Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas

In 2016, human remains were found in Lens, France. The remains were confirmed as those of Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas.

John (Jack) Henry Thomas was born on 25 January 1889 in Chewale, South Wales, United Kingdom to parents Henry Arthur Thomas and Jane Thomas. He grew up in Birch Ridge, Victoria County, New Brunswick with his brother and four sisters where he worked as a farmer.

Thomas enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and joined the 115th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF on 20 April 1916 in Saint John, New Brunswick. He embarked for England on 23 July 1916, arriving in Liverpool on 31 July 1916.

Following a couple months of training, the 112th Battalion took Private Thomas on strength from the 115th Battalion on 16 October 1916 at Camp Bramshott, England. He remained with this battalion until the following year when he transferred to the 13th Reserve Battalion on 2 February 1917. Private Thomas was then assigned to the 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick), CEF part of the Canadian Corps in France on 20 April 1917.

Private Thomas and the 26th Battalion participated in the assault on Hill 70 that began 15 August 1917 and continued until 25 August 1917. The advance moved in two stages with the capture of two main objectives: positions known as the “Blue Line” and the “Green Line”. As part of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, the 26th Battalion took part in the initial assault to secure the “Blue Line” before passing through the 22nd Battalion to secure the Brigade’s objectives along the “Green Line”. The 26th Battalion then rotated through defensive duties with other battalions of the 5th Brigade while remaining in the area for several days. On 19 August while holding their forward position against German counter-attacks Private Thomas was killed in action at the age of 28.

Following the war, Private Thomas’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial commemorating Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War and have no known grave.

In August 2016, a construction project on the grounds of a plastic manufacturer uncovered the human skeletal remains of three soldiers. Alongside the remains were a number of artefacts, including general service buttons, ammunition, and a 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion (New Brunswick) collar badge.

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 one set of remains as those of Private John (Jack) Henry Thomas in October 2017.

Private Thomas was buried on 25 August 2018 in Commonwealth War Graves Commission’sLoos British Cemeteryin Loos-en-Gohelle, France by members of The Royal New Brunswick Regiment (Carleton and York) from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Attending the burial were nieces and other family members, as well as representatives of the Government of Canada, the local French government and the Canadian Armed Forces.

For further information on Private Thomas, you can view his personnel file on the web site of Library and Archives Canada.

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