First World War Esquimalt soldier’s body discovered in France officially identified

First World War Esquimalt soldier’s body discovered in France officially identified

The remains of a Canadian soldier, who grew up in Esquimalt, have been identified after being discovered nearly a century after his death on a French battlefield.

The Department of National Defence (DND) says Private Alfred Newburn’s remains were found in July 2017, near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, and were officially identified this past February.

Newburn was 18-years-old when he was killed in the Battle of Hill 70 on Aug. 15, 1917, and the defence ministry says he was a member of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

It is a unit maintained by the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) of Vancouver.

Newburn was born Apr. 7, 1899 in London, England and his family immigrated to Canada in his youth, settling in Esquimalt.

The DND says Newburn was only 16-years-old when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on Nov. 11, 1915.

“Honouring the service of our fallen members is a value our Canadian Armed Forces hold dear. In June, we’ll pay tribute to Private George Alfred Newburn as we will lay him to rest in the place he helped to liberate. Let us never forget the courage of our Canadian battalions during the Battle of Hill 70, and forever honour their service,” defence minister Harjit S. Sajjan said in a statement.

Newburn’s family was notified by Veterans Affairs Canada and will be present for a burial ceremony by his regiment at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, on June 12.

Historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis was used to confirm Private Newburn’s identity.

His death came on the first day of The Battle of Hill 70, which lasted 10 days and the DND says it was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander in the First World War.

The battle saw about 2,100 Canadians killed, with more than 1,300 with no known grave, but the high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied territory until the end of the war.

A picture of Number 1 Company of the 7th Battalion in August 1916 at around the time Private George Alfred Newburn joined the battalion. It is believed that he served in Number 1 Company. Photo courtesy Ministry of Defence/The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own).

The defence ministry says the Department of National Defence Casualty Identification Program identifies unknown Canadian soldiers when their remains are discovered.

Their efforts makes it possible for family to be present as the soldier is buried with a name and by their regiment.

“We must always recognize those Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice. This is why we honour Private George Alfred Newburn for his commitment and service to Canada,” veteran affairs minister Lawrence MacAuley said in a release.

“He is among the more than 66,000 brave men and women who gave their lives during the First World War. Their sacrifice allows us to live in peace and security today. Lest we forget.”


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