Winnipeg soldier’s previously unknown grave from First World War identified in Belgium

Winnipeg Cpl. Frederick Percival Bousfield, previously unknown, was identified by the Canadian Armed Forces in a First World War grave in Belgium’s Bedford House Cemetery.

Bousefield was identified through historical and archival research. “Basically we have to prove not only that all the evidence suggests that it is an individual but also that it cannot be anyone else.” said Renee Davis, a historian with the Directorate of History and Heritage at the Department of National Defence.

“This is such a great way of using history in such a tangible way that has such a big impact and ultimately when we are able to contribute and help put a name on a headstone it means so much to us and so much more to the family.”

Lt. Col. Jon Baker, commanding officer of Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, told 680 CJOB it felt good getting to the bottom of the mystery.

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“We were proud to be part of this process to provide official notification to the family that we had identified his remains more than 100 years after he had sacrificed his life for our country.”

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Capt. Scott McDowell, War Diaries Officer with the Directorate of History and Heritage and also the great-nephew of Bousfield, said it blows his mind every time he thinks about how fortunate he was to have this experience.

“Getting to work with Renee and then getting to go through the process of all the Canadians killed in the great war, causality identification, identified mine.”

The corporal was born in England, where he apprenticed with the mercantile service at 14 and travelled the world.

He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1912 first arriving in Québec City and eventually settling in Winnipeg. He then joined The 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada, a militia unit where he worked inspecting vessels in Quebec City and Halifax, and in Winnipeg as a carpenter.

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He later enlisted with the Signals Section of the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion and was promoted to the rank of corporal before being sent to France in February 1916.

Bousfield was killed that same year on June 7, during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in Ypres, Belgium. He was 20 years old and was struck by an enemy shell while carrying wounded men to safety, according to letters received by his family from members of his battalion.

“Cpl. Bousfield made the ultimate sacrifice while helping wounded comrades to safety, saving lives and laying down his own in the process,” said Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence.

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“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. To his family, I extend my sympathy and gratitude.”

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A headstone rededication ceremony will take place at the earliest opportunity at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.

“Cpl. Bousfield’s name was engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial, along with the other soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient in Belgium during the First World War who have no known grave. Now, his final resting place is known.” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence.

“His courage and commitment to service before self must never be forgotten. That is the debt we owe him, and all fallen Canadian soldiers and their families.”

McDowell said he plans to go to Belgium to pay his respects.

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