Elmswell man renews family ties with WW1 Vimy Ridge memorial

David McCarthy with his daughter Esther at his great uncle Frederick Fredericks grave at Mons
David McCarthy with his daughter Esther at his great uncle Frederick Fredericks grave at Mons
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When David McCarthy joins dignitaries at the Canadian Vimy Ridge centenary service in France today he will be renewing a close family association with its war memorial.

For not only is his great uncle Peter Percy Wood commemorated on the Canadian’s largest overseas war memorial, but his great grand mother, Charlotte Wood, attended the Vimy Memorial’s unveiling by Edward VIII in July 1936.

The two of the 90ft 'pylons' of the Vimy Memorial on which David McCarthy's great uncle Peter Wood's name is engraved

The two of the 90ft 'pylons' of the Vimy Memorial on which David McCarthy's great uncle Peter Wood's name is engraved

Three years ago, David, from, Elmswell, was invited to the 100th anniversary service at Mons, where another great uncle Frederick Francis Wood, is buried. On that occasion he met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were there with Prince Harry, and David Cameron.

Both great uncles served with Canadian forces, as did their four brothers who survived the war.

David’s great grandfather Frederick Woods emigrated to Canada to farm in 1905 with his first wife, who died. He then married Charlotte and they had six sons and David’s grandmother.

Though David has visited the younger Frederick’s grave at Mons, Peter has no known grave so his name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial.

Peter was only 19 and had been in the Army for only two months when he died.

Ironically, he had survived the great battle of Vimy Ridge which lasted from April 9 to 12, 1917, and died as the Canadians advanced to take a village about a month later.

Four Victoria Crosses were awarded to men from the four Canadian divisions for heroism in the three-day action, which is seen as the opening of the Battle of Arras.

During those three days the allies lost 3,598 men and had 7,004 wounded. It is not known what the German casualties were.

David said: “I’m really there by an accident of birth.

“After the war, my great grandmother became very involved in charities relating to veterans and she became quite well known.

“That’s why she was invited when it was unveiled by Edward VIII just before he abdicated. She was presented to the King.”

David was also invited to the rededication ceremony after the memorial was renovated in 2007. That was attended by Edward’s niece, the Queen.

David plans to combine the trip to Vimy Memorial, which is on part of the battlefield donated to Canada by the French, with trips to other war memorials and cemeteries in northern France.