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Great War Interments and Hill 70 Monument Dedication
18 Aug - 26 Aug 2017

Over the weekend of 18-21 August, two groups from The Calgary Highlanders arrived in France to perform ceremonial tasks associated with the regiment's activities in 1917 over the following week. The two groups were:

  • Regimental Family, tasked with representing the regiment at four First World War interments and the dedication of a new monument at Hill 70. This group included

    • Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel S. Cox

    • former C.O. Colonel (retired) S. Blakely (representing the Regimental Senate)

    • Regimental Secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) F. Villiger

    • Regimental Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer G. Fedoruk

    • Regimental Major, CWO K. Griffiths

    • Curator of the Regimental Museum and Archives, Major P. Boyle

    • President of The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Association, R. Spratley

    • Five musicians from the Regimental Pipes and Drums (Pipers A. Miller and M. Davidson, and Drummers B. Woodward, Butt, and Millage).

  • 10-man Burial Party, tasked with two burials:

    • Funeral Commander, Captain N. Beatty

    • Bearer Party Commander, Master Corporal M. Johnsen

    • Bearers: Corporals P. Burt, M. Dorosh, K. Fischer, T. Huynh, A. Lauritsen, T. Lewis, B. Strachan, R. Yee


Burial Party: Rear Row (L-R): Cpl P. Burt, Cpl T. Lewis, Cpl A. Lauritsen, Cpl K. Fischer
Front Row (L-R) Capt N. Beatty (Funeral Commander), Cpl R. Yee, Cpl B. Strachan, Cpl M. Dorosh,
Cpl T. Huynh, MCpl M. Johnsen (Bearer Party Commander)

The two groups were engaged in a number of tasks:

  • Tuesday, 22 August 2017: Dedication of a new monument at Hill 70. The Calgary Highlanders supported the creation and dedication of this new monument to one of Canada's most significant, and most overlooked, battlefield victories of the First World War. The Pipes and Drums supported the dedication ceremony and all members of both regimental parties attended the dedication service.

  • Wednesday, 23 August 2017: the Burial Party conducted the interment of an unknown Canadian soldier at Canadian Cemetery No. 2, at the Canadian National Vimy Monument. The unknown soldier was recently discovered.

  • Friday, 25 August 2017: the Burial Party conducted the interment of Sergeant James Alexander Milne, who was reported missing and then presumed dead following the successful attack of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force on 28 April 2017 in the Battle of Arleux Loop. Sergeant Milne's body was recovered from the site of a new housing project at Arleux-en-Gohelle and underwent an extensive identification process. He was finally laid to rest at Orchard Dump Cemetery not far from where he fell, among the graves of several hundred Commonwealth casualties, including a number of 10th Battalion soldiers.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 - Hill 70 Monument Dedication

One of the most significant Canadian military victories of the First World War was formally commemorated after 100 years with the official dedication of a new monument. The Battle of Hill 70 was especially significant for the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (whom The Calgary Highlanders perpetuate) as they received an unprecedented number of military commendations for their part in the fighting. No less than sixty awards of the Military Medal were made to soldiers of the 10th for part they played in the fighting. Additionally, the first of the 10th's two Victoria Crosses came for the fighting at Hill 70. In all over 80 awards for gallantry were made to the 10th for this single battle, a total believed to be a record in Canadian military history.

The Battle of Hill 70 opened on 15 August 1917. It marked the first time the Canadian Corps went into battle under a Canadian commander. Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie, emboldened by the great victory at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, had resisted orders to attack the ruins of the French mining town of Lens. He argued that if they were going to fight, they should fight for an objective that meant something. He selected the high ground north of Lens, and the Canadian Corps took it with two divisions. The victory was sealed by the artillery, who helped beat off 21 separate German counter-attacks. In ten days of fighting, 30,000 German soldiers became casualties, against 10,000 Canadians.

The new Battle of Hill 70 Memorial Park sits on ground about a mile away from the hill top, with an obelisk reaching to a point 70-metres above sea level, the elevation for which the hill itself was named. Sections of the park, some still under construction, are named for the men who received Victoria Crosses at Hill 70, including Private Harry Brown of the 10th Battalion, who was fatally wounded acting as a runner, delivering vital messages between battalion headquarters and forward observation officers. The Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston, noted in an earlier ceremony that "Too long, the Battle of Hill 70 and its significance have largely been forgotten. And so, today, we change that."


Image from the Globe and Mail

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 - Burial of Canadian Soldier at Vimy Cemetery No. 2

DND News Release:

August 23, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

A First World War soldier who could not be identified by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was today laid to rest with military honours at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 in Neuville-St. Vaast, France, within Canadian National Vimy Memorial Park. The Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, was in attendance at the ceremony.

Remains discovered at Thélus, Pas de Calais, France, were deemed to belong to a Canadian First World War soldier, but his identity could not be determined, as he was found without personal or unit identifiers. The soldier would have died between the end of October 1916 and the end of July 1917, the nine-month period of Canadian Corps action in the Vimy sector.

The remains were discovered by the Service archéologique municipal d’Arras on September 27, 2012, during an excavation prior to the construction of an industrial estate. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was notified, and took possession of the remains and associated artefacts. The case was subsequently investigated and closed by DND’s Casualty Identification Program. Both maternal and paternal DNA profiles have been obtained from this set of remains with the hope of a future identification.


Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Thursday, 24 August 2017 - Burials at Loos Cemetery

Two soldiers of the 13th and 16th Battalions (perpetuated by The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) have been recently identified and were laid to rest in a combined service at Loos British Cemetery at Loos-en-Gohelle. The Calgary Highlanders lent support to this ceremony by the attendance of the Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major. Sergeant Wiflred Shaugnessy and Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston were laid to rest roughly one hundred years after they fell during the Battle of Hill 70.


Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Friday, 25 August 2017 - Burial of Sergeant James Alexander Milne

DND News Release:

Sergeant James Alexander Milne, a First World War soldier whose remains were identified by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), was today laid to rest with military honours by his unit, The Calgary Highlanders, in a cemetery in Arleux-en-Gohelle, France. 

Sergeant Milne was a member of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, a unit perpetuated by The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and The Calgary Highlanders. He died on April 28, 1917, at the age of 34, in connection with an operation against a German position known as the Arleux-Loop. 

Sergeant Milne’s remains were found in a field outside Arleux-en-Gohelle on May 13, 2013, by an archaeological team from the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives of France, which had been carrying out a mandatory archaeological survey of the land, a known battlefield of the First World War, before the construction of a housing estate. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was subsequently notified, and took possession of the remains and associated artefacts. Sergeant Milne was later identified by DND’s Casualty Identification Program.

Quotes

“On this sombre occasion, we are given the opportunity to reflect upon the courage and determination of those Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, in the First World War and after. We are thankful for the support of our international partners who have made it possible for us to lay Sergeant Milne to rest after these many years.” 

Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister

“We pay tribute to Sergeant Milne, who gave everything for Canada, as we express our gratitude to serving and former members of our Canadian Armed Forces, who have made possible our continued enjoyment of peace and liberty. We will honour them always.” 

Kent Hehr, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence

“We are gratified to be able to afford Sergeant Milne the dignity and respect of a military burial in a Commonwealth cemetery, 100 years after his death. His personal sacrifice will never be forgotten.” 

Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

“It is a great honour for The Calgary Highlanders, who perpetuate the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, to properly recognize Sergeant Milne for his sacrifice and duty to Canada. Sergeant Milne is a member of our Regimental Family and we are now able to provide him with a proper resting place. In doing so, we honour the memory of one of Canada’s own, the memory of those who have fallen in combat, and the thousands of soldiers from the First World War who remain missing.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Cox, Commanding Officer, The Calgary Highlanders

Sergeant Milne was born in Gellybrands, Cookney, Kincardineshire, Scotland, on February 10, 1883. Raised by his maternal grandmother, he immigrated to Canada at some time between 1905 and 1911. An unmarried labourer, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Calgary, Alberta, on January 27, 1915, at the age of 31.

Sergeant Milne’s identification resulted from a review of historical context, an examination of material evidence, and forensic anthropological analysis by DND’s Casualty Identification Program. The restoration of an identification disc by the Canadian Conservation Institute was critical to the success of the investigation.

Orchard Dump Cemetery commemorates over 3000 Commonwealth war casualties. Many (four-fifths) of the soldiers from the First World War are unidentified, and special memorials at the site commemorate ten soldiers from the UK and four from Canada who are known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of 38 Canadian soldiers and six soldiers from the UK who were buried in other cemeteries, but whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) photo

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) photo

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)

Canadian Army photo (Cpl Andrew Wesley)


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