Canadian soldier of the First World War discovered in France and identified

News release

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. Source: The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own)
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. Source: The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own)

May 27, 2019 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have identified the remains of a Canadian First World War soldier, discovered near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, as Private George Alfred Newburn.

Private Newburn enlisted in Victoria, British Columbia. He died on August 15, 1917, in the Battle of Hill 70, as a member of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (British Columbia), Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Veterans Affairs Canada has notified members of the family and is providing them with ongoing support as final arrangements are made. Private Newburn will be buried by his regiment, in the presence of family and Government of Canada representatives, at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, on June 12 at 1:30 p.m. (Central European Time). The public is welcome to attend.

The Department of National Defence Casualty Identification Program identifies unknown Canadian 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. The program fosters a sense of continuity and identity within the Canadian Armed Forces, and provides an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Quotes

"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."

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

"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. 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."

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

"Private George Alfred Newburn is part of a proud legacy of Canadians who fought valiantly as members of our Expeditionary Force, demonstrating great courage and character in the face of tremendous adversity. This legacy continues in the proud traditions of today’s Army. We honour Private Newburn for his service and his sacrifice; he will forever remain in our memory."

Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier, Commander, Canadian Army

Quick facts

  • In July 2017, human remains with associated First World War artefacts were discovered near rue Léon Droux, Vendin-le-Vieil, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was notified, and with the support of French regional authorities, took possession of the remains and artefacts, transporting them to their facility in Beaurains, France, for safekeeping. The remains were officially identified as those of Private George Alfred Newburn on February 26, 2019.

  • Private George Alfred Newburn was born on April 7, 1899, in London, England. In his youth, he immigrated with his family to Canada with a final destination of Esquimalt, British Columbia. The family resettled in Victoria.  Private Newburn was only 16 years of age when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on November 6, 1915. He was assigned to the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion on August 12, 1916 and died at the age of 18 on August 15, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70.

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

  • The Battle of Hill 70 took place August 15-25, 1917. It was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander in the First World War. Approximately 2,100 Canadians gave their lives in the battle, more than 1,300 of who have no known grave. The high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied territory until the end of the war.

  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission 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 excess of 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries.

Associated links

Contacts

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

Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada
Phone: 613-992-7468
Email: vac.media-medias.acc@canada.ca


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