Private William Del Donegan

In 2010, human remains were found in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. The remains were confirmed as those of Private William Del Donegan.

William Del Donegan was born 27 March 1897 in Ottawa, Ontario, son of William Donegan and Elizabeth Donegan (née Shields). At some point during William’s youth, the Donegan family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Donegan enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) at age 18 on 21 February 1916 with the 179th Battalion (The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada), CEF. Prior to enlistment, Donegan spent four years in the Highland Cadets with the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada and later worked as a railway clerk in Winnipeg.

Private Donegan spent the spring and summer of 1916 training with the 179th Battalion at Camp Hughes, Manitoba. The 179th Battalion sailed from Halifax on 4 October 1916 arriving in Liverpool, England nine days later on 13 October 1916. After spending time in various training battalions, Private Donegan transferred to the 14th Reserve Battalion. The 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Canadian Scottish), CEF part of the Canadian Corps in France took Private Donegan on strength on 21 April 1917.

On 15 August 1917, the 16th Battalion participated in the assault on Hill 70. Beginning its assault at 4:25am, the 16th Battalion captured its first objective, the “Blue Line,” and their final objective, the “Green Line,” on schedule with limited casualties. On 16 August, the battalion suffered substantial losses when German artillery focused on the new Canadian Corps’ defensive positions. The Canadian Corps defences suffered heavy shelling for several days following the initial attack. The 16th Battalion was relieved by other Canadian troops in their frontline position at 4:00am on 17 August. Private Donegan was killed in action on 16 August 1917 at the age of 20.

Following the war, Private Donegan’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 September 2010, skeletal human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process near rue Léon Droux, Vendin-le-Vieil, France. Alongside the remains were buttons from the 16th Battalion, and the insignia of the 179th Battalion, among other artefacts.

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 Private William Del Donegan in October 2017.

Private Donegan was buried on 25 August 2018 in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France by members of The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) from Victoria, British Columbia. Attending the burial were cousins 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 Donegan, you can views his personnel file on the web site of Library and Archives Canada.

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