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Remembering World War II
Charles Doucette Private F/55317 North Nova Scotia Highlanders, RCIC July 15, 1912 Kun’tewiktuk (Membertou Reserve), in Unama'ki (Cape Breton), NS June 19, 1940 Sydney, NS Membertou, Sydney, Cape Breton 27 5 feet, 8 ½ inches Brown Black Married Odd Jobs, mechanic, highway construction Roman Catholic Mary Jane Doucette (Wife) Sydney, NS, June 7, 1944 31 Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, France Plot VI, Row A, Grave 16 Commemorated on Page 293 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on June 23 Charles was Mi'Kmaq, the son of Peter (1888-1971) Doucette and Mrs. Josephine or Mary ‘Martha’ (Joe) Doucette of Sydney, Cape Breton, NS. His mother was born in Wpqawi’kn (Nyanza, Victoria County), Cape Breton, NS; his father – in Sydney, and he grew up in We'kwistoqnik (Eskasoni), Cape Breton. Charles’ brother Joseph also served in the Canadian Army. Charles married Mary Jane Gould on September 15, 1934, and was living on the Membertou Reserve in Sydney, NS, when the war broke out. At that point, he and Mary had three daughters, Caroline, Rachel and Elizabeth Mary, and he worked hard in the area as a handyman and labourer to support his family. When the first big rush came in early 1940 to recruit men for active service, Charles Doucette, aged 28, enlisted in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders (NNSH). A fourth daughter, Theresa Marie, or Marie Therese, was born in 1941. He was fluent in his native language of course, but spoke very little English and, on enlistment, he signed his name with an "X". Those that knew him attest to the fact that he was particularly well-liked in the Battalion. A bit older than many of the other North Novas, he was respected as a family man, quiet, never causing any trouble. Charles had suffered with tuberculosis as a young man, and the demanding physical training with long route marches and running took their toll on him. Some who remembered him recalled how coughing racked his body but how quickly he bounced back after a long run and noted that he never went to the medical officer to report himself sick. The North Nova Scotia Regiment was part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and was sent overseas in July 1941 aboard the SS Orion. Sailing up the Bristol Channel, the North Novas arrived in Avonmouth, England on July 29, 1941. The men all enjoyed some leave, then began the long period of training and waiting for some action. On June 19, 1942 while in England he was awarded the First Good Conduct Medal. The long-awaited action came on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The NNSH would land "in reserve" on D-Day, that is behind the other two battalions in their Brigade, then move to the front to lead the Brigade forward the following day. Charles was in C Company and they would lead the Battalion advance. Their objective was Carpiquet Airfield, directly south and inland from Juno Beach. As the North Novas pushed forward towards Carpiquet on 7 June, the advance initially went quite well. Two platoons of C Company, with Charles among them, reached the village of Authie around noon. They were soon hit with violent shelling from German artillery bent on stopping the advance, and the two platoons dug in to fend off the inevitable counter-attack. German infantry in vastly superior numbers supported with tanks and artillery blasted the NNSH positions and attacked in force; many Canadians were killed, a few escaped to the rear to fight another day. Some were captured, including Charles Doucette. He and the other survivors were escorted back to the Waffen SS Regimental Headquarters at the Ardenne Abbey (Abbaye d'Ardenne). By late afternoon, the Germans had 100 – 150 prisoners in the Abbaye courtyard. A German NCO came out and asked for ten volunteers. There were none. Ten men were simply selected at random and pushed out to form a line of ten men. One of these ten men was Charles Doucette. A Canadian officer was then brought out to join the group, making a total of eleven Canadians. These men were led away through a passageway to another spot in the abbey grounds. It was thought that they were being taken away for interrogation. All eleven men were murdered. Their bodies were buried in a sheltered garden in several unmarked graves. Charles Doucette was officially listed as Missing in Action and his family was so informed; since he would never be registered as a Prisoner-of-War, his family was left to worry about his fate. Several months later, long after the Germans had been pushed well back out of France and the Canadian Army was closing up to the Rhine River far to the north, a grave was discovered in the garden of the Abbey of Ardenne, Normandy, and the bodies of six murdered Canadians were recovered. By this time, a War Crimes investigation was underway to determine the fate of the missing Prisoners. One of the bodies recovered in this grave was that of Charles Doucette. Only then, did his family learn of his true fate. Charles' body was reburied in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Military Cemetery in Plot VI, Row A, Grave 16. For details of the subsequent war crimes investigation and eventual trial proceedings, see Ian J. Campbell, "Murder at the Abbaye" (1996) A second Mi'Kmaq man from Membertou who was also a WWII casualty was Louis Peter Brooks who served with the Royal Canadian Regiment and died May 30, 1944 (Cassino War Cemetery).
Charles Doucette
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Sources: Content written by Ian J. Campbell from findagrave Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Name: Rank: Service No: Service: Date of Birth: Place of Birth: Date of Enlistment: Place of Enlistment: Address at Enlistment: Age at Enlistment: Height: Eye Colour: Hair Colour: Marital Status: Trade: Religion: Next of Kin: Date of Death: Age at Death: Place of Death: Cemetery: