Four Canadian soldiers from the First World War were laid to rest today with military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France. The families of the four soldiers were in attendance, with the support of Veterans Affairs Canada.
On May 22, 2018, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced the identification of the remains of three Canadian soldiers from the First World War found near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, as Private William Del Donegan, 20, Private Henry Edmonds Priddle, 33, and Sergeant Archibald Wilson, 25. All three soldiers enlisted in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They died on August 16, 1917, in the Battle of Hill 70, as members of the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Canadian Scottish), Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), a unit perpetuated by The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) of Victoria, B.C.
On May 28, 2018, DND and the CAF announced the identification of the remains of a fourth Canadian soldier from the First World War, found at the site of a construction project in Lens, France, as Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas, of Chewale, South Wales, UK, and Birch Ridge, N.B. Private Thomas was a member of the 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick), CEF, a unit perpetuated by The Royal New Brunswick Regiment of Fredericton, N.B. He died on August 19, 1917, at the age of 28, in the Battle of Hill 70.
“We are grateful for the support of our international partners who made today’s events possible. As we mark this year the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we remember and honour these four soldiers and the nearly 61,000 other brave Canadians who gave their lives in the defence of Canadian values in that horrible conflict. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“A century ago and half a world away, these soldiers gave so much for our country and we must remember their service and honour their sacrifices. To the families of Sergeant Wilson, Private Donegan, Private Priddle, and Private Thomas, Canada stands with you as your loved ones receive the dignified burial they are truly deserving of.”
Seamus O’Regan, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence
“The courage of these four brave soldiers and the families who supported them paved the way for victory in the First World War. We honour their selfless sacrifices, and we will never forget what they gave for Canada. Today’s ceremony also demonstrates that Canada will always remember and honour the sacrifices of those who have served.”
Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, Commander Military Personnel Command
“Although many years have passed since they were lost, it is meaningful to give these soldiers the dignity and respect of a military burial in a Commonwealth cemetery. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Mr. David Kettle, Brigadier-General (Ret.), Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- DND’s Casualty Identification Program aims to identify unknown soldiers when their remains are discovered, so that they may be buried with a name, by their regiment and in the presence of their family. The program fosters a sense of continuity and identity within the CAF by providing an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
- The Casualty Identification Program’s Casualty Identification Review Board, which includes participants from the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History, confirmed the identity of the four soldiers through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis.
- The Battle of Hill 70 took place 15-25 August 1917. It was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander in the First World War. Approximately 2,100 Canadians gave their lives in the battle, over 1,300 of whom have no known grave. The strategic high point of Hill 70 remained in allied hands until the end of the war.
- The CWGC commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive records archive. The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in over 150 countries.
- Private William Del Donegan
- Private Henry Edmonds Priddle
- Sergeant Archibald Wilson
- Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Source: National Defence