Photo found to honour Manitoba war casualty
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2021 (387 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It only took hours after a public plea in the Free Press for the hunt for a photograph of a Second World War soldier who died in action to come to an end.
A photograph, actually a few photographs, of a smiling mustachioed Edmond Coulombe, taken in his uniform shortly before he shipped out, were donated to the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum in St-Georges by the family of a local resident last year.
And there could be more.
Coulombe, who was 22 when he was killed along with four other soldiers by a grenade in a Dutch village near the German border March 30, 1945, was from Pine Falls. All five are interred in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, Netherlands.
A photo of Coulombe was sought by Pieter Valkenburg, and his wife Daria, to be included in the Faces of Graves project, a digital archive which includes photographs and biographies of every soldier interred in the Canadian War Cemeteries in the Netherlands. The photo hunt was highlighted in the Nov. 6 edition of the Free Press.
The couple, who live on Prince Edward Island, had volunteered to help the project when they were visiting the cemeteries a few years ago. Valkenburg is a former Dutch diplomat.
“I was so excited when I saw the article,” said Diane Dube of the Winnipeg River Heritage Museum. “I was sure I just put them (the photos) away a couple of months ago.
“I put them aside in a cardboard box while we are in the process of getting organized. Luckily, I remembered which box it was in.”
One of the photos shows Coulombe with his parents, Ulric and Yvonne, and brother, Johnny, both in uniform; another shows a uniformed Coulombe with his duffel bag in front of the steps of a building; another has the two uniformed brothers with their sisters, Annette and Juliette, and another woman; while the final photo has the two uniformed brothers standing side by side.
Linda Cyr, whose mother was Annette, said she is pleased the museum has found photographs for the project — and she may be able to find more.
“My mom had a biography of all the family members and I’ve got photos of Edmond before the war,” said Cyr, adding another family member may have other photos.
“He died young, but he died while serving his country. Having him in this project is definitely an honour for the family.”
Valkenburg said he was surprised it only took a few hours from the time the story was published to the P.E.I. couple getting an email with attached photographs of Coulombe.
“If it wasn’t for the Canadians who liberated the area in the Netherlands where I was born, I might not be here,” he said.
“I was born during the Hunger Year of 1944, when there was little or no food. About 20,000 people starved to death that winter. Allied soldiers not only liberated us from Nazi rule, they saved us from starvation.
“This research project is one way for me to honour those who lost their lives in war.”
Due to the quick success on Coulombe’s photo, the Valkenburgs are now looking for a photograph of James Cairns, a First World War soldier who enlisted with what is now the Royal Winnipeg Rifles while living in Manitoba in 1916. He was killed in action in France in August 1918.
Anyone who can help is asked to email the couple at email@example.com.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Hunting for photo to honour Manitoban
Their mission is to put a face and a story to every Canadian soldier buried in the Netherlands — men who courageously liberated the country during the Second World War.
Gathering information and obtaining an image for one Manitoba soldier, Edmond Coulombe, is proving to be particularly elusive.
Pieter Valkenburg, a retired Dutch diplomat who lives in Prince Edward Island, and his wife Daria, are helping to create a digital archive that includes a biography and photograph of every Canadian soldier interred in the Netherlands.
“It’s a big project,” said Valkenburg.