Vimy Ridge Remains Verified

Friday, March 23, 2007
During a construction phase near the Vimy Ridge monument in 2003, a set of human remains was uncovered. Three years later, the remains have been positively identified through DNA testing to be those of Pvt. Herbert Peterson, a member of the 49th Battalion, Canadian Infantry. His body was found entwined with that of another, as yet unidentified, Canadian soldier.

A forensic reconstruction of their deaths has concluded that he was then likely scooped up by the unidentified soldier he was found next to. The soldier had begun walking him back to Canadian lines when the pair were driven into the ground and buried after a powerful shell burst overtop of them during the bloody maelstrom.

Pvt. Peterson was one of the thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought and ultimately gave their life at Vimy Ridge. Missing and believed dead, his family back in rural Alberta never knew what happened to him. Now, 90 years later, Pvt. Peterson will finally be laid to rest. As part of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, "one of Canada's greatest military victories", will be interred at a cemetary near the monument with full military honors. Members of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment (the regiment is apparently connected to the 49th Battalion in which Peterson served) will be flying to France to take part in Peterson's portion of the ceremony, as well as some of his relatives.

We don't often hear much about the Great War. Thanks to old documentary film clips and photos, we know much more about WWII. However, the two events are tightly entwined, just as Pvt. Peterson's and the unknown soldier's remains were. If you're interested in learning more about Canada's involvement in the Great War, I would highly recommend Pierre Burton's VIMY. I read this last summer and it was a great book. His writting at times comes across as a bit pretentious but overall highly enjoyable reading. Unlike a standard retelling of the facts, VIMY discusses major events of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and it's part in the larger Battle of Arras from the standpoint of Canadian soldiers and officers involved. Collected through survivor interviews and recovered letters/diaries, it is a very moving book. Highly recommended. With only two (I believe) Canadian veterans from the Great War remaining, books like this will help us to remember and learn (hopefully) from our past actions.

As for the second soldier found with Pvt. Peterson, investigations are continuing to try to uncover his identity. The military is hoping to provide his family with the same news as that of Herbert Peterson's and to give him the final resting place and honor he so greatly deserves considering the sacrifice he made.


Alasdair said...

I'd heard a little about this Karen, but not the detail you provided - thanks much. As a long-time Legion member - I know it's important for us to remember what went on during those terrible years of WWI. So many Canadians and Newfoundlanders went over there and never came back.

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