Private Ralph Tupper Ferns

In 2005, remains were found near Haut Mesnil, France. The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed the identity of these remains as Private Ralph Tupper Ferns.

Ferns was born Ebenizer Ferns on 18 June 1919 in Kherr, Tipperary, Ireland to Ralph and Frances Ferns. That same year the Ferns family moved to Canada, settling in Toronto.

Prior to enlisting Ferns worked as a factory labourer and was unmarried. He enlisted in The Royal Regiment of Canada , of the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF) using his father’s name, Ralph, and included his mother’s maiden name, Tupper, as a middle name. It is unknown whether Private Ferns went by this or his given name prior to enlistment. In May 1942, Private Ferns arrived in England where he remained until July 1944 when his Regiment was sent to France.

During the summer of 1944, the Canadian Army was engaged in a series of offensives to the east of Caen. Operation TRACTABLE, launched on 14 August 1944, had the specific aim of capturing the ground around Falaise and preventing the German army from escaping the area. While moving up to take part in the Battle, The Royal Regiment of Canada stopped for brief rest north of the village of Haut Mesnil. At around 3:00 pm on 14 August, Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force aircrafts accidentally bombed Haut Mesnil. A planning error caused numerous aircrafts to mistakenly drop bombs intended for the German positions along the Laison Valley on their own troops. It was during this bombardment that Private Ferns went missing and was presumed killed.

Following the war, Private Fern’s name was engraved on the Bayeux Memorial in Normandy, France among the names of other soldiers of the British Commonwealth and Empire who fell in the early stages of the campaign in northwestern Europe and have no known grave.

In March 2005, skeletal human remains were found near Haut Mesnil, France near a rock quarry. The presence of artifacts including a regimental badge, helmet, boots, rifle, penknife and ammunition indicated the recovered remains were likely a soldier of The Royal Regiment of Canada. Nine soldiers of The Royal Regiment of Canada were missing in Normandy from operations in July and August 1944. Two of them were presumed killed during the bombing of Haut Mesnil.

Using historical and genealogical research, anthropological analysis and genetic testing the Casualty Identification Program identified the remains as those of Private Ralph Tupper Ferns.

Private Ferns was buried on 14 November 2008 in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Normandy, France. Members of his family, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada, and the Canadian Armed Forces were in attendance.

For further information on Private Ralph Tupper Ferns you can consult his personnel file at Library and Archives Canada.

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