A Canadian soldier from the First World War was laid to rest today with military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France. The family of the soldier was in attendance, with the support of Veterans Affairs Canada.
On May 27, 2019, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces announced the identification of the remains of a Canadian soldier from the First World War discovered near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil, France, as Private George Alfred Newburn, 18 years old.
Private Newburn enlisted in Victoria, British Columbia. He died on August 15, 1917, in the Battle of Hill 70, as a member of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion (British Columbia), Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) of Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces provide a dignified and respectful burial to fallen service members who are recovered and identified. In Europe, in Canada, and around the world, their valiant actions provided us the opportunity to become the nation we are today.
“The identification and burial of Private George Alfred Newburn presents an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon and remember those who served during the First World War. As we pay tribute to this Canadian soldier, let us never forget the courageous service of our Canadian battalions during the Battle of Hill 70.”
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
“I would like to thank our international partners who provided valuable assistance in making arrangements for Private George Alfred Newburn’s burial. To the family of Private Newburn, know that your loved one will always be remembered by Canadians and we will honour him with this dignified burial.”
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“By honouring Private George Alfred Newburn for his service to Canada, and shedding light upon his ultimate sacrifice, we gave his family, and the greater military family, a sense of closure. The recovery of a missing soldier, sailor, or aviator has great meaning, regardless of how much time has passed. Today’s burial demonstrated that we will never forget our fallen.”
Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, Commander Military Personnel Command
Private George Alfred Newburn was born on April 7, 1899, in London, England. In his youth, he immigrated with his family to Canada with a final destination of Esquimalt, British Columbia. The family resettled in Victoria. Private Newburn was only 16 years of age when he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on November 6, 1915. He was assigned to the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion on August 12, 1916 and died at the age of 18 on August 15, 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70.
The Battle of Hill 70 took place August 15-25, 1917. It was the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander in the First World War. Approximately 2,100 Canadians gave their lives in the battle, more than 1,300 of whom have no known grave. The high point of Hill 70 remained in Allied territory until the end of the war.
In July 2017, human remains with associated First World War artefacts were discovered near rue Léon Droux, Vendin-le-Vieil, France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was notified, and with the support of French regional authorities, took possession of the remains and artefacts, transporting them to their facility in Beaurains, France, for safekeeping. The remains were officially identified as those of Private George Alfred Newburn on February 26, 2019.
The Casualty Identification Program’s review board, which includes participants from the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History, confirmed the identity of the soldier through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, and DNA analysis.
The Department of National Defence Casualty Identification Program identifies unknown Canadian service members when their remains are discovered, so that they may be buried with a name, by their unit, and in the presence of their family. The program fosters a sense of continuity and identity within the Canadian Armed Forces, by providing an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect upon the experiences of those women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive records archive. The Commission operates in excess of 23,000 locations in more than 150 countries.