Grand Forks resident Penny Mansell, second from right, lays a wreath on the grave of Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven while visiting family in Shrewsbury, U.K. Heaven lied about his age to enlist in the army in Grand Forks in 1916. Mansell arranged the visit with Philip Morris, left, Michael Hatfield, second from left, and Bob Davies, right. Photo courtesy of Philip Morris.

Grand Forks woman lays wreath at grave of local soldier buried in England

Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian army in 1916


While visiting family in Shrewsbury, U.K., Grand Forks resident Penny Mansell took time out to attend the grave of a fallen countryman, Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven of the 102nd Canadian Infantry, who died of wounds at Berrington War Hospital in Shrewsbury on April 21, 1917, aged 18.

Mansell, who grew up in Shrewsbury and emigrated to Canada in 1965, came across the story Cpl. Heaven and the work of Bob Davies and Philip Morris while volunteering in the Grand Forks city archives. Davies and Morris have come to regularly place flowers and tend to the grave of Cpl. Heaven.

The retired insurance broker contacted the two men to arrange a meeting in Shrewsbury when she was visiting her brother there earlier in May. One thing she said she wanted to do was to visit the grave and pay her respects by placing a poppy wreath on behalf of the City of Grand Forks. Mansell also placed poppy crosses on the graves of two other Canadian soldiers who died of their injuries in the Great War.

Only a boy

Cpl. Heaven was born on April 1, 1899, in Oakville, Ont. to parents Claude Cooksley and Helen Francis Heaven. He enlisted in the army in Grand Forks at the age of 16, though he declared on his enlisting papers that he was two years older. After training, Cpl. Heaven landed in France on Aug. 11, 1916. He spent several months in the firing line and was awarded a military medal for gallantry on the Somme Sector on Nov. 11, 1916.

“Although only a boy, he took hold of the situation after the attack had reached its objective,” the official medal citation reads, praising Heaven’s ability to organize his fellow soldiers.

Five months after being award the medal, Cpl. Heaven was seriously wounded at Vimy Ridge and was sent to the Berrington War Hospital in Shrewsbury on April 19, 1917. He died two days later from wounds to his jaw and face. Cpl. Heaven is buried at the Shrewsbury General Cemetery.

In 2010, the grave was found in a bad state of repair and historians Morris and Davies, along with Clive Blakway, Ken Bishop and Mike Hatfield, led a project to restore it. To preserve their work, Davies built a stone frame to enclose the grave.

After being cleaned up and marked my a new military headstone, a service of commemoration and remembrance was held in September 2012, led by Shrewsbury Rev. Philip Niblock and attended by members of the Canadian military, while a bugle major played the last post.

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