Four-Year Hunt Concludes Identifying First World War Soldier

Above image: Cpl Bousfield (Photo courtesy of Bousfield Family)

A four-year hunt for the truth finally came to a close this year.

After years of extensive research, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has confirmed that a previously unknown First World War grave in Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium is the grave of Cpl. Frederick Percival Bousfield.

Cpl. Bousfield was a member of the Signals Section of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) member. He was killed during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in 1916.

“Corporal Bousfield made the ultimate sacrifice while helping wounded comrades to safety, saving lives and laying down his own in the process. The story of his selfless commitment brings us grief and inspiration over a century later. We must never forget this young man and the others like him who served their country with such courage. To his family, I extend my sympathy and gratitude,” said Anita Anand, minister of national defence.

Cpl Bousfield (right) sledding ((Photo courtesy of Bousfield Family).

A World Traveller

Born on March 8, 1896, Frederick Percival “Percy” Bousfield was one of nine children. Born in England, he apprenticed for a time in Glasgow and travelled around the world working on sailing vessels. He and his family then migrated to Canada in 1912, eventually settling in Winnipeg, MB.

After immigrating to Canada, Bousfield enlisted with the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He then attested for overseas service on Jan. 29, 1915, and was assigned to the Signals Section of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He was then sent to France in Feb. 1916 after training in England and being promoted to the rank of corporal.

Corporal Bousfield’s family photo upon immigrating to Canada.(Photo courtesy of Bousfield Family).

A Hero’s Sacrifice

From June 2-13, 1916, the 43rd Battalion took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel near the town of Ypres, Belgium. The Canadians were tasked with holding their position on Mount Sorrel.

On June 7, Cpl. Bousfield was killed when hit by an enemy shell. He was carrying wounded men to safety at the time. According to DND, “Many men said that he displayed great courage in the moments before his death.”

Cpl. Bousfield was 20 at the time of his death.

Corporal Bousfield (right) and 2 other members of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion.(Photo courtesy of Bousfield Family).

Identifying This Hero

After the war, according to DND, Cpl. Bousfield’s name was engraved on panel 24 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. This memorial was specifically created to honour the fallen soldiers of Ypres Salient in Belgium who have no known grave.

“Corporal Bousfield’s name was engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial, along with the other soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient in Belgium during the First World War who have no known grave. Now, his final resting place is known. His courage and commitment to service before self must never be forgotten. That is the debt we owe him, and all fallen Canadian soldiers and their families,” said Lawrence MacAulay, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of national defence.

It wasn’t until October 2019 that the Directorate of History and Heritage received a report from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) with the possible identification of a grave at the Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium, according to DND.

Three separate independent researchers then suggested the grave belonged to Cpl. Bousfield. After extensive research by DHH and CWGC Cpl, Bousfield’s identity was finally confirmed Oct. 2021.

The CAF notified the remaining family of Cpl. Bousfield of the identification. A headstone rededication ceremony is planned for the near future at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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