The 117th Eastern Townships Overseas Battalion, CEF
"The only Eastern Townships Battalion to leave Canada"
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THE AULIS DOG TAGS
One only needs to take a walk across the Great War battlefields of France and Belgium to understand the phrase "the ground always gives back what it takes". Although the fighting ended in 1918, items of war including helmets, rifles, wire, and sadly human remains have been routinely uncovered in farmer's fields and building sites throughout France and Belgium. The unearthing of artillery rounds from the fields of Varlet Farm near Passchendeale is so routine that Belgian bomb disposal make regular pick-ups every few months rather than the farmer call everytime munitions are uncovered. As the ground continues to give back what it took, these found items serve, not only as a constant reminder of the Great War, but as opportunity to further research the brave men who fought, and died, over 90 years ago.
In May 2008, I received an email from a certain Chantal Lemoine who lives in Houdain, France inquiring how she could find the living relatives of Pte Edward Aulis. After the exchange of a few emails, it was revealed that in 1993, Ms. Lemoine, while digging in her backyard garden, had found a "medallion" with the name, unit, and regimental number of 748460 Pte Edward Aulis. Ms. Lemoine was now eager to find a relative and return the medallion to the family.
In June 2008, I posted a message to the "Rootsweb" Eastern Townships message board seeking contact with any relatives of Edward Aulis. Within 2 weeks I received a reply from a distant Aulis relative who told me that there were still Aulis family members living in the Eastern Townships and that inquiries would be made among the Aulis family circle to get any information that may help my search. Many months passed without any further contact from Aulis relatives.
In the meantime, I had informed Ms. Lemoine that I had made initial contact with the Aulis family and was awaiting further information. Ms. Lemoine was still eager to return the medallion and told me that she would be looking forward to hearing from me.
A few weeks later , I received an email from Rootsweb message board indicating that someone had responded to my original message. This was the email that I was waiting for. Indeed, another Aulis relative had responded and indicated that they knew the descendants of Edward Aulis.
By mid-June 2008, I was in contact with the great niece of Edward Aulis, Patricia Aulis who is living in the Stanstead, Quebec. I quickly exchanged the contact information with both Ms Lemoine and Ms Aulis to ensure that at least one of them would contact each other.
As all good things come to those who wait, I was informed by Ms Aulis that on 12 March 2009, she had received a package from Ms Lemoine.
As it turns out, the medallion, in fact, is one half of the dog tags that Edward Aulis would have been wearing around his neck at the time of his death.
This precious item of Aulis family history was rightfully returned to the Aulis family some 92 years after the death of Edward Aulis.
748460 Private Edward Aulis was serving with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles at the time of his death on 24 May 1917.
Further research is required to determine how this dog tag made its way to Houdain. At the time of Private Aulis's death, During May 1917, 5th CMR was operating in the area of Vimy taking part in the Vimy Defences. Ecoivres Military Cemetery is approximately 10 kilometers west of Vimy. However, the village of Houdain is approximately 15 kilometers north-west of Vimy. It is likely that there was a field hospital or a casualty clearing station located in the vicinity of Houdain. If so, it is possible that Edward Aulis was evacuated from Vimy to Houdain where he was tended to prior to being moved to his final resting place at Ecoivres.
(front and rear scan of 748460 Private E Aulis 5th CMR dog tag)