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Below is a local mystery,
which originates during the war years,
in the Terrace area.
Name we are trying to locate
While doing manoeuvres in the Zymoetz (Copper) river area
the military had some serious accidents.
Not much was written about these accidents
in the newspapers of the time.
Probably as to not demoralize the troops, and future recruits.
Anyway the following part of a tree, which is engraved,
was found by George Therrien of Usk, about 17 miles up the Copper
in a waste pile of wood.
It was given to Bill McRae, who cleaned and varnished it,
and gave it to the Heritage Park Museum.
P.W.R. Pte. Berger
Bn. H.Q. Coy
May 7, 1944
PWR= Prince of Wales Rangers (Peterbourgh Regiment) R.C.I.C.
Battalion Headquarter Company
Now we don't know if this is in Memory of a Soldier that
drowned on the river,
or was it a, "I was here", engraving?
you know anything about this Soldier, please send me a note
Reason we are not sure if it was for a
fellow that drowned
we have the following notes and articles
that were sent to me today.
So who was Pte. Berger? A request was
put in the Legion Magazine in 2001.
It wasn’t until 2004 that a letter was
received from a veteran, Harold Fidler, of Hanover, Ontario, who had
been with the Prince of Wales Rangers, Peterborough unit in the
Terrace area in the 1940’s. Fidler told the story that a group of
soldiers went up the Copper River on a training exercise.
They were to cross the river to an island
and spend the night. They cut a tree and laid it across the river
to form a bridge to the island. One soldier became dizzy while
crossing and fell into the river. The rushing water caught the
80-pound pack on the man’s back, causing him to be carried away.
His comrades made an attempt to rescue him but failed. His buddies
had carved his name on a tree, and according to Mr. Fidler, he had seen
them doing the carving. He could not recall a name.
Thinking the carving was in memory of Berger, the McRae’s put
the article in a Peterborough Newspaper, asking if anyone recalled the
accident. The only reply was from Hal Webb who recalled the
accident, but not the name,
He was able to give Berger’s army number, which was L-609364, from a
list of soldiers that he obtained.
Mystery solved? Not so! In 2006, a
visitor to Terrace made inquiries about his father, Pte. C. Matts,
who had been here in the army and was drowned in the Zymoetz River
while crossing a log. He had several newspaper clippings
telling of the accident.
"SOLDIER DROWNS IN MANOEUVRES -
Toronto, May 17 (year unknown) (actually May 10, 1944)
Swept away in a mountain stream in
British Columbia on May 14. Pte. C. Matts of Toronto was drowned.
According to reports his body has not yet been recovered.
Pte. Matts was one of a party of 180 who left Terrace, B.C. to travel to
Smithers, some 90 miles away, over bush and mountain trails and
across rivers. Ninety men were crossing a turbulent river on a
log bridge, clinging to hand ropes. Matts overbalanced, but clung
to a rope. Then he lost his grip, fell into the water, and was swept
The War Diary of the Prince of Wales
Rangers was checked, and on their report for May 13, 1944, it reads,
“81 men who left for Smithers with “B” Coy, returned today bearing
the sad news of the death of one of the party. In crossing a fast
flowing river on a fallen tree, Pte. C. W. Matts (B-620357) of the
Signal Platoon, lost his footing and plunged into the ice cold water.
Burdened with an 80 lb. pack, he had no chance and he was swept
We now know this was
Charles Wilfred Matts,
see info below
Dec. 1, 1943- Terrace Omineca Herald
Two Soldiers Lost Their Lives in
"Two soldiers lost their lives around noon
on Wednesday, (Dec 1) when training operations were being carried on in the
slough at the north end of
. At the time of the
accident five men were crossing from the Island on a raft which
tipped, spilling four into the water. One man managed to get back
onto the raft and a third was picked up by boats that were close
by. The other two went down. Dragging operations were started
immediately and about mid-afternoon both bodies were recovered."
Mr. Fidler had mentioned about the other
drowning, so looked at the old newspapers for 43 and 44. There is
very little mention of the army in any of the papers. Nothing about
the drowning up the Copper on May 7th but there was the above item
- so Mr. Fidler was right about that story, although he said three.
Charles Wilfred Matts, B-620357
b- Feb 20, 1916 in ON
d- May 10, 1944, age 28
body not recovered
Drowned near Terrace BC
HQ file- 869-M-6540
Panel 54, Plaque 16, Halifax Memorial Part 2
next of kin- Mother- Mrs Nelly "Ellen" Matts, nee Clark (possibly)
32 Wyatt Ave, Toronto, ON
Father- William Matts, same address
father was a Press Hand in 1921 in Toronto
Brothers, Frank and Edward
all born in ON
So now you can see the confusion.
If you know any of the men, involved in these incidents,
please let me know
in Kitsumgallum, "Terrace Pioneer" Cemetery
am an Amateur Historian, and Genealogist.
I use every source I can find, old newspapers, census, archives,
I do a quick search for the names on these pages.
Therefore I do NOT profess to have 100% accurate information.
Use my info as a clue to do your own research.
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I encourage everyone to visit their local Museum,
or buy a local history book for more info.
I attempt to connect people with their ancestor in these places.
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