The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have identified the remains of a First World War soldier found near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, as those of Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston of Fairford, Manitoba. Private Johnston was a member of the 16thBattalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) of Victoria, B.C.
DND and the CAF have notified members of Private Johnston’s family, and Veterans Affairs Canada is providing them with ongoing support as final arrangements are made. Private Johnston will be buried at Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, later this year by his Regiment.
The goal of DND’s Casualty Identification Program is to identify unknown soldiers when their remains are discovered, so that they may be buried with a name by their Regiment and in the presence of their family. In striving towards this aim, the program fosters a sense of continuity and identity within the CAF, as it provides an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“As we prepare to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hill 70, we pay tribute to Private Johnston as one of over 2000 brave Canadians who gave their lives in that 10-day engagement to wear down the enemy and change the direction of the war. Their courage will not be forgotten.”
Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“Private Johnston was only 22 when he gave his life in service to Canada. All that he might have become was cut short so that we might live in peace and freedom. We will lay him to rest with the honour which he and his family deserve in return for their sacrifice.”
Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence
“We are honoured to have assisted in bringing this lost soldier, Private Johnston, to the attention of Canadians, as we will be honoured again later this year to mark his grave with a headstone so that he will be lost no longer.”
Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
· Private Johnston was born in Springfield, Manitoba, on August 10, 1895. The family moved to Fairford, Manitoba, when he was an infant. Private Johnston grew up in Fairford and was a homesteader until he enlisted in Winnipeg on January 19, 1916, at the age of 20. He was killed on the 15th or 16th of August 1917, in the Battle of Hill 70. He was 22 at the time of his death.
· On August 2, 2011, human remains with associated First World War artefacts 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 notified, and with the support of French regional authorities, took possession of the remains and artefacts, transporting them to a CWGC facility in Beaurains, France, for safekeeping. The remains were later identified as those of Private Johnston.
· Private Johnston’s identification resulted from a review of historical context, an examination of material evidence, forensic anthropological analysis, and DNA testing. The identification was made by DND’s Casualty Identification Program.
· The Battle of Hill 70, which took place August 15-25, 1917, was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander in the First World War. Approximately 2100 Canadians gave their lives in the battle; over 1300 of these have no known grave. The strategic high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied hands until the end of the war.
Source: Media Release