Canadian First World War soldiers buried


OTTAWA – The remains of two soldiers who died in a historic battle for Canada during the First World War have been buried in France.

Pte. Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston from Manitoba and Sgt. Harold Wilfred Shaughnessy of New Brunswick died during the Battle of Hill 70 in August 1917.

The Canadian Armed Forces says Hill 70 was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander during the war, and more than half of the 2,100 Canadians who died over the 10-day battle have no graves.

Both sets of remains were discovered during munitions clearing in advance of a construction project near a French village.

Johnston and Shaughnessy were buried with military honours by their units in Loos British Cemetery.

The families of the soldiers were present, with the support of Veterans Affairs Canada.

“Today we pay tribute to Pte. Johnston and Sgt. 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,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a news release Thursday.

Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr said the Battle of Hill 70 was an effort to divert German forces from the Battle of Passchendaele. The strategic high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied hands until the end of the war.

Johnston was born in Springfield, Man, in 1895. The family moved to Fairford, Man., when he was an infant and he was a homesteader until he enlisted in Winnipeg in 1916 at the age of 20.

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. He died on August 15 or 16, 1917, at the age of 22.

Shaughnessy was born in St. Stephen, N.B., in 1884 and was a stenographer before enlisting in Montreal on August 4, 1915, at the age of 31.

He was a member of the 13th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Montreal. He died on August 15, 1917, at the age of 33.

After the remains were found, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission took possession of them and they were later identified by Defence Department’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,” Brig.-Gen. (Ret.) David Kettle, secretary general of the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said in the release.