Private John Lambert

In 2016, multiple sets of human remains were found during a planned archaeological dig near Langemark, Belgium. The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed the identity of one of these sets of remains to be those of Private John Lambert.

John Lambert was born on 10 July 1900 in St. John’s, Newfoundland to parents Richard and Elizabeth (née Whiteway) Lambert. Prior to enlistment, Lambert worked as a labourer.

Private Lambert enlisted with The Newfoundland Regiment on 14 August 1916 at 16 years of age. In order to enlist he lied about his age, claiming on his attestation paper that he was 18 years and 3 months old. Private Lambert embarked for the United Kingdom on 28 August 1916 aboard S.S. Sicilian. He then proceeded to Ayr, Scotland where he joined the 2nd Battalion, The Newfoundland Regiment which served as the training depot to prepare soldiers prior to their proceeding to France. On 24 April 1917, he left Scotland, landing in Rouen, France the following day, then proceeded to join the 1st Battalion, The Newfoundland Regiment in the field on 7 June 1917. The 1st Battalion, The Newfoundland Regiment served with the 88th Brigade of the 29th Infantry Division of the British Expeditionary Force.

British offensives to the northeast of Ypres began on 31 July 1917, with Fifth Army attacking north and east of the city in mid-August. The objective assigned to the 29th Division was the capture of the ‘Gheluvelt-Langemarck’ portion of the German defensive line. The Division’s plan was to fight its way through the German position to a depth of about 1400 meters between the Ypres-Staden Railway on its right and the French First Army on it left. The 88th Brigade would lead on the right and the 87th on the left. As part of the 88th Brigade, The Newfoundland Regiment was on the left of the brigade’s offensive and to their right, advancing next to the railway, was the 2nd Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment, a unit of the British Army. Together they were to capture the Division’s first two objective lines.

Originally planned for the 13th of August, the attack was twice delayed due to heavy rain that made the muddy ground difficult to cross and which had caused the Steenbeek, a normally small watercourse, to overflow its banks, filling trenches and craters with water. When the attack finally began at 4:45 on the morning of 16 August, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies of The Newfoundland Regiment attacked in the first wave. ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies followed shortly thereafter. Despite having to advance over ground that was still muddy, the Newfoundlanders were able to keep up with the artillery barrage that was covering their advance. They overran the enemy’s trenches and bunkers and, in an advance of 1100 metres, together with the Hampshire Regiment took all of the objectives required to allow the Division’s attack to continue. By the end of the day, the 29th Division had taken all of its objectives in what would be known as the ‘Battle of Langemarck

Private Lambert’s personnel file indicates that he died of wounds received in action during the advance of The Newfoundland Regiment on 16 August. He was 17 when he died. The war diary of the 88th Brigade mentions that a ‘Field Ambulance Relay Post’ was located near Tuffs Farm. This relay post was most likely located within 100 meters of the location where Private Lambert was recovered in 2016. It is believed that he and the other soldiers found with him were buried near this ‘Relay Post’ and for unknown reasons their remains were not found and recovered following the war. During the ‘Battle of Langemarck’, 103 Newfoundlanders were casualties with 27 men losing their lives.

Following the war, Private Lambert’s name was memorialized on the Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial commemorating soldiers from Newfoundland who died during the First World War and have no known grave.

In April 2016 during a planned archaeological dig near Langemark-Poelkapelle, Belgium, human skeletal remains of four soldiers were uncovered. Alongside the remains were a number of artefacts including a shoulder title of The Newfoundland Regiment, an Inniskilling Fusiliers cap badge, two Hampshire Regiment shoulder titles, general service buttons, British bullets, and a few other small items.

In November 2019, the Casualty Identification Review Board confirmed the identity of one of the sets of remains found in April 2016 as those of Private John Lambert. This was a result of using historical, genealogical, anthropological, and DNA analysis. The Casualty Identification Review Board is composed of members from the Directorate of History and Heritage, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team, and the Canadian Museum of History. The Rooms in Newfoundland provided research assistance.

Private John Lambert will be buried at the earliest opportunity in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's New Irish Farm Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Soldiers of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment from St. John’s, Newfoundland which perpetuates The Newfoundland Regiment of the First World War will bury Private Lambert in a joint ceremony organized with the United Kingdom’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre. The remains of the three British soldiers found with Private Lambert in April 2016 will be buried alongside one another. Family members, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada, the United Kingdom, the local Belgian government, the British Army, and the Canadian Armed Forces are expected to attend the burial ceremony.

For further information on Private John Lambert, you can consult his personnel file at The Rooms Archive Newfoundland’s provincial archives.

Information about casualty identification

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