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Local couple seek out European war graves of Dryden veterans

A German cemetery displays an Iron Cross for eight fallen soldiers, found on a research mission by Spuro and Karen Sourtzis. Photos submitted
John Vost and Denver Pearson of Dryden pose in uniform. Date unknown.

Spuro Sourtzis, long-time teacher at Dryden High School (DHS) realized he has spent more time in his life at DHS than anywhere else. Sourtzis realized he doesn’t actually know that much about the history and creation of the school, which lead him to a research project taking him to various European countries.

Sourtzis researched things such as how the Eagles got their name, why the school colours are blue and gold.

“In the 1945 graduation ceremony list, on the back page, was a date of all the students who attended the high school and were killed in World War II, so I started researching them,” said Sourtzis.

Sourtzis began his war veteran research through Veterans Affairs, and speaking with family members of the deceased individuals. Realizing there was one step further to his research, Sourtzis and wife Karen packed up for three weeks and headed to Europe on July 5.

The couple departed on a tour of England, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Malta on a search for the gravesites of fallen soldiers. Finding 13 graves, Sourtzis says he was only missing one on his list, who was lost at sea, and could not find his name plaque.

“A lot of the soldiers were lost in battle and they don’t have a known grave site, but their names were commemorated on a plaque,” said Sourtzis.

Ration card for Leonard Charles Leach.

Sourtzis says the European people were very friendly and helpful to the couple, once they realized what they were searching for. Travelling by public transit as much as possible, the couple put on many miles on foot to reach the gravesites of the soldiers.

“It was grueling, exhausting because lots of it involved four or five mile walks and often caught in the rain. Besides being tired, it was totally awesome,” said Sourtzis. “When you travel by taxi or guided tours, you miss that opportunity to interact with people. Because we travelled by foot, we had the chance to interact with the people and when they found out what we were doing, they were so helpful.”

Sourtzis researched the following soldiers:

Gunner Redvers Albert Adair, killed on August 31, 1944 in Italy at age 24.

Mervin Kenneth Brampton, killed in the Netherlands on April 5, 1945 at age 21.

Roy Evans, killed on October 2, 1942 in British Columbia at age 21.

Frank Jerald James, killed in Malta, November 10, 1942 at age 23.

Leonard Charles Robert Leach, killed in England on October 14, 1942 at age 21.

Alexander Russell McIntyre, killed in England December 13, 1943 at age 20.

James William McMonagle, died in Italy October 28, 1943 at age 25.

Francis Robert McMonagle, killed at sea February 5, 1940 at age 24.

Frank Levi Olsen, killed in Malta November 10, 1942 at an unknown age.

James Thomas Reid, killed in Germany September 13, 1942 at age 22.

Gordon Allan Smith, went missing in December 1943, presumed dead at September 1944.

Francis Drew Trist, killed in Italy Spring 1944, at age 21.

William Van Koughnet, killed in Holland December 12, 1944 at age 26.

John Heath Vost, killed October 30, 1944 in Belgium, age unknown.

“At each of these grave sites, there is a person who maintains the site, and told me that with the German grave sites, there are eight bodies per cross and they are not necessarily the correct names. They don’t go through the effort,” said Sourtzis. “He said it was the allies last way of humiliating the Germans.”

“With one person, they have someone buried in his headstone, but last year in Holland, in a farmer’s field, they discovered a crashed plane in the woods. The body inside the plane was a soldier they thought they had already buried,” said Sourtzis. “He had a service number. They dug up the grave where the person was supposedly buried, put those remains in an unmarked grave, and put the actual person in his own grave.”

Each of the soldiers listed above are inclusive of histories, photos, and a glimpse into the life of each. The entire document can be seen at the Dryden High School Eagles website, and clicking on the “History” link, followed by the “DHS History Project” link.

By Ally Dunham

A letter written to Santa Claus by Russel McIntyre in 1931.

2 thoughts on “Local couple seek out European war graves of Dryden veterans

  1. I am the nephew of one of the servicement researched by Spuro (Russell McIntyre) and had the pleasure to meet him as we were passing through Dryden a few years ago. I never knew my uncle, as he died almost twenty years before I was born, but his memory lived on with my mother and my grandmother (both now deceased). Coincidentally, my brother an his boys visited the grave this summer as well, so Russell had lots of visitors this year – 68 years after his death. I plan to be there on the anniversary this coming December.

    Thanks Spuro.

    Don Cochrane
    London, UK

  2. There are, and have been many brave souls world wide. I have been lucky enough to know a few of them. From the internet:-

    They shall grow not old,
    As we that are left grow old,
    Age shall not weary them,
    Nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun,
    And in the morning
    We will remember them.

    The Ode came from ‘For the Fallen’, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon and was published in London in The Winnowing Fan: Poems on the Great War in 1914. The verse which became the League Ode was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921.

    For the Fallen
    With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
    England mourns for her dead across the sea.
    Flash of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
    Fallen in the cause of the free.

    Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
    Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
    There is music in the midst of desolation
    And a glory that shines upon our tears.

    They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
    Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
    They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
    They fell with their faces to the foe.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

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