Remembering

Unknown Grave of Second World War Trooper identified

Last week the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) identified the grave of a Canadian soldier of the Second World War as that of Trooper Henry George Johnston.

“In a conflict as vast as the Second World War, it can be difficult to remember that behind every casualty was a human being with a life they left behind to serve. Events like this remind us of that. Trooper Johnston paid the ultimate sacrifice, and will finally receive the recognition he deserves. We remember him today,” expressed Lawrence MacAulay, minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence.

Johnston was buried as an unknown soldier in 1945 in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Mook War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Johnston was born on May 2, 1915, in Chauvin, Alberta. He enlisted at No. 13 District Depot as General Reinforcement in October 1943 in Calgary.

After his training in Ontario, he made his way to the United Kingdom on June 25, 1944, arriving on July 3, 1944. He was taken on strength by the 1 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment, Canadian Armoured Corps, Canadian Active Service Force, on November 12, 1944.

Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, Commander Canadian Army, stated that Canadian troops proudly fought alongside our Allies during the Second World War, providing key ground support to the British-led operation that pushed back enemy troops on the Roer Front along the Dutch-German border.

Mook War Cemetery, Netherlands. Image courtesy of Commonwealth War Graves Commission. www.cwgc.org.

“Trooper Henry George Johnston is part of a proud legacy of Canadians who fought valiantly during the fierce battles, demonstrating great courage and character in the face of tremendous adversity. Trooper Johnston will be honoured for his service and his sacrifice will forever remain in our memory,” he expressed.

Johnston was declared killed in action on January 17, 1945, during an attack in which his Regiment was carrying members of the Devonshire Regiment, a regiment of the British Army, as part of Operation BLACKCOCK.

Harjit S. Sajjan, minister of national defence, made a statement in honour of Johnston, “Trooper Johnston dedicated his life in defence of peace and freedom during the Second World War. We honour him for his courage and selflessness. The service of this brave member will not be forgotten, as it continues to impact the way Canadians live today. As we approach Remembrance Day, all Canadians should appreciate that the Canadian Armed Forces’ Casualty Identification Program continues to identify the names and tell the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. We will remember them. Lest we forget.”

The CAF has notified surviving next of kin of Johnston’s identification and has provided the family with ongoing support. A headstone rededication ceremony will take place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Mook War Cemetery in Limburg, Netherlands, at the earliest opportunity.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. Using an extensive archive, the Commission works with its partners to recover, investigate, and identify those with no known grave to give them the dignity of burial and the commemoration they deserve.

The CAFs Casualty Identification Program, within the Directorate of History and Heritage, identifies unknown Canadian service members when their remains are recovered, and there is sufficient evidence to identify them by name.

The program also provides an opportunity for the family, the fallen soldier’s unit, and all Canadians to reflect upon the men and women’s experiences who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Along with this, it identifies service members previously buried as unknown soldiers when there is sufficient historical and archival evidence to confirm the identification. When that is the case, the previously unknown soldier receives a new headstone with their name, unit affiliation, and a personal family inscription, if that is requested.

The Casualty Identification Review Board is composed of members of the Directorate of History and Heritage, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team, and the Canadian Museum of History.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorates the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. Using an extensive archive, the Commission works with its partners to recover, investigate, and identify those with no known grave to give them the dignity of burial and the commemoration they deserve.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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