Unknown soldier no longer: Previously unmarked First World War grave in Belgium holds Winnipeg hero

The grave of an unknown soldier in Belgium has recently been identified as belonging to a First World War soldier from Winnipeg who was killed trying to bring wounded people to safety.

Cpl. Frederick Percival (Percy) Bousfield was 20 when he died in the Battle of Mount Sorrel in Belgium

A black and white photo of a smiling soldier in uniform carrying his hat, standing next to a train.

The grave of an unknown soldier in Belgium has recently been identified as belonging to a First World War soldier from Winnipeg who was killed trying to bring wounded people to safety.

Staff with the Canadian Armed Forces casualty identification program confirmed the grave belongs to Cpl. Frederick Percival (Percy) Bousfield, who was 20 when he died in 1916, through historical and archival research, a news release from Canada's Department of National Defence said Wednesday.

Bousfield was born in England, but immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 16 and eventually settled in Winnipeg.

Bousfield enlisted with the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada, a militia unit, and served with them for a year.

He worked inspecting vessels in Quebec City and Halifax, and in Winnipeg as a carpenter.

On Jan. 29, 1915, he re-enlisted and was assigned to the signals section of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion.

After training in England, he was promoted to corporal and was sent to France in February 1916.

Bousfield and his battalion's first battle was the Battle of Mount Sorrel, outside the town of Ypres, Belgium, from June 2 to 13 in 1916.

The Canadians were assigned to defend their position on Mount Sorrel, a piece of high ground that had a view of the town of Ypres and the surrounding area.

Bousfield was killed on June 7, when he was hit by an enemy shell.

He had been carrying wounded men to safety and was going back for another stretcher when he was hit and died, according to letters received by his family from members of his battalion.

Many soldiers said he displayed great courage in the moments before his death.

The battle claimed 8,000 lives, the Department of National Defence says.

Minister of National Defence Anita Anand called Bousfield's death in the process of helping wounded comrades to safety the "ultimate sacrifice."

"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," Anand said in the news release.

In October 2019, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission made a possible identification for the grave, which is in the Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres.

Then three separate, independent researchers also raised the possibility that the grave was that of Bousfield.

Further research was done by members of the Canadian Armed Forces casualty identification program, which identifies unknown service members when their remains are recovered or previously buried unknown soldiers. They confirmed the identification in 2021.

Bousfield's surviving next of kin, who were found after a two-year search, have been informed of the discovery, the Department of National Defence said.

Twenty-four previously unknown soldiers from the First World War have been identified through the casualty identification program, as well as 17 from the Second World War.

There will be a headstone rededication ceremony at a later date at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, the news release says.


Rachel Bergen


Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Email story ideas to rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

Check Also

Accountability in Greenbelt controversy leads back to Premier Doug Ford, political experts say

One political observer says Ontario's premier is likely to survive the recent Greenbelt scandal since …