by Carolyn Patton
My Great Uncle fought at Vimy in WW1. He was Private Wellington Coolen, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1896. Before the Great War he was employed as a Fireman with the CPR, and was a member of the 63rd Regiment Halifax Rifles for 9 years. He was married to Elizabeth Coolen and lived on Sullivan Street on Halifax's North End. With the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the 85th Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders, and arrived in France in December 1916. He was transferred to the 13th Battalion Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch), and fought across Northern France & Flanders, in places like Arras, Passchendale & Amiens. As a member of the Black Watch, Private Coolen fought as a member of the First Canadian Division on the morning of 9 April 1917 at Vimy Ridge on the right flank, with the village of Thelus as the Divisional objective.
My Great Uncle was gassed near Arras in September 1918, and was invalided home to Canada by way of Princess Patricia's Hospital in England. He returned to his family, home and work on the CPR in Halifax. He died of his chronic lung issues a few years later.