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Unlocking the Mysteries of A Name January 19, 2010 Article in The Vanguard (Yarmouth NS), November 10, 2009: By Michael Gorman novanewsnow.com Armed only with the names of 3 young men inscribed on the Yarmouth War Memorial, Wartime Heritage visits their gravesites in Normandy to pay respect and learn more about them. For all the stories people tell about this area's contributions to the Second World War - stories about local families befriending visiting soldiers, stories about East Camp and West Camp and Camp 60, stories about the men and women who made sacrifices for the greater good - there are just as many stories we don't know about. They are the stories of the names on a cenotaph, they are the stories of people such as Robert Francis Boudreau, Malcolm Rudolph Rose and Gordon Augustus Comeau. All three men (barely old enough to be called men but certainly too old and too selfless to be called boys) were born and grew up in Yarmouth County. When the Second World War broke out and Canada become involved, Comeau, Rose and Boudreau were among the thousands to remain overseas, killed fighting for the Allied Forces at a time when it was custom to bury the dead in the country where they were killed. It's a long way from Yarmouth to Normandy - almost 5000 kilometers and for the last 65 years that's how far Rose, Comeau and Boudreau have been from home. The three were killed within three months of each other - Boudreau and Rose just six days apart - fighting in the war, their names on the Yarmouth cenotaph; the only enduring marker in this area for their service. It was earlier this year that George Egan and Glen Gaudet of the Wartime Heritage Association (WHA) set out for Europe armed with nothing more than a piece of paper with three names and directions to cemeteries in Normandy. They visited the gravesites of the three Yarmouth natives, three of the 117 from this area whose names appear on the local cenotaph's Second World War list, to place Canadian flags, pay their respects and try to learn more about the three young men who, until Egan and Gaudet's trip, were just names carved on a large stone on Main Street. "To be there all by yourself and to find this lot, perfectly kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the middle of rural farm country," said Gaudet, "to walk into that and find all these names, of guy who never lived there and came over to pay that price for a country that wasn't theirs and to see that they're almost all Canadians [in the case of the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War cemetery], it's humbling." "All we had when we started were the names and the cemeteries (where they are buried) [, and basic information such as parents name and age]", said Egan. Once they returned, the research started: Who were they? What unit did they belong to? Where were the units at the time of D-Day? Since starting the research, sketches of two of the men, Rose and Comeau, are complete. Solving the mystery of who Robert Francis Boudreau was is proving to be more difficult. "The problem is reconstructing the stories is…you don't really know what happened to that one individual," said Egan. "So the stories that you're reconstructing are more general" [In that you might be able to find the story of the person's unit]. Rose, a lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, died at age 26 on Aug. 6, 1944 while serving with the 1st Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Rose was a CANLOAN officer. From April 1944 to July 1944, when the British forces were depleted, it was custom for them to pick up soldiers from Canada. Some of the CANLOAN officers landed in Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944. The King's Own Scottish Borderers crossed to France on D-Day and landed at Queen Beach. In early August, they encountered the German resistance near Estry in Normandy and heavy fighting continued from Aug. 5-8. The battle ended on Aug. 13, when the Germans pulled back. Rose is buried in the Bayeux War Cemetery, among the thousands who died during the Normandy Campaign [(4,654 Commonwealth casualties in all; 181 of which are Canadian)]. Comeau was 21 when he died on June 10. The young Private with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion is buried with 2,234 other Commonwealth men of the Second World War in the Ranville War Cemetery. Comeau was a member of C Company and troopers with the Company were the first Canadians into battle. They landed by parachute and glider on June 6 and the cloudy and windy weather resulted in wide dispersion of the paratroopers upon landing, Fewer than 50 of them were present to begin their assigned tasks. The group's first 24 hours were very successful, with them gaining ground and forcing the surrender of German troops. On June 10, the Canadians came under heavy German attack, an attack they were able to hold back. Operations would continue with Canadians vigorously defending the crossroads at Le Mesnil until June 17. Of the 27 officers and 516 men from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who took part in the Battle of Normandy, 24 officers and 343 men died. Boudreau, who died on Aug. 12, 1944, was a Private with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. He was the son of Lizzie Boudreau and stepson of Charles Boudreau of Upper Wedgeport. He is buried in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery. Because little to nothing is known about the actual men, putting together stories about their service comes from following the unit or company they are a part of up until the date of their death. Even then, said Egan, some things can't be known for certain. Comeau, for example, could have been wounded upon landing and taken to hospital or he could have participated in the battles on June 6 and 7. The aim of the research is to put together a booklet of eight to 10 fact sheets that can be used as teaching aids in local schools so that when it comes time for students to study the Second World War, they can study people with local connections to the event. Egan, a history and English teacher at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School, said the information, added to what people already know and the things they don't, reinforces just how big a contribution the Yarmouth area played during the war years. "The First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, are the connections of Yarmouth to the rest of the world," he said. "It is phenomenal the connections that exist, literally in England, in Europe, in Normandy for example, in Australia - even to Japan and Hong Kong." "There are young guys that left here in 1939-45 who died during the war and so, with their death, if nobody keeps the story going it is gone forever."
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Unlocking the Mysteries of a Name