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Two Canadian First World War soldiers were laid to rest with military honours

Two Canadian First World War soldiers were laid to rest with military honours Thursday by their units in Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.

The families of Pte. Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston and Sgt. Harold Wilfred Shaughnessy, were present for the burial.

“Today we pay tribute to Private Johnston and Sergeant Shaughnessy, two among the many Canadians who gave everything they had so that we might emerge victorious from the First World War. We give thanks to our international partners who made today’s events possible,” said Harjit Sajjan, Defence Minister.

Both Pte. Johnston’s and Sgt. Shaughnessy’s bodies were discovered during a munitions clearing process in advance of a construction project near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was then notified and the two soldiers were later identified by DND’s Casualty Identification Program.

“One hundred years later, these soldiers have finally been given the dignity and respect of a military burial in a Commonwealth cemetery, where all who pass by will note their personal sacrifice,” said BGen. (ret’d) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The burial of Sergeant Shaughnessy- Photo Courtesy of DND

The burial of Sergeant Shaughnessy- Photo Courtesy of DND

Pte. Johnston and Sgt. Shaughnessy were both identified from a review of historical context, an examination of material evidence, forensic anthropological analysis, and DNA testing.

Pte. Johnston was born in Springfield, MB on Aug. 10, 1895. He was a homesteader until he enlisted in Winnipeg on Jan. 19, 1916. He was a member of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) of Victoria, B.C.

“We are proud to pay tribute to those who went before us, through our participation in this ceremony. After 100 years, Private Johnston will finally have a resting place where we will be able to stand, reflect, and acknowledge his sacrifice,” said LCol. Stephen Sawyer, Commanding Officer, The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s).

Pte. Johnston was killed during the Battle of Hill 70 on Aug. 15 or Aug. 16, 1917 at the age of 22.

Sgt. Shaughnessy was born in St. Stephen, NB on Nov. 3, 1884. He worked as a stenographer before he enlisted in Montreal on Aug. 4, 1915 and was a member of the 13th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Montreal.

“It is with honour and pride that we pay tribute to one of our predecessors, who gave his life to clear the path for the freedom that we enjoy today, by offering him a proper burial worthy of his sacrifice,” said Col. Thomas Mackay, Commanding Officer, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.
Sgt. Shaughnessy was also killed during the Battle of Hill 70 on Aug. 15, 1917 at the age of 33.

“Private Johnston and Sergeant Shaughnessy were among the more than 2000 Canadian soldiers who died at the Battle of Hill 70, an effort to divert German forces from the Battle of Passchendaele. We honour these brave men, and we are honoured to continue their legacy of upholding Canadian values in support of peace and liberty,” said Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence.

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