The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have confirmed that remains recovered last year in Vendin-le-Vieil, France, are those of Corporal Percy Howarth, a Canadian soldier of the First World War.
The identity was confirmed through historical, genealogical, anthropological, archaeological and DNA analysis. On June 9, 2011, human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process for a construction site in Vendin-le-Vieil, France. Alongside the remains were a few artifacts including a digging tool, a whistle and a pocket watch.
Percy Howarth was born August 16, 1894, in Darwen, Lancashire, England, one of eight children of Richard and Margaret Howarth (née Dearden). He immigrated to Canada in 1912 and worked as a sailor in Vancouver before enlisting with the 121st ‘Overseas’ Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), at the age of 21.
After training in England, he was sent to France and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal and then Corporal. Corporal Howarth fought with the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, CEF, in the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France, which began on August 15, 1917. He was reported missing, then was later presumed to have died on that day. He was 23 years old.
The Battle of Hill 70 exacted a heavy toll over ten days, with more than 10,000 Canadians killed, wounded or missing, including over 1,300 with no known grave. More than 140 men of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion were killed, 118 of whom were missing with no known grave.
The family of Corporal Howarth have been notified and the CAF is providing them with ongoing support. Corporal Howarth will be buried at the earliest opportunity in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France.