Three Canadian First World War soldiers found in France and identified

News release

Private William Del Donegan
Private William Del Donegan, Source: Family of Caroline (Cavanagh Donegan) Consitt

May 22, 2018 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have identified the remains of three Canadian First World War soldiers found near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, as Private William Del Donegan, Private Henry Edmonds Priddle, and Sergeant Archibald Wilson. The soldiers’ remains were discovered over the course of a year in the same area near the village.

All three soldiers were from Manitoba and enlisted in Winnipeg. They died during the Battle of Hill 70 as members of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), a unit perpetuated by The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) of Victoria, B.C.

DND and the CAF have notified members of the three families, and Veterans Affairs Canada is providing them with ongoing support as final arrangements are made. The three soldiers will be buried by their regiment, in the presence of family and Government of Canada representatives, at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, on August 23 at 1:30 p.m. (Central European Time). The public is welcome to attend.

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.

Additional multimedia

Private Henry Edmonds Priddle
Private Henry Edmonds Priddle, Source: The DeCooman family
Sergeant Archibald Wilson
Sergeant Archibald Wilson, Source: Heather Lee Aldrich and Holly Lynne Chong

Quotes

“As Canada marks this year the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, we pay tribute to Private Donegan, Private Priddle, and Sergeant Wilson. They are among the nearly 61,000 brave Canadians who gave their lives during the First World War, so that all of us might live in peace and security. While there is no way to sufficiently thank them for their sacrifice, we forever hold them in our memories.”

Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister

"A century has passed since these three soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice on a battlefield half a world away, but time has not diminished their legacy. It seems fitting that their final resting place is in the land which they helped to free. We will lay them to rest with the honour they and their families deserve. May they never be forgotten."

Seamus O’Regan, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence

"We are honoured to have shared in the efforts to bring these lost soldiers to the attention of Canadians, as we will be honoured again later this year to mark their graves with headstones so that all who pass by will know what they gave for us.”

Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Quick facts

  • Private William Del Donegan was born on March 27, 1897, in Ottawa. In his youth, the family moved to Winnipeg. Private Donegan was a railway clerk in that city before he enlisted in the CEF on February 21, 1916, at age 18.  He joined the 16th Battalion CEF in France on April 21, 1917, and died on August 16, 1917, at the age of 20, during the Battle of Hill 70.

  • Private Henry Edmonds Priddle was born on May 17, 1884, in Norwich, Ont. In 1910 he married Florence Hazen, and the couple settled in Winnipeg. Private Priddle worked as a broom-maker before enlisting in the CEF on April 1, 1916, at age 31. He joined the 16th Battalion CEF in France on May 9, 1917, and died on August 16, 1917, at the age of 33, during the Battle of Hill 70.

  • Sergeant Archibald Wilson was born on February 12, 1892, in Campsie, Scotland. One of 11 children, he came to Canada with three brothers and two sisters in June 1910. Planning to eventually farm in Manitoba, he worked as a barber before enlisting in the CEF on December 18, 1914, at age 22. He joined the 16th Battalion on December 22, 1915, and participated in several battles throughout 1916 and the first part of 1917. On June 4, 1917, he was promoted to Sergeant, and he died on August 16, 1917, at the age of 25, during the Battle of Hill 70. Two of his brothers, John and Gavin, also enlisted, and were killed in Belgium and France, respectively.

  • In September 2010, May 2011, and August 2011, human remains with associated First World War artefacts were discovered during a munitions clearing process near rue Léon Droux, Vendin-le-Vieil, France. The 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 Donegan, Private Priddle, and Sergeant Wilson, respectively.

  • The Casualty Identification Program’s Casualty Identification Review Board, which includes participants from the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History, confirmed the identity of the three soldiers through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis. 

  • The Battle of Hill 70 took place 15-25 August 1917. It 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 whom have no known grave. The strategic high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied hands until the end of the war.

  • The CWGC commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive records archive. The Commission operates in more than 23,000 locations in over 150 countries.

Associated links

Contacts

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-2353
Email: mlo-blm@forces.gc.ca

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