The White Fence, issue #70

November 2015


Dear friends,

Lest we forget. William Kinnear, Albert Carter and Carl Brown were there for us when it counted. We are here today to remember their actions, and those of countless others, with our profound gratitude. Mark Holton and Brent Wilson remind us of “Willie’s” and Albert’s bravery and youthful exuberances as well as their great sacrifice. Furthermore, Al Smith tells us of unknown citizens who chose to remember those who died for us in war by creating a very personal memorial. Al wants us to remember James O’Rourke for his monument by the Frosty Hollow railroad tracks so that, with him, we may remember those who died at Vimy. The monument is not in a town square; it is tucked away along railroad tracks in a spot probably very meaningful only to James and those he wished to especially honour and remember. In my mind, it is a very personal effort by O’Rourke, on our behalf, to say thanks to those special young men Mark and Brent describe and whom he would have known (perhaps family members) and who died in our service so long ago. Few of us reading this have any direct connections with those young men and the generation they represent. But they made it possible for you and I to vote in the national election slightly more than a week ago. I was free to vote as I wished and am free to write what I want in this newsletter. On your behalf, I thank those young men and those presently with the forces fighting for us, for making it possible for us to express ourselves freely and play a proud and important role in the world as Canadians.

We thank and remember them.

—Peter Hicklin

Holiday Open House and Volunteer Appreciation Night

The Tantramar Heritage Trust will be holding a holiday open house on Friday, December 4, 2015, from 6–8 pm at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, 29 Queens Road, Sackville, NB.

Drop by to sing some carols, tour the museum, visit with friends and enjoy some light refreshments. For more information, please contact the Trust office.

The Dead Man’s Penny

By Mark Holton

On a quiet autumn evening in Sackville, New Brunswick, one does not expect an encounter with the dead of the Great War … or a mystery from 1916.

An after-dinner walk is a welcome pastime for my spouse and me. The town cemetery on York Street is a large park-like area and the well-kept paths were inviting. Recently arrived in town and curious, we explored. Flowers, stately trees, chattering squirrels, argumentative birds, and some elaborate monuments: there was much for the eye and the ear. And memento mori.

One tombstone caught my eye, that of the Andrew Kinnear family. Tall and worn, it was hard to read the names. But affixed to this memorial column where names and dates were once sharply carved was a small Memorial Plaque, one of the many issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of British and Empire service personnel who died in that great conflict. Close inspection revealed the name, William Kinnear. As we walked home that evening I wondered who he was.

Young William’s death must have come as a shock to his family and friends. It was front-page news in the Sackville Tribune. “Willie Kinnear Killed in Action. Word Received This Morning of Death of Popular Sackville Boy”. So it reported, October 19, 1916. A veteran of the Western Front and recently promoted to Acting Corporal, he had been sent off to Trench Mortar School to learn the deadly ways of the Stokes mortar, a nasty invention capable of distributing death and destruction for a considerable distance. Of course, this lethal capability made the mortar crew a priority target for the other side.

Then came the long and bitter summer battle now remembered as the Somme. William’s 15th Battalion attacked on September 26, 1916, a move directed toward the capture of Thiepval Ridge and Regina Trench. “Night passed quietly”, records the Battalion’s war diary, as soldiers made ready. Then came the signal to advance. With his mates, 23536 Kinnear W. moved forward toward Thiepval Plateau and was killed. According to the Battalion’s War Diary all objectives were achieved that day but the 15th suffered over 380 casualties.

Collectors of numismatic items will occasionally see these Great War Memorial Plaques offered at coin shows. Depending upon condition, they usually fetch $75 to $100 and unfortunately, fakes exist. Most people do not know what they are, or their history. Those who do know can recall their unofficial name: the Dead Man’s Penny. Made of bronze, like the English penny of the day, they are about 5 inches in diameter. They were not received automatically but were distributed to families once they had carefully completed and returned Form W.5080 provided by military authorities, countersigned by a magistrate or an ordained minister. Even in death there was order. Received with the plaque was a printed letter from the King: “I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War. George R.I.” A scroll enclosed with the Plaque went further: “He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten.” Nowadays the letter and scroll rarely survive. On the plaque, Britannia is standing with a lion while two dolphins, symbols of the navy or perhaps even life itself, appear near her shoulders. A trident is in her right hand and in her left Britannia extends a wreath, held over a rectangular space where the name of the deceased appears in raised letters. The legend reads: “He died for freedom and honour”. The word “She” appears in the case of 600 or so Memorial Plaques made for women. Below this scene and filling the exergue, a second lion (Britain and the Empire) is engaged in savaging an eagle (the Central Powers). The back of the Memorial Plaque is blank.

The idea arose in 1916, to create a vehicle of official acknowledgement of the service and sacrifice of the deceased. A committee was established, a competition was held, and Edward Carter Preston’s design was selected. He was a sculptor and medalist whose varied achievements include sculptures to enhance Liverpool Cathedral and the design of a new decoration known as the Distinguished Flying Cross. Announced in March 1918, production of the Memorial Plaques began later in the year and continued into the early 1930s. In all, 1.35 million were made using, according to one source, 450 tonnes of bronze. Not every next-of-kin received this bronze; you had to complete the form. Some didn’t, and some couldn’t.

And what of Willie Kinnear? Finding information about him has been a winter’s challenge. Presbyterian, a tinsmith by trade, dark complexion, blue eyes, 5” 9’ tall, the Sackville Tribune mentioned that he was “one of the first to go at the outbreak of war two years ago and has been in service ever since.” Described as “a bright, popular young man, an employee of the Enterprise Foundry before enlistment and the news of his death will be received with universal regret.” Another newspaper, the Sackville Post, stated on October 20 that Willie Kinnear “was a native of the town and was well known here” and had gone overseas with the first contingent. He had indeed signed his Attestation Papers at Valcartier on September 25, 1914, indicating three years’ service in the militia, and had been marked down for the 3rd Battalion. He had served at the front, according to the Post, and “had been wounded once or twice but never very seriously.” The Post carried news of many deaths in battle that summer. The October 20 editorial noted that “The great struggle is being brought very near to many homes…. Of late the casualties lists have been larger than ever before.”

Willie Kinnear was sent to the 15th Battalion in May 1915 and a year later he was at Mortar School. His battalion was initially a Toronto outfit drawing upon the 48th Highlanders but losses meant that reinforcements now came from all over Canada. According to Battalion records, Kinnear “rejoined as reinforcement from Base” in July 1916, was promoted to Corporal in August, and was dead in September. He is buried in Courcelette British Cemetery in France, in section VII, Row G, plot 21. He was 22 years of age.

Lest we forget.

Mark Holton is a retired art museum curator and teacher now living in Sackville and with an interest in things numismatic.


Capital Campaign update

I am pleased to report that as of October 31st the Trust has received 2015 Capital Campaign donations for the Octagonal House loan repayment in the amount of $7,920. Thanks to our canvassers and all who have contributed, and we hope to continue to hear from members and supporters. As you will recall, our anonymous donor will match up to $10,000 in donations this year, for a total of $20,000 which is the total of our 2015 loan payment. Thank you all and, to those who have yet contributed, please help us to reach our goal!

—Geoff Martin, Chair, AOH Capital Fundraising Committee

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Major Albert Desbrisay Carter (1892–1919)

By Brent Wilson

Portrait of Major Albert Desbrisay Carter, RFC

Major Albert Desbrisay Carter, RFC. Photo courtesy of the Mount Allison University Archives.

In some ways, Major Albert Desbrisay Carter was representative of New Brunswick’s airmen of the Great War, while, at the same time, also stood apart. He was born at Point de Bute, Westmorland County, on July 3, 1892, the son of Leonard and Violetta “Ettie” (Goodwin) Carter. In 1914, when the war broke out, he was a student at Mount Allison University and had served in the 74th Regiment of the Canadian Militia for three years, being commissioned as a lieutenant on April 18, 1912. He joined the 26th New Brunswick Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a lieutenant when it began recruiting in November 1914, and became a company commander until the unit was reorganized, whereupon he became its machine gun officer. He went overseas with the 26th in June 1915 and was seriously wounded in the right hip and thigh in the battalion’s first major action, the Battle of the Crater, on October 13. He was hospitalized in Britain for some time and never re-joined the 26th.

In time, Carter returned to New Brunswick to convalesce and, in June 1916, joined the 140th Battalion, one of the several infantry battalions raised in the province in 1915–1916 and was promoted to major. In September 1916, he returned overseas with the 140th and was later seconded to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) where he underwent flight training.

By the end of November he had joined 19 Squadron at the front as a flight commander and, in a relatively short period of time, distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, eventually earning 28 victories by shooting down German aircraft. He was decorated with several prestigious awards for his service, including the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Bar (meaning he received the DSO twice, a singular accomplishment), the Belgian Croix de Guerre, and was also Mentioned in Dispatches.

Then, on May 19, 1918, Major Carter was shot down behind enemy lines, captured, and spent the rest of the war in German prisoner of war camps in Bavaria. At the end of the war he was repatriated back to Britain where he joined the fledgling Canadian Air Force (CAF). He became the commanding officer of 2 Squadron, the day-bomber squadron, a testament to his skill and record of service during the war. On May 22, 1919, Carter was killed when a German Fokker DVII airplane that he was flying (see photo) during a training exercise “collapsed” while coming out of a dive at an altitude of about 7,000 feet and crashed into the ground. He was buried at the nearby Old Shoreham Cemetery in southern England. He was 26 years old.

Albert Carter sitting in the cockpit of the German Fokker DVII

Albert Carter sitting in the cockpit of the German Fokker DVII aircraft in which he died on May 22, 1919. Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 3390431.

Carter was one of the almost 200 New Brunswickers who joined the British air services during the Great War and was among their most distinguished fliers. He was also one of the earliest members of the Canadian Air Force. Tragically, he died in service to his country only months after the war ended, which added to the shock his family endured when they received word of his death in England.

Albert Carter is remembered today in several different ways. His name appears on the cenotaph in Port Elgin and on the memorial plaque, listing students from the university who died during the war, in Mount Allison’s University’s McCain Student Centre. He is also memorialized on the headstone marking his parents’ graves in the Point de Bute Cemetery. Finally, an exhibit that features his DSO and Bar and Belgian Croix de Guerre is found in the museum in the visitor’s centre at Fort Beauséjour. A copy of Major Carter’s service file can be found on the Library and Archives Canada “Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918” database website.

The Carter family gravestone on which Major Carter is memorialized in the Point de Bute Cemetery.

The Carter family gravestone on which Major Carter is memorialized
in the Point de Bute Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Bruce Coates.

Brent Wilson is the Director of the New Brunswick Military Heritage Project at the University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre for the Study of war and Society.

Our Vimy Monument

By Al Smith

Nestled beside the railway tracks just northwest of Frosty Hollow lies a unique and little known WWI monument. Carved into a large boulder it pays tribute to Canadian soldiers who fought and won the Battle of Vimy Ridge. That northern France battle of April 9-12, 1917 is considered by historians to be a defining moment in Canadian history. At Vimy Canadian troops earned a reputation as a highly capable and effective fighting force but the victory came at a horrific cost as over 10,000 were killed or wounded.

According to a Nov. 11, 2011 article by James Foster in the Moncton Times Transcript the monument was carved in 1928 by James O’Rourke using only a hammer and a railroad spike. Apparently O’Rourke was a CNR employee who did the carving in his spare time — possibly in remembrance for a family member(s) or friend(s) who lost their life at Vimy.

The Vimy tribute site is a 15 minute walk west along the tracks from where the old Westmorland Road crosses the railroad just east of the old Frosty Hollow Inn. An ATV trail follows parallel to the tracks and along the bed of an old railway siding. That siding was apparently once used by a shunter engine to help freight trains up and over the Westcock hill and was once known as Vimy siding. The tracks were removed years ago and now make a very solid base for the ATV trail and thus easy walking. Once at the monument site it is a very peaceful and serene setting. In addition to the uniquely carved monument which features a field artillery gun there is a signboard containing information on the battle and two rest benches where one can linger and remember. Many Canadian families have relatives who fought in that battle and in my case I sat there and reflected on my wife’s great uncle Willie Rosengren who survived the battle but lost his right hand. Killed in the battle were a number of Tantramar area boys including: Carl Brown (see photo), Lloyd Crossman, Virgil Gaudet, Hubert Kilcup, Walter Knapp, Alonzo Patterson, Christopher Piper, Harold Sears, Arlington Ward.

Carl Brown in uniform.

Carl Brown in uniform. Photo courtesy of Linda Fury.

WWI monument carved beside railroad tracks northwest of Frosty Hollow.

World War I monument carved beside railroad tracks northwest of Frosty Hollow.

The site is nicely maintained by local residents including 87-year-old Helen Wheaton of Frosty Hollow along with Alf Walker and other members of the Sackville Branch of the Canadian Legion. If ever you get a chance to walk into this unique war memorial do take the time to sit on one of the benches and remember our brave young Tantramar lads — soldiers like Carl Napp Brown (from Aulac) who fought gallantly with the 42nd Highlanders and died at Vimy April 11, 1917.


  • Moncton Times Transcript November 11, 2011 article by James Foster Veteran’s widow works to maintain monument
  • At the Crossroads — A History of Sackville NB by W.B. Hamilton
  • Brown family information from Linda Fury.

THT to Produce New WWI Play

The Tantramar Heritage Trust has received a grant from Canadian Heritage to embark on an exciting new project. Under the Commemorate Canada Program, the Trust has received money to research, commission, workshop, rehearse and tour a brand new play about Tantramar and the Great War. The play will describe what was happening on the home front during World War One, particularly in small Maritime towns. The town of Sackville, NB will provide a prism of the experience of residents and visitors to the wider region.

The project launched in May 2015 with the hiring of Emily Fuller, a Mount Allison student who combed the Sackville Tribune for articles, photos and ads describing the experiences of people in Sackville and area from 1914–1919. Under the guidance of Margaret Fancy, Emily created a database of over 1300 scans and 18 booklets of information on various themes (for example, women’s work, AD Carter, illness, quartering, poetry and letters). This research formed the basis of the play and gave the Trust a large amount of material to put into our Resource Centre for the future.

portrait of playwright Jamie Bradley

Playwright Jamie Bradley

In July, playwright Jamie Bradley was commissioned to write the play. Jamie is a Halifax-based playwright, stage, screen and radio actor, puppeteer, librettist, novelist and movie reviewer. He will be familiar to Sackville audiences for having played William Fawcett in Live Bait Theatre’s production of “Reader Be Thou Also Ready” last summer, which was directed by THT Executive Director Karen Valanne. Jamie is preparing to deliver a first draft of the script by mid-November and it will be workshopped, rewritten and ready for rehearsal in February 2016.

“I’m so excited about this project,” says Valanne. “My background is in theatre and I’m so happy to have the chance to use those skills here at the Trust to really bring history alive. Jamie is a wonderful writer, with a great passion for history. He’s bringing the heart and humour to scenes, while describing some very dark times.”

The Trust will be hiring three professional actors, a stage manager, a technical director and a design team for the production, which will tour Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick in March 201 .

“Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, so the show will be very accessible,” says Valanne. “It’s designed to go to schools, legions, church halls and museums. We can perform anywhere there’s a 12 × 12′ space and room for an audience. We’re planning to have admission by donation and engage audiences afterwards with discussions about their memories of relatives who served in the Great War.”

Performance dates are being finalized (fingers crossed for good weather in March!), so please contact the Trust office or check the website in January to find out when and where the show is playing. Or, to bring the show to your town or venue, please contact Karen as soon as possible at

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. · Ce projet à été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada.