The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have identified the remains of a Canadian First World War soldier who was found at a construction site in Lens, France, in August 2016. The soldier was identified as Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas, of Chewale, South Wales, UK, and Birch Ridge, NB.
The remains were identified through the use of historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis.
Private Thomas was born on January 25, 1889. He grew up in Birch Ridge, NB, where he worked as a farmer until he enlisted in Saint John, NB, with the 115th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, on April 20, 1916. He was 27 at the time. He later joined the 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick), CEF on May 21, 1917.
Private Thomas was a member of the 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick), Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He died at the age of 28 on August 19, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70.
“One hundred years after the end of the First World War, we honour and remember Private Thomas. We will never forget his sacrifice, or those of the nearly 61,000 brave Canadians who gave their lives in the First World War so that all of us might live in peace and security,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister, in a press release issued May 28, 2018.
Members of Private Thomas’ family have been notified by DND and the CAF. Veterans Affairs Canada is providing them with ongoing support as final arrangements are made. Private Thomas is to be buried alongside his regiment, in the presence of family and the Government of Canada representatives. The burial will take place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, on August 23 at 1:30 p.m. (Central European Time). The public is invited to attend.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to support Private Thomas’s family during this time. We will lay him to rest with the honour he and his family deserve. While a century has passed, time has not lessened our gratitude to Private Thomas. May he, and those who fell with him, never be forgotten,” said Seamus O’Regan, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence, in a press release issued May 28, 2018.
The DND’s Casualty Identification Program’s goal is to give unknown soldiers a name when their remains are discovered, so they’ll be buried with a name by their regiment and in the presence of their family. In striving towards this goal, the program gives a sense of continuity and identity within the CAF, while providing an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those men and women who paid the ultimate price for their country.
“It has been our privilege to assist in returning Private Thomas to his countrymen, so that he might be buried with a name, and so that all who read his headstone will understand his sacrifice,” said Brigadier-General (ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in a press release issued May 28, 2018.
The Battle of Hill 70 took place from August 15 to 25, 1917. It was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps in the First World War, under a Canadian commander. About 2,100 lost their lives in the battle, with over 1,300 of those having no known grave. Hill 70 remained in Allied hands until the end of the First World War.
Featured photo:Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas
Source: Bonnie Murphy