Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt

In May 2019, a research report was received suggesting that an unknown grave at the Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, in France, could be identified. The Canadian Armed Forces have confirmed that the grave in question belongs to Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt.

David George Parfitt was born on 4 July 1891 in Barnet, London, England. He was the son of Frederick and Elizabeth Parfitt (née Woodhouse). At the age of 18, Parfitt immigrated to Keewatin, Ontario, where he was employed as a mill worker. He enrolled on 21 September 1914 at the age of 23 in Valcartier, Quebec. Three of his brothers also enrolled: William (Royal Canadian Navy), Arthur (Canadian Expeditionary Force) and Frederick (British Army). All three survived. Having been a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia for four years, Parfitt was promoted to the rank of sergeant upon enrolment. He left Quebec for England aboard the S.S. Franconia in October 1914. The 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion (90th Rifles), with Parfitt in its ranks, arrived in France in February 1915. On 27 September 1915, Parfitt was promoted to the rank of company sergeant-major.

The 8th Battalion fought in France and Belgium as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division. In 1916, the battalion fought in the Battles of the Somme, including the Battle of Thiepval Ridge from 26 to 29 September 1916. On the day of 26 September 1916, the 1st Canadian Division’s objectives included taking and occupying a series of trenches—Zollern, Hessian and Regina—located between Thiepval and Courcelette. Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt led a platoon from D Company which took part in the waves of attack launched that day.

The 8th Battalion (augmented by a company from the 10th Battalion), positioned on the left side of the 2nd Brigade with the 5th Battalion on its right, reached the Zollern and Hessian trenches, despite German machine gun fire and bombardment. However, the troops were not able to hold and fully occupy the objectives in the face of fierce enemy opposition. CSM Parfitt is one of the 156 members of the 8th Battalion killed in action on 26 September 1916. He is the only Canadian company sergeant-major to have died on that date in France, a detail that greatly contributed to the identification of his grave.

After the battle, a body was partially identified as an unknown sergeant-major of the 8th Canadian Battalion and buried in Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, in France, managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The partial identification was likely based on the rank and unit insignia on the uniform.

After the war, Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, erected in memory of the Canadian soldiers killed in France during the First World War who have no known grave.

In May 2019, the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH) received a research report from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission detailing the potential identification of Plot 7, Row G, Grave 16 in the Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had received a report from independent researchers raising the possibility that this grave was that of Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt. Extensive research undertaken by both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the DHH concluded that this grave could only be that of CSM Parfitt. 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 November 2019, the Casualty Identification Program’s Review Board confirmed the identification of Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF 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.

Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt is commemorated on a plaque at St. James Church in Keewatin which bears the names of the men from the parish who died during the First World War. His name appears on a monument in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, erected by the Gold Hill and Minnetonka Lodges of Kenora and Keewatin. He is also commemorated by his former employer, the Lake of the Woods Milling Company, on its Roll of Honour.

A headstone rededication ceremony will take place at the earliest opportunity in France at the Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

For more information on Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt, you may consult his personnel file held by Library and Archives Canada.

Information about casualty identification

Page details

Date modified: