While Philip Morris, a man from Shrewsbury, England, has never been to Grand Forks before, his interest in the First World War has linked him to the city.
He has been fascinated with the First World War since childhood, and it was because of this that he came across the story of a Grand Forks resident, Alfred Gyde Heaven.
According to the April 28, 1917 edition of the Grand Forks Gazette, Heaven, 18 years of age, died of wounds sustained in the war on April 21, 1917.
“In Loving Memory of Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven MM. of Grand Forks B.C. Born at Oakville, Ontario, Canada April 1st 1899. Died of Wounds April 21st 1917. Received at Vimy Ridge France,” is what is engraved on the headstone where he is buried.
“The grave of (Heaven) came to my attention some years ago while I was researching Shropshire soldiers who died of wounds or disease, and are buried in the Shrewsbury General cemetery,” explained Morris from his home in England in August of 2010.
“When I came across (his) grave, I could not believe how run down and neglected it was, at that first instance I cleaned what I could from his grave which was mostly overgrown weeds.”
Thanks in part to the work of Morris, the gravestone has since been replaced.
Based on information from a number of sources, including Brian Grey of the Boundary Historical Society (BHS), Morris was able to learn a lot.
Standing 5’ 7” with dark complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair and the son of Claude and Ellen Heaven, farmers from Grand Forks, Heaven enlisted with the 102nd Canadian Infantry on Jan. 26, 1916 after lying about his age; he said he was 18 years old when in fact, he was only 16.
After initial training, he and his battalion left for Liverpool, England aboard the S.S. Empress of Britain on June 20, 1916 and they arrived at their destination some eight days later.
He was sent to France, arriving at Le Havre on Aug. 28, and after fighting at Ypres for some months, he was promoted to Lance Corporal on Nov. 6.
After fighting on the Somme sector five days later, he was awarded the military medal for, “gallant conduct and remarkable ability and powers of command” amongst other things.
A promotion to full corporal came on Jan. 17, 1917 and on April 9, he and the 102nd battalion took part in the battle at Vimy Ridge where Heaven suffered some major injuries.
“It was during this action that Cpl. Heaven was seriously wounded in the jaw and face, this was a costly affair for the 102nd Battalion as they suffered over 300 casualties killed, wounded and missing,” Morris said.
After being sent to the Berrington War Hospital in Shrewsbury, where he arrived on April 19, he was found to be in serious condition and died of his wounds two days later at the age of 18.
There was a ceremony of remembrance for Heaven in Shrewsbury on Sept. 22.
Morris laid a wreath on behalf of the City of Grand Forks and Heaven’s name is on the cenotaph at Grand Forks City Hall.
– With files from the Aug. 13, 2010 issue of the Boundary Advertiser.