An unidentified Canadian First World War soldier was laid to rest with military honours today at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 in Neuville-St. Vaast, France, within Canadian National Vimy Memorial Park.
“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,” said Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence.
The soldier was discovered on Sept. 27, 2012 by the Service archéologique municipal d’Arras during an excavation for the construction of an industrial estate at Thélus, Pas de Calais, France.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was notified, and took possession of the remains and associated artefacts. However, as the soldier was found without personal or unit identifiers, besides a metal “Canada” insignia, his identity could not be determined.
It is assumed that the soldier died sometime between the end of Oct. 1916 and the end of July 1917, the period that the Canadian Corp was involved in action in the Vimy campaign.
“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,” said Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence.
Both maternal and paternal DNA profiles have been obtained from the remains with the hope of future identification.
“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,” said LGen. Paul Wynnyk, Commander Canadian Army.