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16 October 2014
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WW2 - Poem for a fallen brother

After 86 years, his Canadian relatives visit Bob's war grave in France...


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Menin Memorial Family - Aug '06
Here is the file for Pte. Conklin on the CANADIAN VIRTUAL WAR MEMORIAL, created about 5 years ago by our Veterans Affairs Canada from the sparse information available to the CWGC authorities at the time.

Perhaps these images and some explanatory text could be submitted to it, to tell vWM viewers who he was in civilian life, as he obviously has not been forgotten in his family circles...

In memory of
who died on November 20, 1917

Military Service:
Service Number: 657
Force: Army
Unit: Fort Garry Horse

Additional Information:
Date of Birth: July 22, 1890

Burial Information:

Kelly - November '05
Mona Gould was my Great Great amazing and eccentric woman. As I sat through our moment of silence today and watched the parade in our small city, I couldn't help but remember her too.

Bridget Sine - November '04
It is with great happiness that I have found this poem. I read this poem to an assembly of students when I was in grade 8. I remember that I wore my Air Cadet uniform. I felt proud when reading such touching words. I always wondered about the young girl who was so saddened by the loss of her brother. My teacher Mr. Barnett suggested the poem.

I realize now that he must have chosen it because his own brother had been killed in WWII. I realize now how fortunate I was to have had a teacher who could give us important insight to the war. I especially remember the time he told us of the day his own mother received notice her son had been killed. The anger and sadness of his mother will always be held in my heart. Mr. Barnett lived in England so his stories were detailed with the events and experiences of his childhood during the war.

I believe this poem was published in one of our school text books. I had saved my own hand written copy by mounting it on a red peice of paper and pinned a poppy to it. I hung it in my bedroom and eventually in my dorm at university. Unfortunately it was lost in a move. Thus, after all these years I decided to search the web to find it. I was overwhelmed to find it. The historical information and the additional story makes this poem all the more special.

While I was much too young to have ever been in WWI or WWII, my attraction to the stories of people during these times has always been of interest. The stories of the soldiers, the lives lived at the home front, and the horrific experiences of the holocaust have given me exposure to a time that I benefited from but never paid the cost of. Therefore, my interest may stem from how grateful I am to all the causes, all the lives, all the silent victims and heroes who lived and died during these times with the goal of peace and justice, no matter the cost.

So as we approach this Remembrance Day I thank you for sharing your story.

What is also interesting is that your Aunt lived very close to where I live now. What a small world. I shall always think of her when I pass by Euclid Ave.

All the best to you and your family. Thank you to your Uncle Bob.


Emily - July 2004
Just for the record, Mona McTavish was born in 1908, and would be c36 at the time of the Dieppe raid. This may well be the brother memorializes:
(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites)

Isobel Howe's photograph is now back with Bob. I buried it in his grave on March 26 2004.

My husband and I had gone to Paris to celebrate my 50th birthday and were joined by my sister Wendy, her husband and our mother Sheila – Bob’s niece. And since Ligny-St Flochel is not far from Paris we decided to make a day of it and pay a long overdue visit to Bob’s grave.

We were surprised at how easy it was to find. The Commonwealth cemeteries are all clearly sign posted and the one at Ligny-St Flochel is no exception. So, some two hours after setting off in our rented car from the centre of Paris we were there - at Plot II, Row F, Number 22 - the grave of Pte Robert James Davidson Conklin.

No one said one had to. In fact I suspect my mother was incapable of speaking at that point. It was a moment beyond words...a moment when we were lost in our own thoughts about Bob.

I thought about the cruelty of his death and the waste of it. He had been robbed of his young life and I had been robbed of a great uncle. I thought about his heartbroken parents who never really got over losing their handsome young son. I thought about my grandmother's tears every Armistice Day when she’d watch the ceremony from the cenotaph in Ottawa.

I thought about all the family gatherings he had missed...Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas dinners, the birthday parties, the weddings, christenings, funerals…happy times and sad. All those years.

My mother’s sister Nancy wasn’t able to come with us and asked me to say a prayer for her and to tell Bob that she wished she had known him. I did that too.

Bob was my beloved grandmother Evelyn’s eldest brother. With only two years between them they were especially close. She always kept a photograph of Bob in her bedroom with a poppy stuck in a corner of the frame. It’s the same photograph that appears on this website. I have them both in my house in Belfast.

When I got to his grave I immediately regretted not bringing the poppy with me. I thought it would have been appropriate to bury it on behalf of my grandmother along with Isobel’s photograph.

My sister brought a photograph as well – of Bob’s parents grave. After she propped it up against his headstone she took out a small vial and sprinkled some earth from their grave over his. She then re-filled it with earth from Bob’s grave and planned to sprinkle it over the Conklin plot in Toronto.

And then it was time to go. The visit marked the first time any member of Bob’s family had been to his grave. Before we left Wendy’s husband noticed a metal casket in a nearby wall. It contained weather-proofed notebooks detailing the names, ages and regiments of all the soldiers buried there. Another was for comments from visitors.

On March 26 2004, almost 86 years after Bob Conklin’s death Wendy wrote “Sorry it took us so long to get here. Thanks.”

Leslie van Slyke



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