The partial skeletal remains of Sergeant John Albert Collis, a Canadian soldier of the Second World War, were reunited today in an interment ceremony held at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in France.
On May 22, 2019, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces announced the identification of Sergeant Collis’ partial skeletal remains, discovered near the village of Verrières, in the commune of Saint-Martin-de-Fontenay, France.
Sergeant Collis enlisted in September 1939, in Brampton, Ontario, with the Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment). He died on July 25, 1944, during Operation SPRING, as a member of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Canadian Active Service Force), near the village of Verrières.
“Today, we honoured Sergeant John Albert Collis for his service to Canada. Sergeant Collis’ family members, Canadian officials, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces who attended the ceremony paid him honour and extended their unending gratitude for his sacrifice to protect our freedom.”
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
“The bravery and sacrifice demonstrated by Canadian service members over the years, such as Sergeant John Albert Collis, have helped ensure the peace and freedom we enjoy in our country today. It is important that we recognize and remember the more than 90,000 Canadians who served in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, and the over one million Canadians who served in the Second World War – as well as all our brave women and men who continue to serve our country in uniform today.”
The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“The successful identification of Sergeant John Albert Collis, followed by today’s ceremony, provided us an opportunity to pay tribute to this Canadian soldier. It is our duty to shed light upon his sacrifice and the difficult conditions our troops faced on the battlefields during the Second World War.”
Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, Commander Military Personnel Command
Sergeant Collis’ personnel file indicated he was interred in a temporary grave on July 26, 1944. He was later moved to the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery. It is not possible to confirm the reasons why Sergeant Collis’ remains were not retrieved fully from the battlefield. However, the harsh and inhuman conditions that confronted our soldiers during the Second World War were certainly a contributing factor.
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 Casualty Identification Program’s Casualty Identification 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 as that of Sergeant John Albert Collis through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological, odontological, and DNA analysis.
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.