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Canadian Soldier Identified from First World War

By Caitlin Snow Jan 16, 2023 | 12:35 PM

Wreaths are laid during a Remembrance Day ceremony. (CREDIT: Skye Bryden-Blom)

The remains of a Canadian soldier of the First World War have been recovered and identified, through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis.

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces confirm the remains found in France, are those of Corporal Percy Howarth.

Howarth was born in August 16,1894 in Darwin, Lancashire, England, one of eight children of Richard and Margaret Howarth. He immigrated to Canada in 1912, where he worked as a sailor in Vancouver.

He enlisted with the 121 Overseas Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force at the age of 21. He was promoted after training in England from Lance Corporal, to Corporal.

He fought with the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, near Lens, France, in the Battle of Hill 70, which began on August 15, 1917.

He was reported missing, then later presumed dead at age 23.

The Battle of Hill 70 exacted a heavy toll over ten days, with more than 10,000 Canadians killed, wounded or missing, including over 1,300 with no known grave. More than 140 men of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion were killed, 118 of whom were missing with no known grave.

“Time and distance do not diminish the courage Corporal Howarth brought to the battlefield in service to Canada. His family should trust that I and all Canadians will remember the ultimate sacrifice he made. Lest we forget.
The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“Nearly 10,000 Canadians were killed, wounded or declared missing in the Battle of Hill 70, Corporal Howarth among them. Now, more than 100 years later we remember Corporal Howarth’s selfless courage and sacrifice in the name of duty and that of all his comrades.
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

Quick Facts:

After the war, Corporal Howarth’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, which commemorates Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War who have no known grave.

On June 9, 2011, human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process for a construction site in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. Alongside the remains were a few artifacts including a digging tool, a whistle and a pocket watch.

Through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis, and with the assistance of the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History, the Casualty Identification Review Board was able to confirm the identity of the remains as those of Corporal Howarth in October 2021.

The Canadian Armed Forces Casualty Identification Program, within the Directorate of History and Heritage, identifies unknown Canadian service members when their remains are recovered, and provides them with a respectful burial in an appropriate cemetery. The program also identifies service members previously buried as unknown soldiers when there is historical and archival evidence confirming the identification. In such cases, a new headstone is engraved with their name and the member is officially identified and commemorated by the CAF.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. Using an extensive archive, the Commission works with its partners to recover, investigate, and identify those with no known grave, in order to give them the dignity of burial and the commemoration they deserve.

The family of Corporal Howarth have been notified, he will be buried in Commonwealth War Graves Commission Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France as soon as possible.


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