Canadian soldier of the First World War identified
January 16, 2023 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have confirmed that remains recovered in Vendin-le-Vieil, France, are those of Corporal Percy Howarth, a Canadian soldier of the First World War. The identity was confirmed through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis.
Percy Howarth was born August 16, 1894, in Darwen, Lancashire, England, one of eight children of Richard and Margaret Howarth (née Dearden). He immigrated to Canada in 1912 and worked as a sailor in Vancouver before enlisting with the 121st ‘Overseas’ Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), at the age of 21. After training in England, he was sent to France and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and then Corporal.
Corporal Howarth fought with the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, in the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France, which began on August 15, 1917. He was reported missing, then was later presumed to have died on that day. He was 23 years old.
The Battle of Hill 70 exacted a heavy toll over ten days, with more than 10,000 Canadians killed, wounded or missing, including over 1,300 with no known grave. More than 140 men of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion were killed, 118 of whom were missing with no known grave.
The family of Corporal Howarth have been notified and the CAF is providing them with ongoing support. Corporal Howarth will be buried at the earliest opportunity in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.
"Time and distance do not diminish the courage Corporal Howarth brought to the battlefield in service to Canada. His family should trust that I and all Canadians will remember the ultimate sacrifice he made. Lest we forget.”
The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence
"Nearly 10,000 Canadians were killed, wounded or declared missing in the Battle of Hill 70, Corporal Howarth among them. Now, more than 100 years later we remember Corporal Howarth’s selfless courage and sacrifice in the name of duty and that of all his comrades.”
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
After the war, Corporal Howarth’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, which commemorates Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War who have no known grave.
On June 9, 2011, human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process for a construction site in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. Alongside the remains were a few artifacts including a digging tool, a whistle and a pocket watch.
Through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis, and with the assistance of the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History, the Casualty Identification Review Board was able to confirm the identity of the remains as those of Corporal Howarth in October 2021.
The Canadian Armed Forces Casualty Identification Program, within the Directorate of History and Heritage, identifies unknown Canadian service members when their remains are recovered, and provides them with a respectful burial in an appropriate cemetery. The program also identifies service members previously buried as unknown soldiers when there is historical and archival evidence confirming the identification. In such cases, a new headstone is engraved with their name and the member is officially identified and commemorated by the CAF.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. Using an extensive archive, the Commission works with its partners to recover, investigate, and identify those with no known grave, in order to give them the dignity of burial and the commemoration they deserve.
Department of National Defence
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