A previously unknown Canadian First World War soldier has finally been identified by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
First discovered in 2019 by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the soldier previously only identified as an unknown sergeant-major of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion has now been identified as Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt.
“We remember the courage of the Canadians who served our nation both at home and overseas in the First World War. The successful identification of Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt is a reminder for all Canadians of the ultimate sacrifice made by many in service to our nation. To the family of Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt, know that Canada honours him and is grateful for his service,” said Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence.
Discovering Fallen Soldier
In May 2019, the Directorate of History and Heritage received a report from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) detailing the potential identification of Grave 16, Row G, Plot 7 in the Regina Trench Cemetery, in Grandcourt, France, according to DND.
Independent researchers had suggested that the soldier may be Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt. However, according to a DND press release, following extensive archival research by the CWGC and the Directorate of History and Heritage, the soldier’s identification was confirmed.
The CAF notified the family of Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt of his identification and is providing them with ongoing support. A headstone rededication ceremony will take place at the earliest opportunity at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Regina Trench Cemetery in France.
“Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt was one of our own – a Canadian soldier who fought for our country with honour during the First World War. His name is engraved on the base of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial along with those of the more than 11,000 of his comrades who were posted as ‘missing, presumed dead’ in France. Now that his grave has been identified, I’m pleased to know he will receive a permanent headstone to commemorate his courage, service, and ultimate sacrifice,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.
About the Sergeant-Major
Company Sergeant-Major David Parfitt was born in London, England, in 1891. He later immigrated to Canada at the age of 18 and worked in a mill in Keewatin, Ont., before enlisting in Valcartier, Que.
Three of his brothers also enlisted in the First World War effort: William, who joined the Royal Canadian Navy, Arthur, who joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and Frederick, who joined the British Army.
He was a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia for four years and was then promoted to the rank of sergeant upon enlisting. Sergeant Parfitt arrived in France in Feb. 1915 with the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion.
In Sept. 1915, he was promoted to the rank of company sergeant-major.
1 of 156 members of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion
At the age of 25, Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt became one of 156 members of the 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion to be killed in action on Sept. 26, 1916, during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge. He lost his life leading a platoon from D Company of the 8th Infantry Battalion in the attack that day.
According to DND, he is the only Canadian company sergeant-major to have died on that date in France.
Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt is commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, erected in memory of Canadian soldiers killed in France during the First World War who have no known grave, according to a DND press release.