Mystery explained: Canadian flags on war graves in England


Holy Rood Church in Wool, England. Photo:

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A long-standing mystery of who has been placing Canadian flags on the graves of First World War soldiers in Southern England has been solved.

For the past ten years, tiny maple leaf flags have been appearing at the headstones of two 1st Canadian Tank Battalion members at Holy Rood Church in Wool around Remembrance Day. Lance Corporal Vernon Ward and Private Ivan Tremayne Green were buried in the churchyard in Dorset, England, in October 1918.

The Canadian flags first caught the attention of Lieutenant-Commander (ret’d) Rick Wall of Campbell River, B.C.

“My brother-in-law and I were amazed that someone continues to care for and place small Canadian flags in front of the graves, even though these soldiers died over a hundred years ago and were buried five thousand kilometres from Canada,” Wall said.

He sent pictures of the flags on the graves to The Trumpeter, a Royal Canadian Hussars Association newsletter. Current and former members of the armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Army Reserves publish it. They issued a story in their December 2022 edition and asked their readers who were behind the good deed.

“We do not know who is following the tradition of placing flags on the graves in Wool churchyard but if we did, we would commend them for this act of remembrance,” wrote Master Corporal (ret’d) Louis Lamarre.

Canada Connections

The mystery has since unravelled. The flag placer is Rod Webb, a retired Royal Fleet Auxiliary Senior Radio Officer. He and his late wife Gill Webb started placing the flags on the Canadian soldiers’ graves in 2013.

“My wife had discovered her Canadian family and we both thought this would be a good thing to do for Remembrance Day,” Webb wrote via email.

Gill found out her father was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and served in the Canadian Army in 1939 as an Intelligence Officer stationed in England. The couple researched Gill’s ancestry and found she had Canadian relatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“No one from Canada has ever expressed their thanks [for the flags] until recently because no one knew about it,” he said.

The churchyard’s 72 graves for service members are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The family has no connection to Lance Corporal Ward and Private Green.

Rod has a personal connection to Canada and Vancouver Island. He previously served aboard the helicopter Training Ship Engadine of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. In 1974, he and his shipmates were stationed at Nanoose Bay, where they tested torpedoes.

“I still remember we were made to feel very welcome by the locals and that really stuck with me,” he said.

The stories of the soldiers

The mystery of the flags led The Trumpeter to find more information about the deceased soldiers.

The 1st Canadian Tank Batallion was formed in 1918 by university students, Royal Northwest Mounted Police Cavalry members and mechanically-inclined volunteers from across Canada.

“The unit underwent initial training in Canada, and then in June 1918, was sent to England for training on tanks which were very new at the time,” Lamarre said. “The war was over on Nov. 11, 1918, before the battalion was deployed to France.”

Before enrolling, Lance Corporal Vernon Ward was a banker from Regina who had prior service in the Reserves with the 35 Alberta Horse and the 19th Canadian Dragoons. He was 27 years old when he died on Oct. 29, 1918.

Private Ivan Tremayne Green was a teacher from Toronto with no prior military service. He was 20 years old when he died on Oct. 21, 1918.

Both soldiers died of pneumonia as the global flu pandemic (Spanish Flu) swept England. Pneumonia was also a leading cause of death before Penicillin was discovered in the 1940s.


The gravesite of Canadian First World War soldier Lance-corporal Vernon Ward. The soldier is buried at cemetery at Holy Rood, Church in Wool, England. Credit: Rick Wall.


The following is a list of military graves in Wool Churchyard:

Tank Corps/Tank Regiments

  • 30222 Private J R BADCOCK Tank Corps. October 1918
  • 2684288 Lance Corporal V WARD First Canadian Tank Btn Oct 1918
  • 2365804 Private IT Green First Canadian Tank Btn Oct 1918
  • Second Lieutenant G McCORMACK Tank Corps Oct 1918
  • 320530 Private P S SHAW Tank Corps Dec 1920
  • Boy C H W SAMPSON Tank Corps 1921 (aged 16)
  • Private  R E Ryder Tank Corps May 1923
  • Sergeant W G K MILNE Royal Tank Corps 1935
  • Major W S STYLES Royal Tank Regiment 1945
  • Second Lieutenant H R COOKE Royal Tank Regiment
  • Fredrick VINES Royal Tank Corps 1924
  • Private J INNES Royal Tank Corps 1925
  • Private J KERNAN Royal Tank Corps 1925
  • Sergeant H F KINGABY Royal Tank Corps 1927
  • 786758 Private N ADAMS Royal Tank Corps 1926
  • Private T E FISHER Royal Tank Corps 1925
  • 23891135 Trooper M DALEY Royal Tank Regiment 1964
  • 7884474 WO1 (RSM) E WALL Royal Tank Regiment 1957
  • Private A E PARSON Royal Tank Corps 1927
  • Private  H GATEHOUSE Royal Tank Corps 1928
  • Private G Horsley Royal Tank Corps 1929
  • 7871245 WO11 (CSM) D BLACK Royal Tank Corps 1933
  • Lance/Corporal F D McFARLANE Royal Tank Corps 1929
  • Corporal C W WALLACE Royal Tank Corps
  • Corporal W SHARP Royal Tank Corps 1929
  • 7884480 Sydney POLLEY Royal Tank Corps 1934
  • 5495381 WO1 H W C GOWER Royal Tank Regiment 1954
  • Private H H J SIMKINS Royal Tank Corps 1934
  • Private T H GRAINGER Royal Tank Corps 1932
  • 7877449 Bandsman J ANDREWS Royal Tank Corps 1932

Royal Armoured Corps and Mounted Regiments

  • 318967 T/Sergeant John A S BARKBY 12th Royal Lancers 1939
  • 7942961 Trooper S C NORTHFIELD Royal Armoured Corps October 1941
  • 7888714 Trooper I DOLMAN Royal Armoured Corps November 1939
  • Lieutenant L B E LLOYD First Canadian Mounted Rifles Oct 1918
  • Trooper J W CARTER Royal Armoured Corps 1941
  • 7872216 L/Sergeant E H WELLER Royal Armoured Corps 1942
  • 7871351 WO11 (QMS) A S G LOWE Royal Armoured Corps 1947
  • 25662887 Junior Trooper J M S SAUNDER Royal Armoured Corps 1960
  • 7887619 J L TAGG Royal Armoured Corps 1939
  • 14278495 Trooper J S DAY Royal Armoured Corps 1943
  • 5584354 Corporal A A LESTER Royal Armoured Corps 1945
  • Captain A A G ASHTON First Royal Dragoons 1956
  • 7900351 Officer Cadet P A WADE Royal Armoured Corps 1940
  • Second Lieutenant M C NIVEN Eleventh Hussars Royal Armoured Corps 1940
  • 14684269 Trooper T TELFORD Royal Armoured Corps 1944

Military Personnel of other Regiments but who presumably served at Bovington

(of note some of these date to World War One and may have been billeted there or in Wareham)

  • 20966 Private RICHARDSON Ox and Bucks Light Infantry 1915
  • 5970 Private LEONARD Lancashire Fusiliers 1915
  • 4355 Private WATTERSON Manchester regiment 1914
  • 16652 Private BROWN Royal Berkshire Regiment 1915
  • 23706 Private AYERS Wiltshire Regiment 1916
  • 23084 Private ROSE Ox and Bucks Light Infantry 1916
  • 18755 Private CONIBERE Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1916
  • WR/337640 Pioneer ROUTLEDGE Royal Engineers 1918
  • 91868 Gunner SOIZANO Machine Gun Corps 1917
  • 25062 Private MERRYWEATHER Royal Berkshire Regiment 1916
  • 10992 Lance/Corporal SLATER Ox and Bucks Light Infantry 1916
  • 7014010 Rifleman BAXTER Royal Ulster Rifles 1939
  • 5028 Private HAYES Sixteenth Royal Australian Infantry 1916
  • 34757 Private H HAYWARD Royal Defence Corps  (originally 3972 Gloucestershire Rgt) 1917
  • 52130 Private WELLER Devonshire Regiment 1918
  • 5725218 Private SIMMONDS Dorset Regiment 1939
  • 13095403 Private Mc TAGGART Pioneer Corps 1942
  • 6912978 Rifleman CAVE Rifle Brigade 1939
  • 1401344 Bty Sergeant Major SIMMONDS Royal Garrison Artillery
  • 7575160 Lance/Corporal LOWE RAOC 1924
  • 527112 Private EAST
  • 46641 Private ROOKE Dorset Regiment 1920
  • 5731334 Gunner MARCANTONIO Royal Artillery 1942
  • Major C T WALLINGTON RAOC and REME 1943
  • Captainain GA STRACHAN RAPC 1971
  • 7401074 Corporal JARRETT RAMC 1945
  • 14637074 Driver G J WIDOWS Royal Signals 1944
  • Lieutenant A HURRELL RASC
  • JCA/193148 Craftsman CAMBELL REME 1947
  • 1555545 Private BICKEMAS REME 1943
  • C BULL RAOC 1932

(Left) Retired Royal Navy Senior Radio Officer Rod Webb and Tony Smale attend the gravesites of Canadian First World War soldiers buried in a cemetery at Holy Rood Church in Wool, England. Webb says he has been placing Canadian flags at the gravesites each Remembrance Day but his identity was previously a mystery. Photo: Rod Webb.



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