Corporal Frederick Percival Bousfield

In October 2019, a research report was received suggesting that an unknown Canadian soldier buried in Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium, could be identified. In October 2021, the Canadian Armed Forces confirmed that the gravesite in question is that of Corporal Frederick Percival Bousfield.

Frederick Percival “Percy” Bousfield was born on 8 March 1896 in Cotehill, Cumberland England. He was the son of Frederick Ladlay Bousfield and Hannah Bousfield (née Lloyd). Percy was one of nine children who survived infancy and at the age of fourteen apprenticed with the Mercantile Service out of Glasgow. As Bousfield travelled around the world while working on sailing vessels, his family immigrated to Canada in 1912 arriving in Québec City, Quebec and eventually settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Shortly after Bousfield joined them in Canada and enlisted with The 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He worked in Québec and Halifax inspecting vessels for a year before returning to Winnipeg for the winter and working as a carpenter. On 29 January 1915, Bousfield re-enlisted and was assigned to the Signals Section of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Canada), CEF. After arriving in England on 10 June 1915, Bousfield trained and was promoted to the rank of corporal on 14 July 1915 before being sent to France on 21 February 1916.

The 43rd Battalion was authorized on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Great-Britain on 1 June 1915. The battalion arrived in France in February of 1916 and participated in many major battles throughout the First World War as part of the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. The Battalion was disbanded on 30 August 1920.

The first battle that the 43rd Battalion participated in was the Battle of Mount Sorrel from 2 to13 June 1916. The objective for the Canadians was to defend their position on Mount Sorrel, a piece of high ground in the Ypres Salient which offered a view of the town of Ypres and the surrounding area. On 2 June 1916, the German Army launched an attack leading to intense shelling of the 3rd Canadian Division’s positions east of the city. The Canadians took heavy casualties while defending their positions and were pushed back nearly 1,000 meters by the German forces. The following day the Canadians launched a counter-attack to try to recover the lost ground but were repelled by the Germans. From 2 to 7 June 1916, the 43rd Battalion was near the village of Zillebeke, south-east of Ypres, where they occupied a line of trenches from Maple Copse to Sanctuary Wood. While defending these trenches, the battalion suffered heavy casualties as the village was being continuously bombarded by German shelling. On 8 June the battalion was relieved from the lines only to return to the front two days later. They held their positions until they were relieved again the next day. Meanwhile, the German forces had strengthened their positions along the newly-won high ground, adding more machine guns, barbed wire, and mines to the area. The Canadians planned a counter-attack to retake Mount Sorrel, launching it on 13 June 1916. This new attack was led by the 1st Canadian Division and the 43rd Battalion did not participate. While the Canadians were able to retake the lost high ground, the battle cost a total of over 8,000 casualties.

Corporal Frederick Percival “Percy” Bousfield was a member of the Signals Section of the 43rd Battalion during the Battle at Mount Sorrel. According to letters received by his family from various members of his battalion, on 7 June 1916, Cpl Bousfield was killed when he was struck by an enemy shell. He had been carrying in wounded comrades and had just gone back to grab another stretcher to continue the work when he was hit. Many men said that he displayed great courage in the moments before his death and that he was lovingly buried next to other fallen men from his battalion in the village of Zillebeke. On 28 February 1917, the family received a Burial Report outlining that Cpl Bousfield’s grave was registered, was located in a garden behind a cottage near the church in Zillebeke, and was marked with a wooden cross. However, by 13 July 1927, the family was informed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (then the Imperial War Graves Commission) that all graves found in the area had been concentrated to cemeteries but that Cpl Bousfield’s grave had not been identified. It is unknown how his grave was lost though it was not uncommon for wooden crosses to be damaged, removed or destroyed.

After the war, Corporal Bousfield’s name was engraved on panel 28 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. The Ypres Memorial was erected to honour the soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient in Belgium during the First World War who have no known grave. It commemorates casualties from around the world including Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

On 14 September 1923, a headstone at Bedford House Cemetery was registered as “A Corporal of the Great War – Canadian Scottish – Known Unto God.” The grave, among others, had been concentrated in February of that year from the village of Zillebeke. The occupant of the grave was not identified, and they did not know his date of death though the other graves on the same registration form were all identified casualties from the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

In October 2019, the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH) received a report from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission detailing the potential identification of Grave 68, Row C, Plot 11 in Enclosure No. 4 of the Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had received reports from independent researchers raising the possibility that this grave was that of Corporal Frederick Percival Bousfield. Extensive research undertaken by both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the DHH concluded that this grave could only be that of Corporal Bousfield. No other candidate matched the details of the partial identification. Historical research was conducted using numerous archival sources, including War Diaries, Service Records, Casualty Registers, and Grave Exhumation and Concentration Reports.

In June 2021, the Casualty Identification Program’s Review Board confirmed the identification of Corporal Frederick Percival Bousfield of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Cameron Highlanders of Canada), CEF. The Casualty Identification Program’s Review Board is made up of members from the DHH, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team, and the Canadian Museum of History.

A headstone rededication ceremony was held on 14 September 2023 in Belgium at Enclosure No. 4 of the Bedford House Cemetery, Ypres, managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Family members and representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces attended the rededication ceremony.

For more information on Corporal Frederick Percival Bousfield you can consult his personnel file held by Library and Archives Canada.

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