Where the Streets Get Their Names – Coyston Drive

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

For several years,  the City of Oshawa has had a policy on naming new streets, with an emphasis on names paying tribute to Oshawa’s war dead and veterans.  These streets, as well as others which relate to World War I or World War II, are denoted with a poppy on the street sign.

If you’re driving around the Oshawa, southeast of the Rossland/Harmony intersection, you’ll encounter Coyston Drive and Court, named after Robert Henry Coyston who died in 1916.

 

Robert was born in London, England on 4 March 1892, to Arthur and Clara (Wells) Coyston.  The family, which included siblings William, George, Alice, Ethel, and Laura, immigrated to Canada in April 1906, settling in Oshawa, Cedardale specifically.  On October 30, 1913, he married Ethel Millicent Hudson, and on December 4, 1914, they welcomed their son, Albert Robert.  Less than two years after their marriage, Robert enlisted into the military; his attestation papers are dated 12 June 1915, and they reveal that Robert had previous experience, serving for eight years with the militia.  His attestation papers also tell us that he stood at 5 feet 7 inches in height, had a medium  complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair.

Robert arrived in France on Mar 16, 1916, serving with the 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada. By all appearances, he was seeing success with the army, being promoted to sergeant on July 19, 1916.  A few short months later, Robert went missing in action during the Battle of Courcellette on October 8, 1916; he was later declared ‘Killed in Action.’  His wife received a memorial plaque and scroll, and his mother received a Memorial Cross.

After the end of WWI, the Adanac Military Cemetery was established in Miraumont, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France, the name taken from spelling Canada backwards; as per the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “graves were brought in from the Canadian battlefields around Courcelette and small cemeteries surrounding Miraumont,” and this is where Robert is laid to rest.

Robert Henry Coyston was one of 134 Oshawa citizens who went overseas in the First World War who never made it home.  His name is included on the monument in Memorial Park.  He was one of over 60,000 Canadians who were killed during the war.

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This November 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and is commemorated as Remembrance Day in Canada and other Commonwealth Nations.  May we always remember the sacrifices made by those who came before us.

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Courcelette Avenue

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Last November, in honour of Remembrance Day, I shared why Oshawa has poppies on certain street signs.  If you’re driving in Central Oshawa, streets like Verdun Road, Vimy Avenue, and St. Julien Street are marked with a red poppy on the corner.  Similar signs are also predominant in north Oshawa, where many streets have been named after Oshawa soldiers.

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Courcelette Avenue at Ritson Road

Found east off Ritson, between Olive and Eulalie, is Courcelette Avenue. Like Vimy and Verdun, Courcelette Avenue has been named in recognition of a World War I battle, and September 15 marked the 100th anniversary of its start.  This week long engagement was a part of the large Battle of the Somme.

"The Battle for Courcelette, 1918" by soldier and war artist Louis Weirter CWM 19710261-0788; Beverbrook Collection of War Art; Canadian War Museum. Accessed from the Canadian Encyclopedia
“The Battle for Courcelette, 1918” by
soldier and war artist Louis Weirter
CWM 19710261-0788; Beverbrook Collection of War Art; Canadian War Museum.

While the Battle for Courcelette didn’t have the decisive victory the Allies were hoping for, there were two major outcomes which forever changed warfare.   First, the ‘creeping barrage.’  Trench warfare had caused several stalemates during WWI; soldiers were careful to avoid the aptly-named No Mans Land.  With the creeping barrage, the soldiers walked behind the artillary barrage at a pace of 100 yards, or 91 metres, per lift.  As explained by the Canadian War Museum:

This barrage was not meant to destroy the enemy trench systems, although this sometimes happened, but to drive defenders into their protective dugouts. The infantry would closely follow the barrage, called ‘leaning on the barrage’, in order to cross No Man’s Land before enemy troops could emerge from cover to fire at them.

The other point of significant about this battle is that saw the use of tanks.  Only 1 of 6 of the tanks achieved its objective, and as described by the War Museum, the tanks were “mechanically unreliable and as slow as a walking person,” however, the impact of these machines were profound.  The psychological impact of tanks alone forever changed warfare.  Large, imposing and, fearsome, many German soldiers reportedly surrendered at the sight of them.

The Battle of Courcelette was the first battle of the Somme that saw Canadian participation, and in the end it saw 29,376 casualties.

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Courcelette Canadian Memorial; image from Veterans Affairs Canada

Courcelette Avenue first appears in Oshawa City Directories in 1923.


For more information on the Battle of Courcelette, please visit:

The Canadian War Museum

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Veterans Affairs Canada