Blyth Repository of History puts face to name of soldier buried in The Netherlands
BY DENNY SCOTT
Remembrance Day is a time to look back on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for Canada and the world, and volunteers working with the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery and Memorial are working to put faces to the names of those who made that sacrifice.
The Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, located approximately 10 kilometres southeast of Nijmegen, close to Holland’s border with Germany, includes nearly 2,610 Commonwealth burials, as well as more than 1,000 members of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaign but the location of whose graves are unknown. It contains the largest number of Canadian war dead in the Netherlands, with 2,338 Canadian graves.
The Faces to Canadian War Graves Groesbeek Foundation seeks to put faces to the soldiers buried at the cemetery. Currently, the volunteers behind the initiative have a list of more than 1,100 soldiers who are identified only by their name and service number.
“We are searching for photos and information about the soldiers who are buried at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in The Netherlands,” the foundation’s website says. “We have to pay tribute to those young soldiers who lost their lives so far away from home fighting for our freedom. Especially now [as] most of their comrades are not able to do this any longer. We would like to recognize every single one of them by a photo and the story of his life, so they will never be forgotten.”
One of the fallen soldiers laid to rest in Groesbeek who recently had a face put to his name was Blyth’s Robert James Elliott, a trooper in the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. Through working with volunteers at the Blyth Repository of History, Elliott's family was able to provide photos and information about his life.
Below is Elliott’s story, provided by the foundation’s research team volunteer Else Schaberg to the Blyth Repository of History.
ELLIOTT, ROBERT JAMES
Robert James Elliott was born in Teeswater, County of Bruce, Ontario on 20 January 1921 to Thomas and Mary Elliott. Robert had four sisters and one brother, the family lived in Blyth, Ontario and attended the Presbyterian Church.
Robert completed his primary schooling in Blyth, completed one year of high school and at enlistment was attending the Blyth Continuation School and here he got his education to Grade 13.
On 24 June 1940, Robert enlisted in London, Ontario, in the Elgin Regiment of the Canadian Active Service Force. He was sent to the Thames Valley Training Camp. In the beginning of 1941 the regiment moved to Toronto and became part of the 12th Infantry Brigade.
In April 1941 Elliott moved again with his regiment, this time to Valcartier, Quebec to continue his training. By the end of the following month, the regiment moved again, now to Camp Sussex, New Brunswick.
By the end of January 1945 the Regiment was converted from Infantry to Armour while at Camp Sussex with the name the 25th Armoured Regiment, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. Shortly after this the Regiment moved to Debert, Nova Scotia. Camp Debert was located on the main line of the Canadian National Railway from Montreal and went as far as Halifax. Camp Debert was the final staging area for all troops going overseas and was the location where the troops trained and received their weapons. The troops would travel from Debert to Halifax under cover of darkness and in blackout conditions. Trooper Elliott followed several courses and training and became qualified as a Driver I.C. wheeled vehicles. In Camp Debert the soldiers got a rifle, the Sten Gun PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) and grenade training before going overseas.
On 26 September 1942 Elliott departed from Canada with the 25th Armoured Regiment and arrived 13 days later in the United Kingdom.
In 1943 the Regiment was re-tasked again as the 25th Canadian Tank Delivery Regiment, and then in March 1944, the Regiment was redesignated 25th Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment).
On 23 June 1944, Trooper Elliott landed at Juno Beach, France and was posted [to] the Sherbrooke Fusiliers (the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment) as a Driver/mechanic of a Sherman Tank.
Trooper Elliott fought his way through France and Belgium with theSherbrooke Fusiliers. He was probably involved in the following but not all of the battles as they rotated tanks and crews from time to time: crossing the Orne River at Caen, Faubourg de Vaucelles, Bourguebus Ridge, Operation Totalize, The Falaise. Following the Falais battle the Regiment brought in replacement tanks and crews.
Then in September/October 1944 they were attached to the 1st British Corps. The Regiment fought in the Battle of the Scheldt, the Lower Mass. After these fierce battles they went to a quiet sector, relieved a British Unit and here they rested and trained. The front was active but it was static due to badly damaged roads, flooded areas and winter conditions.
Throughout January and February, the Regiment moved around the 2nd and 3rd Canadian divisions and they were assigned direct and indirect fire tasks against the enemy.
Operation Veritable (The Battle of the Reichswald) started on 8 February 1945, the objective of the operation was to clear German forces from the area between the Rhine and Maas rivers, east of the German/Dutch frontier, in the Rhineland.
The Sherbrooke Fusiliers fought also in this battle and on 21 February 1945 the attack onto the Moyland Wood was scheduled for 10 a.m.
The “B” and “C” Companies of the Winnipeg Rifles would be leading and advancing from the west with the support of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. The Infantry was set to go 10 minutes before 10 a.m. and the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers were forward providing support fire.
At 2 p.m. “C” and “D” Companies of the Winnipeg Rifles began to move and they passed one of the Sherbrooke Fusilier tanks that had been knocked out. This was the tank of Trooper Elliott, it was struck by enemy fire, he was not able to escape the destroyed tank. Three members of his crew were wounded.
As the Companies advanced the fighting was fierce, it was bitter, it was bloody and they found the enemy defenders well hidden with much firepower. The tanks were stopped because of all the enemy mines in the area. Casualties would have been much higher if it had not been for thetanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers.
The Sector was finally cleared and the Canadian forces were then able to advance toward Germany.
Trooper Elliott was killed on 21 February 1945 and buried at the Bedburg Cemetery, Germany and later reburied at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek (grave reference XXI. H. 13).
The inscription on his gravestone reads:
YOUR DEEDS REMEMBERED
HOMAGE TO THEE TENDERED DEPARTED
BUT NOT APART
OF US THOU STILL ART
Trooper Elliott received the following awards: 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, War Medal 1939-1945, Defence Medal and Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp.
For more information about the project or to provide information or photos, visit www.facestograves.nl.