Stories of Vimy—and Parkdale boys…

W. John Maize, a member of Parkdale CI Alumni Association, and former Head of History at the school, responded to our November 11, 2015 blog post Vimy Cross fragment brought home for a Parkdale boy.

Quietly munching near the Vimy cross...a deer then stands to gaze steadily at a visitor. (Photo courtesy John Maize)
Quietly munching near the Vimy cross… a deer then stands to gaze steadily at a visitor. (Photo courtesy John Maize)

“I was fascinated to see the photo of the Jones family stone and to read your write-up…I went to visit it almost immediately and was moved by the inscription and by the Vimy cross. There are a number of families whose ‘Parkdale’ sons were killed or died as a result of military service buried at Park Lawn, and I took the opportunity to visit several of them as a result of your Jones article.

A story from that day in early December when I visited Park Lawn in search of the Jones grave… I had parked my car at the office, received general directions to the area of the grave and was wandering slowly, reading stones. A sudden movement attracted my attention near the Jones gravesite—and I spotted a large male white-tailed deer lying behind two stones, munching on greenery. I was stunned, with Bloor Street nearby…he stood and continued grazing…I watched him and he me for five minutes or so before I broke away to find the stone. I didn’t see him again, but it was an incredible experience, and a strong connection to life in amongst the dead.”

Mr. Maize, who was on the Parkdale staff from 1979 to 2013, continues to work in the school’s Nellie Spence Archive Room, and added, “Many thanks for the info that the Parkdale CI war memorials were up on the website. It is an excellent contribution to the project. I have included an article on the war memorials which I wrote shortly before Remembrance Day this year—there are so many new Parkdale staff that I wanted them to understand a bit more about the school’s heritage and past.”

George Rathbone
George Rathbone’s parents searched in vain for their son’s remains. He was shot down near Vimy by the “Red Baron.”

The following is an excerpt from Mr. Maize’s article:

“In her memoir on the Parkdale boys in World War I, Their Name Liveth, Nellie Spence documents a number of families where one parent or the other was never able to recover from the shock of their loved-one’s death, and who passed away shortly thereafter. Some families travelled to Europe to try to find word of their boy and the location of his remains.

In 1921, Mr. and Mrs. George Rathbone travelled to the area around Vimy to try to find information concerning their son, Lieutenant George Rathbone, reported missing in April 1917 while doing artillery observation work over German lines with the Royal Flying Corps – he and his pilot had been reported shot down by the German “ace” Manfred von Richtofen.

The Rathbones were unable to find the last resting place of their son, but did find the grave of former Parkdalian Harry Saxon Pell, another pilot who had been declared missing two weeks before Rathbone. His remains were located in a German cemetery near Vimy. His body was retrieved and reburied in a British cemetery shortly thereafter.

The Pell family, at least, had a measure of closure with respect to their son Harry; sadly, their son Will was declared “missing, presumed dead” one year after Harry’s disappearance. Will is commemorated at the Arras Flying Services Memorial, as is his classmate George Rathbone.”

Harry and Willard Pell
Left: Downed flying over Vimy to destroy German observation balloons. Harry Pell’s grave in a German cemetery was discovered by George Rathbone’s parents. He was reburied in a Commonwealth War Grave. Right: Last seen battling four German planes, Willard Pell was reported missing a year after his brother’s death. No known grave.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One thought on “Stories of Vimy—and Parkdale boys…”