Remembrance in Action: John Pritchard students research ‘Fallen Heroes’

John Pritchard students research ‘Fallen Heroes’

While John Pritchard School was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary in October, some Grade 7 students from the school were also stepping back a century to research local soldiers from the First World War.

They were working on a project that was the brainchild of John Pritchard teacher Daniel Smith and Linda Kohut, a retired JP teacher who is now a school liaison for the Royal Canadian Legion on Henderson Highway.

Ms. Kohut visited the class to tell them stories about the First World War and how fallen soldiers are commemorated in Europe, “to light a fire in them,” she says. Then the students did online research on 48 First World War soldiers from the River East area who had been killed on the battlefield or died as a result of combat wounds and illnesses.

They spent hours on the Library and Archives Canada website, looking for the scanned enlistment documents for these soldiers. From there, they collected information on each of the soldiers, including their name, address, occupation, rank, battalion and next of kin. Then they visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to look up where these soldiers were buried, or in the case of those missing in action, commemorated.

They created write-ups on each of the soldiers and provided them to the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation, which maintains a virtual memorial at The students will be listed on the site in recognition for their efforts.

Mr. Smith says he was pleasantly surprised at the connection his Grade 7 class felt to the project and the soldiers they studied. He credits it with giving them a more tangible connection to the war.

“You can talk about a war and 60,000 people missing, but it’s different when you talk about a certain guy who lived in that house that’s still there just down the street,” says Mr. Smith. “It’s not about some faraway place. It’s in Winnipeg, in our neighbourhood, and it’s real.”

The students would like to have photos of the soldiers to go with the profiles they’ve created. They’ve posted a list of the soldiers on their school website so the community can check it out. If anyone has a photo of a soldier on the list, they can contact the school.  Visit:

River East Transcona School Division


Remembrance in Action: One Man’s Dedication to honouring Canadian Soldiers, Who Liberated Holland in World War II

As a young boy, Mark Veldhuis remembers his Grand Uncle telling him the captivating story of a British soldier who fought in World War II and was killed by accident in their home Village of Tubbergen in the East of Holland. A few years ago Mark’s Uncle told him the same story and Mark began asking questions, “Who was this man? Do we know his name?” Mark’s Uncle could not provide this information, but directed him to his Great Aunt. Marks’ Great Aunt told him the same story and that the soldier’s first name was Johnny.  In hopes of finding more information, Veldhuis went to the local archives and began to see the impact World War II had on his Village. However, he still could not find information on this infamous soldier Johnny. Not allowing this to rest, Mark continued on his search for another few months until he came across the story a soldier with the name of John Dow who was killed in action in September 1945. After months of research, Veldhuis had finally found Johnny. Armed with this information, he began searching for the family of Dow and in March 2014 had the chance to meet them. Dow’s family came to Holland and visited the final resting place of their relative at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery at Groesbeek, Netherlands.

Today, Mark is a secondary school teacher who teaches students in the subject of Economics. He has started on an amazing journey to help recognize and honour the Canadian soldiers who helped liberate Holland. His school began an exchange with Canadians schools in which Canadian and Dutch students could work together researching and writing biographies on Canadian soldiers. In this time, 30 soldiers were honoured for their sacrifice and are now forever in the archives at the Information Centre of the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. With the success of this exchange, Veldhuis was inspired to write a project plan for all schools in his country and created a pilot program with two of his students, Mart and Lars. These young men were given the name of Canadian Private Craig McLean Alles and asked to begin research. Enthusiastically, these students wrote the biography for Private Alles and also had the opportunity to visit his final resting place. When asked for their reactions on the project, Mart states “I would really recommend it because it is pretty fun to do and not too hard. You can also learn something about the life of a soldier”.  Lars too found the project to be very fun and stated “[It is] Interesting to learn something about a soldier that served in World War II”. As an outcome of the two students work, Mark has also started a biography project titled “Give Every Grave a Story”. In this project, with the help of the Holten Canadian War Cemetery Information Centre, 220 students are pairing up to write biographies on fallen soldiers.

This project has been a source of pride and joy for Veldhuis. Over the last few years, he has had the opportunity to contact and meet visiting family members of those who died in action at Tubbergen. One of the most memorable memorials was on April 2015 for the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Holland, which twelve of Marks students put together. This local memorial was dedicated to those who laid in the war graves at Tubbergen, the Mayor and other local politicians attended. The students started the commemoration of the war graves of the RCAF and RCAF crew buried at Tubbergen. It also included a guided tour through the village with stops and explanations about what happened at those specific locations during World War II. Among those memorable moments, Veldhuis is also spearheading the creation a monument for the thirty five Canadian soldiers who were temporarily buried at the Dutch Village of Almen. In April 2015, Mark presented to the local history accusation with an attendance of ninety people. During this presentation, he told the group about the history of the school exchange, The North Shore Regiment, The Holten Canadian War cemetery and the nine completed biographies of Canadian war dead. The financing has been secured and the monument will be revealed on April 8, 2016.

Some of the challenges Mark and his research group have faced are arranging both the Diaries of the Regiments along with the personal files of the soldiers. Mark has one higher goal for his project, to be “… 100% sure [his information is accurate], before [he] publishes a story online or any other way. [He will} try to find the most primary source of information, for example war diaries, soldier’s files and other reports”. With the help of the Information Centre at Holten and Canadian friends, Mark has been collecting photos and information on soldiers to be archived at the Information Centre. This will ensure people can gain access to this information whenever needed.

Mark feels the most important part of his project is to “get students interested in the personal stories of the fallen Canadian liberators” and that hopefully “the students are getting respect for the fallen soldiers and see the personal side of the great offers [of those] who gave them their freedom”. His end goal for this on-going project is to create as many accurate biographies of fallen World War II soldiers as possible, especially those who are laid to rest at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. Another goal is to encourage more student participation and interest on World War II and gain respect for the soldiers who gave the highest sacrifice. “Hopefully the students see that it was not always normal to live in freedom” says Veldhuis.

This year, Veldhuis is doing another special project with a total of 8 students. 5 of the students will be making a short documentary about the lives of Canadians that are buried at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. The students have been in contact with some of the family members and they have all shared their excitement about this project and are planning to help however they can. Three other students are going to write a song about a Lancaster Bomber that crashed at Tubbergen in 1944. The students starting out by researching the Lancaster and its story. The song they are writing is about the lone survivor of this crash and they have been coordinating with the daughter of the surviving airman. Together, these eight students form a group that is named the “Junior Ambassadors of Freedom”. Under the direction of Veldhuis, this group of young students take on many roles in the community and school. On October 22, 2015, the students visited each classroom and handed out poppies to teachers and peers to be worn until Remembrance Day. The students are also currently planning an activity for everyone to be involved in on April 5, 2016, the day of the liberation of Tubbergen.

In discussion, Veldhuis has mentioned two main groups that benefit from this project. Those who benefit first are:  the school and his students. His students benefit because their work will be used again and stored at an archive that is open to everyone. They are creating this project for more than just a grade, they are also learning how to research and use primary sources which in turn is helping strengthen their English as a second language. “This project will help those schools involved improve their quality of education because they are doing something more special the normal education program”, states Mark.  Another benefactor of this project is the Holten Canadian War Cemetery Information Centre. This has been a great source of publicity for the centre and they are now improving the quality of stories of soldiers in the archives, because of the biographies’ they are receiving from the students.

If you are a teacher who would like to join the exchange, join the project “Give Every Grave a Story”, or an individual who holds interest in the Canadian effort to Holland in World War II and would like to coordinate with Mark, please email the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation at or call 1.778.456.4451.

For more information on the Holten Canadian War Cemetery and Information centre, please visit 


Letter of Support from Wendy Coté

After my aunt June told me of the memorial to my father, Fredrick Larsen, on the wall of the Canadian Legion Hall #284, I visited the Legion to see for myself.  Discussions within the family further fueled interest in my father’s life and especially his military service in WW II.  My cousin, Peter Larsen, shared a letter that my Father had sent to his brother, Clarence.  Without that letter I would have not known so much of my father’s story.  The letter tells of surviving wounds while on a mission over Bremen, Germany about November 5th, 1942.  The letter relates, what I feel were heroic, actions to save other crew members, complete the mission and get the stricken aircraft home.  After recovering from life threatening wounds, Fredrick returned to fly again.  Hinting at the horrors of war he had witnessed and fully knowing the dangers, he returned to the war.  From the letter I learned what a brave, fearless and heroic life he led in defense of Canada and the world.  Fredrick died on January 6th, 1944 in a mission over Stettin, Germany.  He is buried in the Berlin War Cemetery.

I want to thank Teamsters Union Local #362 and the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation for honoring Fredrick with the memorial.  The work of the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation is vitally important to share the story of all our Canadians lost in war.  My pride in my father’s fight against Fascism knows no bounds.  The Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation have helped me to understand his sacrifice.  I would like all of Canada to know Fredrick Larsen’s story and share the pride I feel in my father, a true Canadian hero.

–          Mrs. Wendy Coté

 Below is the letter written by Fredrick Larsen to his Brother, Clarence.

Dear Clarence,

I received your letter and two airgraphs.  The airgraphs took 10 to 14 days pretty quick eh.  I haven’t seen anything like that over here otherwise our letter would come and go a lot faster.  I’m sorry I didn’t write a bit sooner but I have been busy up until we ran into a bit of tough luck.


The other night we started out for Bremen and just as we were getting close to the target a bandit came from nowhere.  It killed our rear gunner he was like a sieve.  The navigator got one up through his hip and the bullet lodged in his kidney.  They had to remove his kidney hes still pretty sick but I think he will live now.  I got a cannon bullet through my thigh.  And that ain’t no mosquito bite and a shell splinter in the back of my leg.  They haven’t touched it yet they happened to the same leg.  Luckily the bone wasn’t smashed just a nasty flesh wound.  I would have bleed to death before I got back if I hadn’t pulled my flying clothes off and cut what was left of my pants leg off.  Then I tied the wound up as best I could it stopped most of the blood flowing.  But before I could do this I had to crawl up and let the

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front gunner out of his turret.  The pilot had yelled to jump but nobody heard him because the blast had cut the intercom when I got up along side the pilot the plane was burning in front of him but he wasn’t hurt only had his eye lashes & eye brows burnt where his oxygen mask & helmet didn’t cover  He wanted me to go back and get the fire extinguisher but I told him I was going to get Jack out of the turret first.  I knew Jack couldn’t get out himself and the plane didn’t seem to be burning very fast.  So I crawled up and got the front gunner out.  He was also wounded.  When he came crawling back his face was covered in blood.  He had a patch of skin off his forehead and he had got hit in the chest by a bullet but he was carrying a tin of rations inside his battle dress over his heart and it turned the bullet enough so that it just nipped his chest & ribs and both his feet was full of splinters but he was the least hurt so he helped the pilot navigate the plane home.  When I opened the front bulkhead door the air rushed in and blew the fire out or what ever it was nobody seems to be quite sure.  Anyhow the kite was still ok so we

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dropped our bombs and headed for home its a good thing we didn’t have to jump because the navigators parachute had a cannon ball right through the center of it.  Its alright we can sit back and laugh about it now but by Jesus it ain’t no fun when it happens.  I’m glad I’m not laying in a german hospital with a leg like I’ve got.  And if I had jumped I should probably have bled to death because I would have been to weak to stop the blood after I hit the ground  This is sure a damned poor business and I hope you never get mixed up in it.

If I were to tell you what happened to most of my chums they’ed censor it out.

Well I’m glad to hear your getting along so well and you sure are lucky being stationed right there at home.  Well best of luck to you kid and watch your step and if you sent that parcel I asked for I hope you had brains enough to put a phoney bill of laiden on it.  Never put anything any good on the outside because they will steal it every time.  So long kid.

P.S. I haven’t got a parcel through since March.