 39. He is commemorated on the Arras Road Memorial. The other nine soldiers were buried in CA 35.

Of the final additions to the cross all were buried in CA 39. Corporal Frank Odd and Private Sidney Ecobichon were killed on the 18th April whilst the Battalion was in the line near Willerval. Private Albert Short was killed a week later on the 25th whilst on a working party.

Then comes Lieutenant William Munro who was killed on the 1st May whilst the Battalion was in the lines at Arleux. The War Diary states :

During the night of April 30th and May 1st, No 2 Company relieved No 4 Company in the front line. This line is in fairly good condition and extends along the eastern edge of ARLEUX WOOD. During the day the enemy shelled ARLEUX and the Wood continuously with heavy high explosive shells. A daylight reconnaissance of the enemy wire was made in the morning and was very successful in gaining accurate information.
In the afternoon the violence of the shelling increased and Lieut. W McL Munro was killed and there were 19 casualties in No 2 Company.
The Battalion was relieved at 11.30 PM by the 2nd Canadians and moved out to MAISON BLANCHE Camp on the BETHUNE-ARRAS ROAD.

Eight of those injured soldiers died that day and have no known graves, they are inscribed on the Vimy memorial. At least one of the evacuated injured, Corporal Stanley Effinger died of his wounds a week later at Boulogne sur Mer. He can be considered, perhaps, as the final Vimy casualty to die.

Effinger was promoted to sergeant whilst being treated for his wounds as a replacement for Sergeant Fred Ludford who had been killed on the 1st May. The question can never really be answered but if Lieutenant Munro was the only soldier killed that May Day (the others being merely wounded) how is it possible that the officer was buried at CA 39 but the soldiers, whom we now know actually died that day, and were supposedly moved back to the rear that night, were not ?

How did Munro’s name become known to the cross maker but not the others ?

The battalion only returned to the area on a few more occasions so perhaps it wasn’t possible to add more names. We will probably never know.