Putting a face on Prince Edward Island war dead

Researcher seeks photos and information on Island soldiers buried in Dutch cemetery

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 23, 2014

Mike Muntain is the lead researcher in a project aiming to collect photographs and biographical information on all 1,355 Canadian soldiers who rest at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.
Submitted photo

Mike Muntain wants to put faces and stories to the hundreds of Canadian soldiers, including 15 P.E.I. war dead, buried in the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Muntain, a piper with The Princess of Wales Own Regiment, is the lead researcher in a major undertaking dubbed A Face For Every Name.

Muntain hopes to collect as many photos and as much information as possible on the 1,355 Canadians killed in the Second World War that are resting in the Holten cemetery. The ultimate goal is to place a soldier’s photo with his biography at each grave site.


Canadian assistance with the Dutch-initiated project was spurred after Muntain saw the “1,400 candles in 2010’’ video (http://youtu.be/kQr9Z8Dnxyo), which shows how Holten, with a population of 10,000, has 15,000 people attend a Christmas Eve ceremony each year to pay tribute to fallen Canadian soldiers.

Muntain approached Kingston’s mayor to recognize this effort, and the city sent to each Holten school child a Canadian flag and Kingston lapel pin in a program that will be carried on by a different Canadian city each year.

After this, Gerry VanHolt, chairman of the Welcome Back Veterans Committee, contacted Muntain and told him about A Face for Every Name project, and the attempts being made to collect pictures and biographical information on Canadian soldiers who rest at the Holten cemetery.

Muntain notes the Dutch, due to the language barrier, had managed to only get about 300 names despite earnest efforts.

So Muntain and comrade Peter Gower have begun reaching out, province by province, to find information on all 1,355 soldiers. Muntain says he has been hearing very moving stories and even receiving intimate documents like love letters a soldier wrote to his wife.

“That is what is really resonating through this project is how much these men are still missed,’’ he said. “This is still an emotional thing for the families.’’

The Netherlands fell to the Germans in May 1940 and was not re-entered by Allied forces until September 1944. The great majority of those buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery died during the last stages of the war in Holland, during the advance of the Canadian 2nd Corps into northern Germany, and across the Ems in April and the first days of May 1945.

After the end of the hostilities their remains were brought together into this cemetery.

“The Dutch people are tireless in their efforts to honour our war dead, and take on this responsibility (A Face For Every Name project) as a duty not a hobby,’’ says Muntain.

Muntain is seeking photos and biographical information on each of the following 15 P.E.I. soldiers buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery:

• Pte. Alfred J. Arsenault, 28, of Urbanville, R.C.I.C. - 02nd Defence and Employment Platoon.

• Spr. Frederick Cheverie, 40, of Summerside, Royal Canadian Engineers - 33rd Field Company.

• Cpl. Nelson DesRoches, 31, of Tignish, The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

• Pte. Harald J. Fraser, 34, of Vernon Bridge, R.C.A.S.C.

• Pte. Frank Gallant, 32, of Mont Carmel, The Carleton and York Regiment.

• Pte. Carmen E. Gillcash, 27, of O’Leary, The Cape Breton Highlanders.

• Cpl. Maurice J. Hughes, 24, of Charlottetown, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.

• Pte. Francis E. Lawless, 19, of Grand Tracadie, The North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

• Pte. Neal F. MacDonald, 31, of North Wiltshire, The North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

• Cpl. Daniel P. MacKenzie, 26, of Summerville, The Carleton and York Regiment.

• Pte. Ruel K. Matheson, 29, of Charlottetown, The North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

• Lt. John B. Matthew, 24, of Souris, Royal Canadian Artillery.

• Rifleman Michael J. McKenna, 26, of Montague, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

• Pte. John A. McLaren, 24, of Armadale, The Cape Breton Highlanders.

• Capt. William D. Sherren, 30, of Charlottetown, Royal Canadian Artillery - 2nd Survey Regiment.

Muntain can be contacted by telephone at 613-888-7267 or by email at mjmuntain@gmail.com.