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Walter John Taylor, paternal 2nd Great Uncle 

Walter John Taylor was my Great-Grandmother Olive Taylor's brother. I discovered his existence by accident through a 1901 Census form.

 

Walter was born in Brighton, Ontario on December 22, 1895 and was 11 years younger than my Great Grandmother. Unfortunately that is the only Census he appeared on as he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on December 18, 1915, 4 days before his 20th birthday. His attestation papers show he was unmarried and listed his occupation as "labourer". Also from his attestation papers is a physical description of Walter: 5'8" tall, pale complexion, blue eyes and brown hair, deemed fit for action. His religion was listed as Methodist, in line with his parent's religion.

 

Walter was shipped overseas as part of the 75th Battallion, Central Ontario Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force. From what I have been able to find on this group, they would have shipped out from Toronto to Halifax on April 1, 1916 (100 years ago yesterday), crossed the U-Boat filled North Atlantic and landed in London, England on April 9, 1916. They sailed on the Empress Of Britain.

 

The Battallion arrived in France on August 12, 1916 becoming part of the 4th Canadian Division, 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade. The 75th saw action at the Somme in 1916, Ancre Heights in 1916,  Arras in 1917 and again in1918,  Vimy Ridge in 1917, Ypres in 1917, Passchendale and Amiens in 1918. 

 

On April 9, 1917 the 75th Battallion was at Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Vimy Ridge lasted from April 9, 1917 until April 12, 1917. This was a major turning point in the Great War and the Canadian Expeditionary Force successfully broke through the German lines, capturing the ridge and forcing the Germans to retreat.

 

Walter was killed in action on April 9, 1917 at Vimy Ridge. He was only 21 years of age.

 

His final resting place is unknown and he is listed on the Vimy Ridge Memorial.

 

Walter had never served in the militia or military before joining the C.E.F. in 1915. At the time of his death he had obtained the rank of Sargeant.

 

Having visited Vimy Ridge and the Canadian memorial several years ago, I regret not knowing that I had a relative who had fought and died there. The memorial is a moving monument and a peaceful place of reflection now, but signs of the Great War are still everywhere. The day we arrived an unexploded shell had risen from the ground beside the monument and had to be dealt with by the bomb disposal squad. This is a common occurence due to the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of ordinance used on both sides of the conflict.

 

The area around Vimy Ridge was given to the Canadian people by the French in perpetuity in recognition of what our young country did to help save France and the rest of the Allies from the German aggressors. Canadian flags fly throughout the area and recognizable Government of Canada signs are there to great you.

 

There is a wonderful learning centre a couple of kilometers south of the Vimy Memorial where Canadian College students conduct guided tours through the carefully preserved Canadian trenches and underground tunnels. Signs of the war are very apparent here with bomb craters, trenches and signs warning of unexploded ordinance abound. Just down the road, between the learning centre and the memorial is the Commonwealth graveyard.

 

If you are ever in Paris, take a day trip to the Vimy Ridge Memorial. It is only a couple of hours drive from Paris, or you can get there by coach tour or take a train to Arras and then journey to the site. It is well worth the trip to see where so many brave men fought and eventually won a horrific battle which began to turn the war in favour of the Allies. It is also the place where many historians say that Canada was born and our true independence from Great Britain began.