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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

New book presents brief biography of over 1300 regional soldiers who died at war

­­- “The Anguish of War” is a two-volume book launched in time for Remembrance Day -

by Sylene Argent

Every Remembrance Day, residents of Windsor and Essex County gather around local cenotaphs to honour the lives of fallen soldiers and veterans, who have served in wars and peacekeeping missions on behalf of their country.

  Reverend Gene Lotz was able to personalize those fallen soldiers in his new two-volume book, “The Anguish of War, War Dead of Windsor and Essex County.” The books contain not only the names of the over 1300 individuals who have died in war from Windsor and Essex County, from the Boer War to Afghanistan, but offers a brief biography of each of these individuals and even some photos.

  He noted it is not a complete list, but he did as much as he could in reaching for that goal. Some of the biographies are only a paragraph long, as he was not able to find a lot of information about some of the individuals.

  “When Remembrance Day comes along, we remember. But, what does that really mean,” Lotz said as to why he took on the project. “I felt it would help me remember, putting more than just a name, [but] a face and life to the name. That is what I set out trying to do.”

  These individuals had a face, they had a life, they had a family, Lotz said. “I really wanted to find out who these individuals were. They felt strongly enough about what they believed that they’d go off and put themselves in harm’s way to defend what they believed. That was my drive. That is what got me going.”

  Lotz originally started conducting the research for the books in 1998, when he was the Board Chairperson of a Committee assembled to build a monument in Malden Park for the Masonic War Dead. In doing so, he had to compile a list of all the War Dead from Windsor and Essex County.

  He got back to working on the research a few years ago, and spent five-years conducting the research for the books. Lotz read newspapers – including The Essex Free Press – from 1914-1920 and 1939 to 1945. He also visited every church and war memorial in the region to take names, in addition to cemeteries to look for commonwealth war grave headstones. It took an additional year-and-a-half to write the books.

  “It has been a real labour of love,” he said, noting he was filled with emotion when he was able to pick up the books from the printer.

  He is now trying to get the project known in the region. “This is part of Windsor and Essex County’s history.”

  Lotz said there is military heritage in his family. His relatives all returned home. “The names in these books didn’t come home. They didn’t survive the war, and there was a hole left in their families’ lives. That’s another side I wanted to capture, that there was a loss from the families of these individuals.”

  In the books, there are “stories of heroism, and the heroes that are in the book were there saving the lives of fellow comrades in arms,” Lotz said. One story he shared included a Lancaster Bomber that crash-landed. All of the crew got out, except for the tail-gunner who got caught. One of the crew members went back into the burning plane to pull out his comrade. “There are just so many stories like that, of soldiers putting their lives in danger’s way to help save the life of a fellow comrade.”

  Soldiers, he said, may have joined for patriotism or for King and Country, but once they were in the thick of things, “they were fighting for their lives and the lives of the guys next to him.”

  The books includes many photos, including one of a flight crew of a Lancaster Bomber with David Watterson of Windsor. He met a girl in Europe, while serving during WWII. When he got married, his flight crew stood in as his wedding party. Just 11-days after the wedding, they were all killed.

  “They were comrades right to the end,” he said, adding they were buried in the same grave.

  One of the women listed as a casualty of war was Winifred Lilian Brewster of Windsor. She met a young Canadian serviceman, Edward John Brewster, in England, he noted. On their honeymoon, they went to Holland right after the war. They died in a car accident.

  “They are the only married couple that are buried together in the Canadian War Cemetery,” Lotz said.    

  He said there are many stories of Silver Cross Mothers and the work they did after the war to remember their sons. “During the Second World War, there were three mothers that lost three sons. They went on to do just amazing things,” he said.

  Of the over 1300 individuals mentioned in the books, six were women, four of which were war veterans. Two were civilian casualties. A mother followed her husband overseas to England with her daughter to be with him. They were killed when a V-2 rocket crashed into the tenement house they were in. He survived the war.

  An Amherstburg story includes when two brothers enlisted in WWII, and so did their father – a veteran of WWI – to keep tabs on them. The sons were killed, and the father survived, he noted.

  The books are organized chronologically. “Then you see the battles that happened, like Vimy Ridge,” he said, noting around a dozen from the region died in that battle.

He also shared a story of an Anglican Priest, Walter Brown, who was at D-Day for spiritual support. He was taken Prisoner of War and was stabbed to death by a German Patrolman. He was found in a ditch with his communion set. The set was found and given to Huron College, where it is used every year during Remembrance Day ceremonies.     

   “During the First World War, there were more people from the County that were killed than from Windsor, because the County was rural still, and people made their living on the farm,” Lotz said. During the Second World War, more people from Windsor than Essex County had died.

  “It is a fascinating book,” he said.

Theresa Charbonneau, mother of fallen Windsor soldier who fought in Afghanistan, Corporal Andrew Grenon, presented the forward for the book, which was added to the beginning of the

second volume.

  Lotz said the content was greatly condensed to fit into a two-volume book from its original size. The original manuscript and research were donated to the Windsor Public Library, Local History Branch.

  Those interested in obtaining a copy can visit its social media page or call Lotz at 519-564-1473. It is also available at Juniper Books and Chimczuk Museum in Windsor, and the Marsh Collection in Amherstburg.


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