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This article was published 6/11/2021 (203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
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.
At first, he helped his local legion get more information about the soldiers whose names were engraved on a cenotaph there.
"The monument has 48 names, and I thought I’d like to know more about them than just the names on a monument," he said. "I’m from Holland and I was thinking, "What can I do to honour the Canadian youth who liberated my country?
"That’s how this all started, from me seeing all those names."
During a trip to the Netherlands a few years ago, the couple decided to join the Faces of Graves project at the Canadian War Cemeteries. They’ve been helping for nine years.
"They want to put a face to the grave and tell the life story of the soldier buried there," said Valkenburg.
Valkenburg said he’s glad they can help because not every Canadian will be able to travel to Europe to visit the war cemeteries.
"This way, people will be able to go on their computers to take a look at it and get information," he said.
Daria Valkenburg said they have some information about Coulombe, which could be helpful in their quest to find someone with a photograph.
She said Coulombe was from Pine Falls when he enlisted and he was one of five soldiers with the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal who were killed by a grenade in a Dutch village near the German border on March 30, 1945. He was 22 years old. All five soldiers are interred in the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek.
Coulombe’s parents were Ulric and Yvonne Coulombe and he was born in Fannystelle on Feb. 15, 1923. The family moved around a bit, but that’s about all the Valkenburgs know about Coulombe’s life before he joined the service.
After enlisting in Winnipeg on Aug. 7, 1943, he went overseas on Jan. 3, 1945 and was first with the Oxford Rifles. Then he was shipped to northwest Europe on March 13, to the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal.
"That’s basically all we have," said Daria. "We’re hoping we find someone who knows more."
Anyone who can help can reach out to 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.