It was just over a week ago that I was walking and cycling through Flanders. I visited over 70 soldiers including the grave of Sgt. Edward Wesley Jackson who died on June 22, 1916, one hundred years ago today.
Jackson was born in Fort Jones, California on October 3, 1892 to an English father and an American mother. The family moved to Victoria, BC in 1896 where Edward began his schooling and eventually attended Victoria High School.
Edward was an electrician when he joined the 6th Field Company, Canadian Engineers in North Vancouver on July 20, 1915. Once in England he was promoted to Sergeant and in mid-January 1916 he arrived in France where he was attached to the No. 2 Army Troops Company.
In early April No. 2 A.T. Coy relocated to Belgium and encamped near Vlamertinghe where for the next several months they organized and carried out extensive work on the GHQ second line of defence. A mile and half behind the lines was Chateau Segar Wood, where Edward’s section was working on the morning of June 22. Heavy shelling forced them to withdraw but they returned to their work after lunch. The shelling resumed and it was during this second barrage that Sgt. Jackson was mortally wounded. The British Colonist‘s report of his death included an unusually frank account by Lt. G. H. McCallum:
“…and the first shell to come landed in the midst of the party, and two pieces hit your son – one in the temple and one behind the ear. He was dead in about fifteen minutes, never recovering consciousness. I am glad to say he never suffered at all.”
Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery is situated in the middle of the town and is surrounded by commercial businesses and homes on all sides. I visited on Father’s Day, celebrated a week earlier than in Canada and the UK, and the cemetery reverberated with the sound of a children’s concert being held nearby. An odd but not entirely unpleasant experience.