- Birth 1907 in Prince Edward Island
- Death 18 Jan 1944 in Arielli, Ortona, Italy
This is a man who I would love to be able to speak with. I’ve watched a NFB silent black and white film about the battles in December 1943 -January 1944 in Ortona and it saddens me to think about the pain/misery/cold/fear and darkness that these young boys must have experienced. It saddens me that Joseph lost his life nearing the conclusion to this particular battle, on January 17, 1944.
- In June 2001, our dear family friend, Padre Stan Self, traveled back to Europe, to revisit and pay respects to the many fallen Canadian soldiers who had lost their lives. My parents had shared the name of our uncle and so Stan visited Joseph’s final resting place. Here, I will publish the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Details as they refer to my great uncle.
- Rank LCpl
Initials J E Joseph Emmanuel Gallant
Regiment: Perth Regiment RC.L.I
Service #: F60174
Date of Death – January 17 1944
Commemoration – Moro River Cemetery, Italy, Plot 10 Row A Grave 1
- The Canadians had crossed the Moro River against stiff opposition on December 6, 1943 and captured Ortona on the 28th, after a week of bitter street fighting. The cemetery contains the graves of those who died during, before and after that period. In December 1943 alone, the 1st Canadian Division suffered 500 fatalities.
- Directions for driving to Great Uncle Joseph’s resting place. San Donoto-commune of Ortona, Province of Chreti, east of the main Adriatic coast Road SS16, autostrada A25-A14
From the Moro river canadian cemetery site, the following context
On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Allied objectives were to draw German troops from the Russian front and more particularly from France, where an offensive was planned for the following year.
Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October, the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. The Allied force that had fought its way up the Adriatic took the Sangro river positions by 30 November. The 1st Canadian Division went on to cross the Moro river on 6 December against stiff opposition, and to take Ortona on the 28th, after a week of bitter street fighting. The 2nd New Zealand division made some advances further inland but thereafter, there was virtually no movement east of the Appennines until after the fall of Rome.
The site of the cemetery was chosen by the Canadian Corps in January 1944. It contains the graves of those who died during that fighting at Moro river and Ortona, and during the weeks that preceded and followed it. In December 1943 alone, the 1st Canadian Division suffered over 500 fatal battle casualties. Burials other than those of members of the Canadian forces are almost all in plots 12, 13 and 16.
Moro River Canadian War Cemetery contains 1,615 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.
Uncle Joe is commemorated on Page 311 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance.
With the loss of her husband, Joseph, Mary Millicent (Millie) Poirier Perry Gallant married Louis Richardson Hogan. Millie and Lou lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia and were friends with James Perry’s Uncle Gussie and Aunt Beatrice, his mother’s brother. The image of Millie and Lou, below, is cropped out of the family photograph on St. Paul’s Church steps after Mamie’s funeral in 1964.
I read Joe’s military file the other evening. There were a few documents that I wanted to save to Joe’s story. First, his Attestation Papers…especially as it relates to Joseph’s appearance. At only 5’9″ and 134 lbs, I reflect on the humanity of the soldiers who were called up to service. Joe is listed as a Laborer, but in recent research, I discovered one of my ancestors who was a Florist, prior to going to war. These men came from all walks of life.
Next, I wanted to save, to my archives my Great Uncle’s documents at the time of his loss, first, listed as MIA and next, KIA. I wonder about the devastating news being delivered with such formality. We see such moments in various movies…and read about them in novels…but, imagine this moment in real time. Horrific!
Both his mother and his wife would have received medals some time after this letter. I found several letters that Millicent wrote in her own hand to the powers-that-be, struggling to receive financial support that was coming to her…one letter was particularly poignant where she is asking for 76.00 before Christmas…one pleading for Joseph’s personal effects. I’m posting a list of these items. I think that they speak of what is important when we strip all other things away.
May my Great Uncle rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon him.