GUNTER: Identifying the deceased matters — both in war and for residential schools
Thursday marks the 103rd anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Remarkably, the fallen are still being identified.
Every year (or just about every year), a tombstone that simply, forlornly reads “A Soldier of the Great War. Known Unto God,” is solemnly removed and replaced with one bearing the deceased’s name, rank, birthdate, date of death, regiment and Canadian hometown.
The Department of National Defence (DND) is very good about finding a living descendant of the deceased and having members of the soldier’s former regiment (or its successor regiment) deliver the news in person.
Ledingham’s family had always assumed his body had been swallowed up by a mud bog after he’d fallen in battle or had been obliterated during a shelling. Those were the fates of tens of thousands of soldiers.
But two years ago, someone at DND’s directorate of history and heritage was putting together pieces of unknown soldiers’ records when they noticed that Ledingham’s regiment’s name was engraved on an “unknown corporal’s” headstone. But the Cameron Highlanders hadn’t been in action on the date – Oct. 12, 1918 – listed on the grave marker.
The Camerons were resting on the 12th after an especially gruesome day of battle on Oct. 1 in which nearly 1,000 Highlanders and soldiers from other units of the 43rd Canadian infantry battalion had been killed.