Gateway Gazette

Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson Given Proper Burial 72 Years Later

Pte Duncanson enlisted in the Canadian army in Listowel, Ontario on 24 August 1942. Image used with permission from Pte Duncanson's family.
Pte Duncanson enlisted in the Canadian army in Listowel, Ontario on 24 August 1942. Image used with permission from Pte Duncanson’s family.

Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson was born on 7 June 1915 in Wallacetown, Ontario. He married Mabel Lillian Haggarty in 1939 and lived in Dutton, Elgin County, Ontario. At the time of his enlistment, he was a truck driver for Strathcona Creamery, but his goal was to own and operate his own grocery

An announcement confirming Private Duncanson’s death was made on 7 June 1945. Photo credits: The Dutton Advance, 7 June 1945, page 1
An announcement confirming Private Duncanson’s death was made on 7 June 1945. Photo credits: The Dutton Advance, 7 June 1945, page 1

store. On 24 August 1942, five days after 2nd Canadian Division conducted the raid on Dieppe, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to infantry training in camps at Ipperwash and Stratford, Ontario.

On 14 September 1943 he embarked for England and was assigned to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (3CIRU). In preparation for the Normandy invasion he was transferred to The Algonquin Regiment on 17 April 1944 as a rifleman. His Regiment embarked for France on 20 July 1944 as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division. He participated in the fighting in the final phases of the Normandy Campaign, including the Falaise Pocket. He was involved in the pursuit of the German Army across the Seine and the Canadian Army’s move north in the battles leading up to the Battle of the Scheldt in Belgium and the Netherlands. According to witness accounts, Private Duncanson died on the morning of 14 September 1944 from wounds received during a German counterattack which forced the Algonquins to withdraw back across the Leopold Canal and the Dérivation de Lys. Private Duncanson was declared “Missing in Action” as of 17 September 1944, then “Killed in Action” as of 31 May 1945, but his body was not recovered. Following the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) engraved his name on panel 11 of the Groesbeek Memorial in the Netherlands with those of other soldiers who have no known grave.

On 11 November 2014, local men using a metal detector discovered human remains in a farmer’s field near Molentje, Belgium. The discovery of the remains was reported to the Belgian Police, who recovered a small number of bones and four BREN Light Machine Gun magazines, which were then transferred to the CWGC. The partial remains were determined to be those of a Canadian soldier from the Second World War. After extensive historical and forensic anthropological research by the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH), the remains were determined to be one of the eight missing soldiers from The Algonquin Regiment that fought near Moerkerke, Belgium, on 13-14 September 1944. The remains of this casualty were recovered by DHH in cooperation with the Belgian Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service in April 2016, along with numerous artefacts including a gold signet ring, a compass, two combs, a razor, shaving cream, a wallet and a toothbrush.

Members of the Belgian Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service and DHH begin the recovery of the rest of Private Duncanson’s remains in April 2016. Photo credit: DHH
Members of the Belgian Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service and DHH begin the recovery of the rest of Private Duncanson’s remains in April 2016. Photo credit: DHH

With the assistance of the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team (CF FORT), as well as historical, genealogical, anthropological and archaeological analysis, DHH was able to confirm the identity of the remains as Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson on 27 April 2016.

The internment of Private Duncanson at the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery took place on 14 September 2016. Members of Private Duncanson’s family, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) attended the ceremony.

A gold wedding ring was found with Private Duncanson’s remains. The ring has a small diamond and the initials KDD on the face. Photo credit: Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service
A gold wedding ring was found with Private Duncanson’s remains. The ring has a small diamond and the initials KDD on the face. Photo credit: Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service

 

A compass recovered with Private Duncanson’s equipment. After being buried for over seventy years the needle still pointed north. Photo credit: DHH
A compass recovered with Private Duncanson’s equipment. After being buried for over seventy years the needle still pointed north. Photo credit: DHH

For further information on Private Duncanson you can view his personnel file at Library and Archives Canada.

Conservators of the Canadian Conservation Institute opened the small wooden box and discovered the bracelet. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Conservators of the Canadian Conservation Institute opened the small wooden box and discovered the bracelet. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Back of the Identification Bracelet found with Pte Duncanson after restoration by Canadian Conservation Institute. It is inscribed with the words “Love Lillian”. Pte Duncanson's wife was Mabel Lillian Duncanson. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Back of the Identification Bracelet found with Pte Duncanson after restoration by Canadian Conservation Institute. It is inscribed with the words “Love Lillian”. Pte Duncanson’s wife was Mabel Lillian Duncanson. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Front of the Identification Bracelet found with Pte Duncanson after restoration by Canadian Conservation Institute. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Front of the Identification Bracelet found with Pte Duncanson after restoration by Canadian Conservation Institute. © Government of Canada, Canadian Conservation Institute
Pte Duncanson can be seen here wearing the Identity Bracelet on his right wrist. During restoration Canadian Conservation Institute Conservators discovered that the bracelet’s clasp was broken. This may explain why Pte Duncanson was not wearing it when he was killed and instead kept it in the small wooden box.
Pte Duncanson can be seen here wearing the Identity Bracelet on his right wrist. During restoration Canadian Conservation Institute Conservators discovered that the bracelet’s clasp was broken. This may explain why Pte Duncanson was not wearing it when he was killed and instead kept it in the small wooden box.

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