Great War Interments and Hill 70
Over the weekend of 18-21 August, two groups from The Calgary Highlanders arrived in France to perform ceremonial tasks associated with the regiment's activities in 1917 over the following week. The two groups were:
The two groups were engaged in a number of tasks:
Tuesday, 22 August 2017 - Hill 70 Monument Dedication
One of the most significant Canadian military victories of the First World War was formally commemorated after 100 years with the official dedication of a new monument. The Battle of Hill 70 was especially significant for the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (whom The Calgary Highlanders perpetuate) as they received an unprecedented number of military commendations for their part in the fighting. No less than sixty awards of the Military Medal were made to soldiers of the 10th for part they played in the fighting. Additionally, the first of the 10th's two Victoria Crosses came for the fighting at Hill 70. In all over 80 awards for gallantry were made to the 10th for this single battle, a total believed to be a record in Canadian military history.
The Battle of Hill 70 opened on 15 August 1917. It marked the first time the Canadian Corps went into battle under a Canadian commander. Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie, emboldened by the great victory at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, had resisted orders to attack the ruins of the French mining town of Lens. He argued that if they were going to fight, they should fight for an objective that meant something. He selected the high ground north of Lens, and the Canadian Corps took it with two divisions. The victory was sealed by the artillery, who helped beat off 21 separate German counter-attacks. In ten days of fighting, 30,000 German soldiers became casualties, against 10,000 Canadians.
The new Battle of Hill 70 Memorial Park sits on ground about a mile away from the hill top, with an obelisk reaching to a point 70-metres above sea level, the elevation for which the hill itself was named. Sections of the park, some still under construction, are named for the men who received Victoria Crosses at Hill 70, including Private Harry Brown of the 10th Battalion, who was fatally wounded acting as a runner, delivering vital messages between battalion headquarters and forward observation officers. The Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston, noted in an earlier ceremony that "Too long, the Battle of Hill 70 and its significance have largely been forgotten. And so, today, we change that."
Wednesday, 23 August 2017 - Burial of Canadian Soldier at Vimy Cemetery No. 2
DND News Release:
August 23, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
A First World War soldier who could not be identified by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was today laid to rest with military honours at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 in Neuville-St. Vaast, France, within Canadian National Vimy Memorial Park. The Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, was in attendance at the ceremony.
Remains discovered at Thélus, Pas de Calais, France, were deemed to belong to a Canadian First World War soldier, but his identity could not be determined, as he was found without personal or unit identifiers. The soldier would have died between the end of October 1916 and the end of July 1917, the nine-month period of Canadian Corps action in the Vimy sector.
The remains were discovered by the Service archéologique municipal d’Arras on September 27, 2012, during an excavation prior to the construction of an industrial estate. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was notified, and took possession of the remains and associated artefacts. The case was subsequently investigated and closed by DND’s Casualty Identification Program. Both maternal and paternal DNA profiles have been obtained from this set of remains with the hope of a future identification.
Thursday, 24 August 2017 - Burials at Loos Cemetery
Two soldiers of the 13th and 16th Battalions (perpetuated by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) have been recently identified and were laid to rest in a combined service at Loos British Cemetery at Loos-en-Gohelle. The Calgary Highlanders lent support to this ceremony by the attendance of the Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major. Sergeant Wiflred Shaugnessy and Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston were laid to rest roughly one hundred years after they fell during the Battle of Hill 70.
Friday, 25 August 2017 - Burial of Sergeant James Alexander Milne
DND News Release:
Sergeant Milne was born in Gellybrands, Cookney, Kincardineshire, Scotland, on February 10, 1883. Raised by his maternal grandmother, he immigrated to Canada at some time between 1905 and 1911. An unmarried labourer, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Calgary, Alberta, on January 27, 1915, at the age of 31.
Sergeant Milne’s identification resulted from a review of historical context, an examination of material evidence, and forensic anthropological analysis by DND’s Casualty Identification Program. The restoration of an identification disc by the Canadian Conservation Institute was critical to the success of the investigation.
Orchard Dump Cemetery commemorates over 3000 Commonwealth war casualties. Many (four-fifths) of the soldiers from the First World War are unidentified, and special memorials at the site commemorate ten soldiers from the UK and four from Canada who are known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 38 Canadian soldiers and six soldiers from the UK who were buried in other cemeteries, but whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.
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