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Rflmn. Kenneth Arthur Kolesar

Kenneth Arthur Kolesar, Rifleman
13th Battalion, 7th Brigade, Regina Regimental Rifles, R.C.I.C.,
First Canadian Army

Soldiers of the Regina Regimental Rifles - Battle of Moyland Wood, February 16, 1945

Even in the remoteness of North-Western Ontario, the cold fingers of War’s devastation can still be felt. With a population of less than 1000, Rainy River gave up her young men to answer the call of her country, to fight, and to die. Kenneth Arthur Kolesar was one of these men.

K.A. Kolesar was born on February 7, 1923 in Rainy River, Ontario. Kolesar’s life began with a solemn start as his birth mother died when he was only 11 days old. He was taken in and raised by his elder brother John, and his wife Elizabeth, who he came to regard as his parents. His adopted family consisted of his brothers Don and Norman and his sisters Florence and Muriel. Kenneth was the youngest of the five children.

Not much is known about Kolesar’s childhood, except that he completed grade 9, and at age 15 began working for Mr. J. Walker, the baker in Rainy River, as a truck driver. He never married.

On November 11, 1942, Kolesar traveled to Winnipeg, Manitoba and signed on to the #10 District Depot of the Canadian Army in the B Company Infantry Regiment.

Following his registration, Kolesar was transferred to the 103rd Canadian Army Basic Training Centre in Fort Garry, Manitoba on November 20. There he trained until he was transferred again on January 26, 1943 to the A15 Canadian Infantry Training Center at Shilo Camp in Manitoba. While there, Private Kolesar was transferred to the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada on January 30. On June 5 of that same year, Kolesar was taken on to the No. 2 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit, and by June 10 was a member of the Active Canadian Army in the United Kingdom.

From September, 1943 until February, 1944, Private Kolesar was part of the Canadian Reinforcement Unit and spent most of his time on guard duty. On February 14, Kolesar joined the Regina Regimental Rifles.

Formed on May 15, 1924, The Regina Regimental Rifles were primarily a reserve infantry regiment. The Regiment earned the nickname “The Johns” during World War Two due to the high number of “Farmer Johns” (men who lived a farming life before signing up with the army) within their ranks. By March 23, Kolesar was taken onto the Regina Rifles’ X3 List and later to the X-4 List on April 27. By May 17, Kolesar had been taken on to the X4 List of the Regina Regimental Rifles’ 9th Battalion.

Private Kolesar finally saw action on June 12 when he boarded a ship, with the rest of his regiment, and traveled to France. He landed the next day and was promoted to the rank of Rifleman. Rifleman Kolesar joined the 13th Battalion on October 29.

Kenneth Arthur Kolesar died on February 16, 1945. At this time, Koelsar’s unit, the 7th Brigade of the Regina Regimental Rifles, which included Kolesar’s 13th Battalion, was engaged in the Battle of Moyland Wood against the 1st German Parachute Division, as part of Operation Veritable. Operation Veritable was part of the Rhineland Campaign designed to take the land between the Rhine and Roer rivers in order to obtain a foothold in Germany.

During the Operation, the First Canadian Army Division was sent to clear Reichswald Forest, to break the Siegfried Line, and clear the Hochwald Forest near Kalkar, Germany. According to the Regina Regimental Rifles’ daily log, the attack began at 1:30 in the afternoon and by 3:30, A and C companies were meeting considerable resistance in the woods despite previously being reported as cleared by the British troops. B company attempted to enter the woods around 4:30. By 8:30 that evening, C company became almost completely surrounded and was forced to withdraw.

The Regina Regimental Rifles finally occupied the wood by February 21 with a loss of 485 men. Kolesar’s death report indicated that he was the second man killed in the battle.

While at Shilo Camp in Manitoba, Kolesar was admitted to the training centre’s military hospital for reasons unknown on Mach 1, 1943. He was discharged on the 13th.

On March 23, 1944 Kolesar was admitted to the Totland Bay Military Hospital on the Isle of Wight, England. His medical record indicates that his admission was for treatment of a blast wound sustained from a grenade during training. After six days in the hospital, Kolesar was released, fully recovered on March 29.

October 10, of the same year, saw Kolesar yet again hospitalized. This time, a shrapnel wound from an enemy artillery shell was the cause of injury. The injury was sustained to Koelsar’s lower left thigh and he was out of action for 12 days until he was released on October 22 from No. 12 Canadian General Hospital in England.

Kenneth Arthur Kolesar died on the 16 of February, 1945 at the age of 22. In his will, Rifleman Kolesar left all of his possessions to his mother, Elizabeth. The items left consisted of: photos, souvenir stamps, a United Church booklet, a 1000 Mark souvenir, a
copy of the New Testament, souvenir post cards, a letter, an identity bracelet and an identity disk. According to his military service records, Kolesar earned about $1.50 per day during the war.

During his time in the Canadian Army, Kolesar received numerous military distinctions. He received the War Medal for serving 28 days as a member of the armed forces between September 3, 1939 and September 2, 1945. Kolesar earned the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal by honourably serving for 18 months between September 3, 1939 and March 1, 1947. The Defense Medal was earned for serving six months in Britain between September 3, 1939 and May 8, 1945. He received the 1930-45 Star for serving actively for six months between September 2, 1939 and May 8, 1945. The France and Germany Star were received for serving for at least one day in France, Belgium, Holland or Germany between June 6, 1944 and May 8, 1945.

Originally, Koelsar was buried at a temporary grave site in Bedburg, Germany. However, he was exhumed and reburied at the Groesbeek Canadian Military Cemetery four miles South-East of Nijmegen, Holland so he could rest in proper military honour. He lies in grave 10, Row D, Plot 10 and his epitaph reads as follows:

In Memory of

H/103237, Regina Rifle Regiment, R.C.I.C.
who died age 22
on 16 February 1945
Son of John and Elizabeth Kolesar, of Rainy River, Ontario.
Remembered with honour

Groesbeek cemetery contains 2 338 graves and holds the largest number of Canadian soldiers in the Netherlands. The cemetery is located near the starting place of the Rhineland Campaign, the battle that took Kenneth’s life.

Kenneth Arthur Kolesar was an average young man who took on the solemn duty to fight for freedom in Europe. I myself am not that much younger than this brave man was when he died for his country, and this makes his story all the more powerful to me.

By: Josh Wilson