Unknown soldier identified 80 years after he fell
Published 26/02/2011 | 05:00
AN Irish immigrant who died fighting for Canada in World War I has been identified eight years after his remains were found -- and almost a century after his death.
The remains of a Canadian soldier were discovered during construction work in France in 2003 and last month were identified as those of a 28-year-old Irish immigrant Private Thomas Lawless.
Born on April 11, 1889, Pvt Lawless emigrated from Santry, Co Dublin, in 1908 with other members of his family.
He lived in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, and in 1915 he enlisted in the 49th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.
On the night of June 9, 1917, he was killed just north of Vimy Ridge, near the village of Avion in France. He was one of 16 soldiers lost without a trace that night after a raid on German trenches.
His remains were undiscovered until the construction work unearthed them, along with another soldier's, in 2003. Pvt Lawless's identity was established after extensive work by forensic specialists and researchers used isotope signatures from his teeth to find out who he was.
Genetic testing using a DNA sample from a relative in Canada confirmed it was the Irish-born soldier.
Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretary at Canada's national defence ministry, said Pvt Lawless would now be buried with full military honours at La Chaudiere Military Cemetery in Vimy, France, on March 15.
Members of his family from Ireland will travel to attend the ceremony.
"We are thankful that Pvt Lawless will finally be laid to rest with the honour and dignity that he deserves," Ms Hawn said.
"Pvt Lawless gave his life in the name our country and his contribution to Canada in the First World War will not soon be forgotten."
La Chaudiere, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, currently has 907 WWI servicemen buried or commemorated there, including Pvt Herbert Peterson, whose remains were found with Pvt Lawless.
Nearly 28,000 members of Canada's Army, Air Force and Navy who died in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War have no known or maintainable grave.
Every year, some of the formerly missing are discovered, and the Department of National Defence is dedicated to ensuring that they will be identified and buried in a known grave.