Remembrance: Pass It On

Photo: Ed and Susan Pellow

from the Tavistock Gazette, November 11, 2015


It’s been 10 years since the Year of the Veteran was observed in Canada. At that time, Susan Pellow decided to lead a Tavistock history project to identify and gather information on all those who served their country in the two World Wars and other conflicts.

“Silly me,” Mrs. Pellow says now thinking that the project would end after a year or so. Finding photos and information on more than 500 veterans (and the list is growing) has been a labour of love that has taken Susan and her husband, Ed, as well as family members to Europe several times.

A member of the Tavistock Legion Branch 518, Mrs. Pellow’s family has a long history of military service. Aunts and uncles on both sides of her family, Bennetts, Porters and Rosses, all fought in both World Wars and many died in the service. Finding her uncle’s name on the Vimy Memorial brought an appreciation for his sacrifice closer to home. Another uncle’s cap badge and medals are on display in the Dieppe Museum. He had been captured and was a prisoner of war.

It’s because of the sacrifice of these men and women for our freedoms that Susan has invested so much time in compiling information on Tavistock and area. Work was done by the original committee of Susan as chair, Paul Bartlett, Sherrill Calder, Roy Erb, Bill Gladding, Barbara Matthies, and Mary Nicklas.

The research in 2005 began with lists of veterans from old Tavistock Gazette files, names on WWI and WWII plaques and rolls in local churches and schools. The Legion provided many more names and several public days at the Museum had the community bring more names, more photos and information.

As a result veterans from many other conflicts were identified. The project soon expanded to the War of 1812-14, the Fenian Raids (1866-71), and the Boer War (1899-1902), and continues through World War I (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), the Korean Conflict (1950-53), as well as more recent conflicts in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are almost a dozen three-ring binders full of information compiled and stored at the Tavistock and District Historical Society Museum/Archives with new information arriving from time to time.

Oxford’s Own, members of the 168th Battalion, from WWI were the subject of a display at the County level a few years ago with information compiled by Mrs. Pellow. This year the Pellows were guest speakers at the “Tavistock: It was 1915” presentation hosted by the Tavistock and District Historical Society, one of a five-year series marking the 100th anniversary of WWI.

The Pellows outlined their trip to Europe in 2012 where they toured the monuments and battlefields of WWI and WWII. While there they documented the gravesites of many of the Tavistock veterans. Upon their return, they gave copies of their work to the families.

“We had our whole bus load of people looking for a name,” Susan said when they got to the Menin Gate. The enormous memorial has the names of 55,000 Allied soldiers who have no graves. They were able to find the name of George Edwin McTavish on the wall. He was a private from North Easthope Township serving in the 110th Battalion, Royal Canadian Army, who was killed in action on October 31st, 1917.

The Pellows toured dozens of cemeteries and found the gravesite of Cpl. Frances Weitzel at Beny-Sur-Mer. He died during a raid on July 8, 1944. They also located the Canadian War Cemetery at Brette-ville-Sur-Laize in France where three area soldiers are buried. They are Wilfred G. Berger (August 15, 1944) of South Easthope, Forbes B. Fisher (August 2, 1944) of Amulree, and Herbert A. Murfitt (June 9, 1944) of East Zorra. Two different people offered to drive them about 50 miles from their small hotel through the countryside to find the remote cemetery.

Pilot Officer Carleton Woelfle of Tavistock, a wireless operator, who was shot down July 21, 1944 over Belgium, is buried in Wevelgem Communal Cemetery, Belgium. Herbert Spencer Weston, a private in the 168th Battalion, is buried at Passchendaele, New British Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium.

Seeing the trenches and bunkers where these battles were fought for days, months and years gives you a whole new appreciation for those who served. Their sacrifice is something that the French and Dutch people never forget. But Canadians, away from the memorials, seem to easily forget. It’s people like the Pellows who are trying to keep these servicemen’s memories alive.

“It really is quite an emotional trip,” Mrs. Pellow said. “Especially if you have ties with your family.”

Remembrance Day also has many emotions for those who served alongside these gallant veterans. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts, or comrades in arms have their own special memories. It’s our responsibility to cherish their memories and pass the record of their service on to future generations. May the memory of their sacrifice never fade.

If you would like to see more of the work that has been done on our local veterans, go to: http://www.tavistockhistory.ca and click on the veterans tab or visit the Musueum/Archives.

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