The gravesite of a Grand Forks resident who lied about his age to join the First World War effort has a new headstone.
Grand Forks’ Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven, who was actually 16 years old when he enlisted in January of 1916, is buried in Shrewsbury, England and according to Philip Morris of the Shropshire War Memorial Association, he died on April 21, 1917 from wounds (to his face and jaw) sustained at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Morris first brought Heaven’s situation to the attention of the Grand Forks Gazette back in 2010.
Heaven was awarded a military medal on Nov. 11, 1916 for his part in the Battle of Somme and while time had taken its toll on his grave marker, he now has a new one thanks to the efforts of a group in England, including Morris.
“I came across Cpl. Heaven’s story by accident when I was looking around the cemetery for another war grave and I came across his grave when I noticed the word Canadian and MM,” Morris said in an email. “After brushing away the weeds and other debris, I then realized it was a war grave and a very important one. After my research on the soldier, I realized things needed to be put in place to have his grave restored, or possibly a new military headstone to replace the old, which was in very bad condition.”
Morris said that although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) recorded Heaven’s name, the gravestone had never been cared for.
“This was because he had a headstone, which was paid for by his family when the headstone distribution started in the 1920s. Alfred’s grave was left because of his private stone and after 95 years, his original stone had been left to the elements, so after I contacted the CWGC, with the help of Clive Blakeway (Shropshire War Memorials Officer), two years later they replaced his old stone with that of a new military one,” Morris explained.
About 50 people attended the ceremony in Shrewsbury, which was presided over by retired army chaplain Rev. Philip Niblock.
Canadian representatives at the ceremony were Major Lynnett McKay, 29 Royal Logistic Corps Canadian Army, and Justin McKay from the Canadian Army (retired).
The dignitaries and guests were Sir Charles Soames, High Sherriff Major John Abrahams, Major David Thomas (Light Infantry), Clive Blakeway (Shropshire War Memorial Association), Neil Evens (Shropshire War Memorial Association) and Ken Bishop (Shropshire War Memorial Association).
Morris laid a wreath at the ceremony on behalf of the City of Grand Forks.
Heaven’s name is on the cenotaph in front of Grand Forks’ city hall.
– Written with great assistance from Philip Morris of the Shropshire War Memorial Association