Corporal Percy Howarth

In 2011, human remains were found in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. The remains were confirmed as those of Corporal Percy Howarth.

Percy Howarth was born 16 August 1894 in Darwen, Lancashire, England. His parents were Richard and Margaret Howarth, née Dearden. Percy’s family included siblings John, Mary, Eugenie, Eleazer, Charlie, Clara, and Maud. Percy immigrated to Canada in 1912, sailing from England on the RMS “Victorian”. Before enlisting, Percy was working as a seaman in Vancouver, British Columbia.

On 19 July 1916, Percy enlisted with the 121st ‘Overseas’ Battalion, CEF in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the age of 21. On 14 August 1916, he sailed from Halifax aboard the S.S. “Empress of Britain” arriving in Liverpool, England on 24 August 1916. On 28 August 1916, Private Howarth joined the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, and trained in England before joining his unit in France on 29 November 1916. In April 1917 while in France, Private Howarth got sick with influenza and was treated in hospitals for a week before returning to duty. On 11 April 1917, he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and then Corporal on 14 May 1917.

Corporal Howarth and the 7th Battalion fought in the Battle of Hill 70, which began on 15 August 1917. The 7th Battalion was on the left flank of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade and took part in the second wave of the attack between the Blue and the Red Line objectives. The fight for the Red Line was difficult as the Germans held strong in their position. Heavy casualties were reported from this attack. The 7th Battalion then pressed towards the Green Line objective. However, they had to withdraw to the area of the Red Line since their left flank was exposed. During the afternoon of 15 August, the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF was brought forward to help the 7th Battalion hold the line against German counterattacks. On 16 August, a second attack led by the 10th Battalion with support by the 7th Battalion, captured the Green Line. From 15 to 18 August 1917, the 7th Battalion suffered 118 casualties with no known graves in connection with the assault on Hill 70. Corporal Howarth was reported missing, then presumed to have died on 15 August 1917 at the age of 23.

After the war, Corporal Howarth’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. This memorial commemorates Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War and have no known grave.

On 9 June 2011, skeletal human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process for a construction site near Léon Droux street, 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, 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 Percy Howarth in October 2021.

Corporal Howarth was buried on 8 June 2023 in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France by members of The British Columbia (Duke of Connaught's Own) from Vancouver, British Columbia. Attending the burial were family members, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada, the local French government, and the Canadian Armed Forces.

For more information on Corporal Howarth, you can view his personnel file on the Library and Archives Canada website.

Information about casualty identification

Page details

Date modified: