Unknown First World War Veteran identified
The identification of a previously unknown grave of Cpl. George Herbert Ledingham, a Canadian soldier of the First World War, was confirmed on Nov. 22.
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) confirmed this through the CAF Casualty Identification Program within the Directorate of History and Heritage. The program identifies unknown Canadian service members when their remains are recovered. It also identifies members previously buried as unknown soldiers when sufficient evidence confirms the identification.
Originally Partially Identified
Ledingham was originally partially identified as an unknown corporal with the 43rd Battalion when buried in Canada Cemetery, Tilloy-lez-Cambrai, France.
“While the reality of the fighting on the Western Front left thousands of young men in unmarked graves, it’s important, even all these years later, that we not forget that each of them was a person with a name and a story when they died,” stated Lawrence MacAulay, minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence.
He added, “Days like today remind us of that, and I’m glad that we’re now able to provide Corporal Ledingham with the recognition that he and all of his comrades deserved.”
Born Feb. 17, 1887
George Herbert Ledingham was born on Feb. 17, 1887 in Aberdeen, Scotland. One of his brothers, William Alexander Ledingham, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and survived the war.
On Nov. 15, 1915, Ledingham enlisted in Winnipeg and joined the 179th Battalion. His unit left for Liverpool, England, on Oct. 3, 1916.
They boarded the SS Saxonia from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and arrived at their destination about ten days later. Later, the 179th Battalion meshed with the 17th Reserve Battalion, “which at the time served to make up for the losses of a number of Canadian units fighting in France,” according to the Casualty Identification page on the Government of Canada website.
Joined 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion
On Nov. 13, 1916, Ledingham joined the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada), CEF. He served with them until he died. In October 1917, Ledingham was awarded the good conduct badge and promoted to Corporal.
In late September 1918, the Canadian Corps was fighting to take Cambrai, a major enemy transportation hub in northern France.
“Standing in their way were the strong German positions on the Canal de L’Escaut, positions which could not be flanked,” the Casualty Identification page explained.
Canadian Divisions Attacked Northeast of Cambrai
On Sept. 30, the 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions attacked northeast of Cambrai to take the bridgeheads at Ramillies and Eswars. When these operations failed to take their objectives, a new assault involving all four Canadian divisions was planned for the next day.
In the early hours of Oct. 1, part of the 3rd Canadian Division, the 9th Infantry Brigade, including the 43rd Battalion, had to capture the heights east of the village of Tilloy. They were to continue then and take the bridgeheads at Ramillies and Aire. According to the Circumstances of Death registers, Corporal Ledingham took a bullet to the head that day, southwest of Ramillies, France.
After the war, Corporal Ledingham’s name was engraved on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
Headstone Rededication Ceremony will Occur
The CAF has notified the family of Cpl. Ledingham’s identification and is giving the family support. A headstone rededication ceremony will occur as soon as possible at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Canada Cemetery in Tilloy-lez-Cambrai, France.
“My thoughts today are with the family of Corporal Ledingham, a Canadian soldier of the First World War who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country,” said Anita Anand, minister of national defence. “To the family of Corporal Ledingham, I and all Canadians are grateful for your ancestor’s courage and bravery. We express our everlasting appreciation for his service and sacrifice. Lest we forget.”
Commonwealth War Graves Foundation
For more information on the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, visit here, and for more on the CAF Casualty Identification Program, visit here.