A First World War soldier who could not be identified by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was today laid to rest with military honours at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 in Neuville-St. Vaast, France, within Canadian National Vimy Memorial Park. The Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, was in attendance at the ceremony.
Remains discovered at Thélus, Pas de Calais, France, were deemed to belong to a Canadian First World War soldier, but his identity could not be determined, as he was found without personal or unit identifiers. The soldier would have died between the end of October 1916 and the end of July 1917, the nine-month period of Canadian Corps action in the Vimy sector.
The remains were discovered by the Service archéologique municipal d’Arras on September 27, 2012, during an excavation prior to the construction of an industrial estate. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was notified, and took possession of the remains and associated artefacts. The case was subsequently investigated and closed by DND’s Casualty Identification Program. Both maternal and paternal DNA profiles have been obtained from this set of remains with the hope of a future identification.
“We remember the 11 285 Canadians with no known resting place who fought courageously in France in the First World War. While we do not know this soldier’s name, Canada will honour him always.”
Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“We do not know his name and we cannot give his family condolences. But all Canadians know what this soldier gave, so that we might live in peace and freedom today. Lest we forget.”
Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence
“It is a sad privilege for any officer to take part in the laying to rest of a fallen countryman. I am honoured to have been present at the ceremony at Vimy Memorial Park to bear witness to the courage of this soldier, and the courage of many others, both known and unknown, whose selfless sacrifices paved the way to victory in the First World War.”
Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, Commander Canadian Army
“While we could not engrave a name on his headstone, we are gratified to have been able to afford this soldier the respect and dignity of a military burial in a Commonwealth cemetery, 100 years after his sacrifice.”
Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Discovered without personal or unit identifiers, but with a metal “CANADA” insignia such as would be found on a military tunic, the soldier cannot be identified except as one of 3426 Canadian servicemen missing from the Vimy campaign.
Maternal and paternal DNA profiles and a stable isotope profile (which can help determine where a person grew up, and where they spent the last years of their life) have been captured by the Casualty Identification Program to aid in possible future identification of this soldier.
Canadian Cemetery No. 2 was established by the Canadian Corps after the storming of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. Some of those buried in the cemetery fell in that battle or died of wounds received there, although the majority of the graves were later made for the burial of the dead recovered from surrounding battlefields and from isolated graves which were transferred into the cemetery over a period of years following the Armistice. The cemetery commemorates nearly 3000 casualties of the First World War.