Canadian soldier of WWI identified

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) yesterday confirmed that remains recovered in Vendin-le-Vieil, France are those of Corporal Percy Howarth, a Canadian soldier of the First World War. The identity was confirmed through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis.

It took ten years after skeletal remains were discovered to determine they belonged to Corporal Howarth.

Percy Howarth was born August 16, 1894, in Darwen, Lancashire, England, one of eight children of Richard and Margaret Howarth (née Dearden). He immigrated to Canada in 1912 and worked as a sailor in Vancouver before enlisting with the 121st Overseas’ Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), at the age of 21. After training in England, he was sent to France and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and then Corporal.

Corporal Howarth fought with the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, in the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France, which began on August 15, 1917. He was reported missing, then was later presumed to have died on that day. He was 23 years old.

In June 2011, human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process for a construction site in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. Alongside the remains were a few artifacts including a digging tool, a whistle and a pocket watch. The whistle and pocket watch have been carefully restored. Image: Department of National Defence, Canada.

The Battle of Hill 70 exacted a heavy toll over ten days, with more than 10,000 Canadians killed, wounded or missing, including over 1,300 with no known grave. More than 140 men of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion were killed, 118 of whom were missing with no known grave.

According to a tweet by Dr. Sarah Lockyer, who is the Casualty Identification Coordinator with the Department of National Defence, Corporal Howarth’s mother was an only child. She wrote in her tweet, “That meant we had to find information about Percy’s grandmother and her family! That means searching for records from the early 1800s! They are not always easily accessible.”

The family of Corporal Howarth has been notified and the CAF is providing them with ongoing support. Corporal Howarth will be buried at the earliest opportunity in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.

There is no known photo of Corporal Howarth.

Now we know his name. He has been found.

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