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Old 11-11-2008, 08:56 AM   #14
Jesse Joe
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 6,863
Default Re: Nov.11 - Remembering

page 4 of 4

A journey of remembrance

By Cathy Stapells

Soon enough, A Company was in the thick of the fighting. In a letter dated Feb. 11, 1916, Errol writes of the fear and noise of shelling in the trenches, and one fellow who came back to camp “an absolute wreck…. He was absolutely nervously exhausted from apprehension of impending danger. Myself, I find it a great help when anything comes unpleasantly close to swear fluently and sort of make it a personal matter between myself and the guy that fired the thing. Keeps up the fighting spirit don’t y’ know.

Later, in the same letter, Errol writes: “Last night George and I went for a walk up the road that runs along about half a mile behind the line, halting every now and then to gaze over the ruined country around us wrapped in a ghostly shroud of moonlit mist, while overhead the bullets sighed affectionately after each sharp crack from beyond the ridge in front. One could imagine that the crackle of musketry every now and then was the fireworks at old Toronto Ex.… We are not always in the eye of death, except for an occasional stray bullet, which came singing angrily past us from somewhere away off...."

This letter stays with me because it was a single bullet in the head that killed Uncle Errol, fired quickly and efficiently by a German sniper.

In a letter to Errol’s fiancée, dated May 8, 1916, George describes attending Errol’s burial at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery near Poperinge, just a few kilometres from both Ypres and the French border, and about 90 minutes’ drive from Vimy, France: “The afternoon sun shone brightly and a crisp breeze rustled through the new leaves – the day was full of spring and the grain of poetry in every man’s nature was stirred by thoughts too deep for tears...."

George obviously had a wonderful heart to write that, but it broke mine to read it.

During the years I read over Errol’s letters, I came to know the many people who were part of his life, especially George, and it was important to me to find out what happened to some of them when I visited Ypres. George was killed a month after Errol, and is buried in the next row over from his good friend.

Under a cloudless blue sky, I find Uncle Errol at Lijssenthoek. I’m finally here. Kneeling next to the roses and lilies, I quietly say hello and introduce myself. I share some of the stories I have heard about him and imagine Errol smiling at the memories. I feel a sense of companionship and a link to family that is now complete and strong. “You made a difference, you know, all of you,” I tell him. “Kae – everyone – sends their love.”

Finding a loved one killed in war
Veterans Affairs Canada maintains a database of men and women killed during the two world wars. This is how writer Cathy Stapells found her uncle Errol’s grave site in Ypres, Belgium. Visit the website,, and enter the soldier’s name for details.

For more information on Canadian soldiers buried overseas, visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Flanders Fields Museum; and Last Post Association. For general information on Flanders, check out

Last edited by Jesse Joe; 11-11-2008 at 08:59 AM.
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