The grave of Mark Edward Berton sits in the Belgian portion of Flanders Field. A Belgian man is trying to find Berton’s family (File contributed/ Martijn Wouters)

Belgian man searches for family of fallen First World War soldier from Victoria

Mark Edward Berton attended Victoria High School and has his grave in Flanders Field

A man living in the middle of Flanders Field is looking for the family of a young soldier from Victoria.

Martijn Wouters lives in Belgium in an area full of the graves of foreign soldiers from the First and Second World War.

“There is so much respect for all these war victims,” Wouters said. “They came to fight here, far away from their motherland in a country with which they had no connection.”

Many of these soldiers have no family nearby, so two months ago Wouters decided to join the “Adopt a US Tommy” program, which ask volunteers to look after the graves of fallen soldiers.

Wouters became responsible for the grave of Mark Edward Berton and learned that he’d been born in France, had parents in San Francisco, and attended the Victoria High School in Victoria, B.C.

ALSO READ: CFB Esquimalt nurse selected for national Remembrance Day program

In the First World War, Berton signed up for the Canadian Army. He died on May 30, 1916 at the age of 17.

Since then, it’s unknown if any family members have visited. Now, Wouters is on a mission to find any remaining relatives Berton might have.

“I decided to look for relatives of Mark Berton just to let them know that someone on the other side of the world is visiting the grave of their uncle or grandfather…I think this is a reassuring feeling for them,” Wouters said. “I would like to tell them that he is not forgotten. That we will remember him and that there is a lot of respect from the people who live here for the sacrifice, he and his friends have made.”

ALSO READ: Oak Bay salutes veterans during emotional ceremony marking 100th anniversary of Armistice Day

So far Wouters knows that Berton’s mother and father were Gaston and Jeanne Jacquet Berton, and that they pair lived at 232 10th Avenue in San Francisco, California. Wouters has reached out to the San Francisco city archives and the Victoria city archives, but has yet to hear back.

He also reached out to Victoria High School and was able to attain a portrait of Berton from its archives, but was unable to find any relatives.

Wouters said he feels closer to Berton as he learns more.

“Looking after his grave becomes more and more special. The first time I visited it, it was just a grave like the others with a name on it,” Wouters said. “Now, I have a picture of Mark and I already know a little more about his background, so his grave is no longer like the other graves. You can put a face on the name, it creates a bond.”

Anyone who has information about Mark Edward Berton or his relatives can contact Wouters at martyn.wouters@gmail.com.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mark Edward Berton was 17 years old when he died during the First World War (File contributed/ Martijn Wouters)

Just Posted

Southern resident orca L41 considered missing and feared dead

The orca was last spotted in Aug. 2019 when photographed in western Strait of Juan de Fuca

West Shore Pickleball Association serves up idea for View Royal tennis court

‘We don’t have a place to call home’, says avid pickleball member

Indigenous youth arrested during 15-hour occupation to hold press conference Wednesday morning

The speakers are expected to condemn police, RCMP actions towards Indigenous people

VIDEO: Saanich family competes on first season of ‘Family Feud Canada’

Charania family will face off against the Torres family from Hamilton, Ont.

Oak Bay confirms first heritage conservation area

Heritage bylaw for The Prospect neighbourhood in final phase

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Off-duty Nanaimo Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Was there a tornado on Vancouver Island Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

Sooke Minor Fastball to host coaching clinic

Clinic ideal for those planning to coach U6 to U18 teams

POLL: Are you concerned about the coronavirus?

The coronavirus which has sparked concern around the globe has now arrived… Continue reading

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Most Read