The remains of a Canadian Second World War soldier, found in a farmer’s field near Molentje, Damme, Belgium, have been identified by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) as Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson from Dutton, Ontario. Discovered on November 11, 2014, the remains were identified through DND’s Casualty Identification Program.
Private Duncanson was born in Wallacetown, Ontario on June 7, 1915. He was married in 1939 and lived with his family in Dutton, Ontario. Three years after his marriage, he enlisted in the Canadian Army and joined the Algonquin Regiment in April 1944.
Only five months later, Duncanson, at the age of 29, was killed during an attempt by the Algonquin Regiment to establish a bridgehead crossing of the Dérivation de la Lys and the Leopold Canal, now part of the municipality of Damme, Belgium. This effort was part of the preliminary battle leading up to the Battle of the Scheldt.
On Remembrance Day 2014, A metal detector hobbyist stumbled onto Duncanson’s remains. Soon after, the remains were fully recovered by the Raakvlak Intercommunal Archaeological Service of Bruges, Belgium, with assistance from DND’s Casualty Identification Program, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian Embassy in Brussels, and the Canadian Defence Attaché in Paris.
“We are grateful for the dedication of the Raakvlak Intercommunal Archaeological Service of Belgium, and the support of our international partners, which ultimately made it possible for our officers to identify Private Duncanson, and to provide a sense of closure to his family, his Regiment, and the country which he served. He will not be forgotten,” said Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence.
Identification was made possible from a combination of historical context, anthropological analysis, artefact evidence, and dental records by the Casualty Identification Program and with the help of the Royal Canadian Dental Corps and the Canadian Museum of History.
The DND’s Casualty Identification Program exists so that remains of Canadian soldiers can be identified and buried with a name by their Regiment. The program also helps to give closure to the families of these soldiers.
Both the DND and CAF have notified Duncanson’s family and the Department of Veterans Affairs is providing support to the family. Private Duncanson’s remains will be interred at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery in Belgium in the fall of 2016 by his Regiment. Next-of-kin have been invited.
Duncanson’s name is listed on panel 11 of the Groesbeek Memorial at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands. The memorial commemorates the names of more than 1,000 members of Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaign in Northwest Europe, between August 1944 and the end of the War, and whose graves are unknown.
“Private Duncanson gave his life in service to Canada during the Second World War. Now, finally, he may be solemnly laid to rest with the honour and dignity he deserves,” said Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence.
Photo credit: Directorate of History and Heritage & London Free Press