From left to right, Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh and his two brothers, Frank and Bob, his mother Cora and sister Mabel (Photos courtesy the Kavanagh family).
A headstone rededication ceremony for Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh took place in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s section of the Steenderen General Cemetery in Steenderen, Netherlands on 14 Oct 2022. The ceremony was originally planned for the spring of 2020, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh was born on October 20, 1921, the son of John and Cora (née Armstrong) Kavanagh of Toronto, Ontario. He worked as a clerk in an office and joined the Non-Permanent Active Militia in September 1939, later enlisting as a Private (Rifleman) The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (QOR of C) on June 13, 1940.
Embarking for Scotland on 19 July 1941, he reached the rank of Corporal by September 1942 and married Emily Jean Haddleton, a member of the Canadian Red Cross Corps, on 12 June 1943. He returned to Canada for officer training in October 1943, arriving back in the UK in late December 1944 and joined the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, CASF in North-West Europe in March 1945.
He was killed in action aged 23 on April 5, 1945, during an advance towards Pipelure, Netherlands, but his remains were not identified at the point of recovery. Following the war, Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh was commemorated on Panel 10 of the Groesbeek Memorial as having no known grave.
According to archival records, in April 1947 remains were recovered from a farmer’s field outside of Steenderen, Netherlands and buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of the Steenderen General Cemetery. As the identity of the remains was unknown, the grave was commemorated and cared for as an unknown soldier of the Second World War by the CWGC.
In 2017, a research report was received suggesting that the remains of “a soldier of the 1939-1945 war” contained in a grave in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s section of the Steenderen General Cemetery, Steenderen, Netherlands could be identified by name. The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed the identity of the grave as that of Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh in November 2019.
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence said:
"Those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that Canadians enjoy today deserve to be remembered by all Canadians. The successful identification of Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh offers all of us an opportunity to remember those who served during the Second World War. To the family of Lieutenant Kavanagh, Canada will always remember the contribution you loved one made to Canadians. Lest we forget."
Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, Commander Canadian Army said:
"The identification of Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh demonstrates that the service of our members is never forgotten. The legacy of those brave Canadians who battled tremendous odds to liberate the Netherlands lives on as we honour Lieutenant Kavanagh for his service to Canada. We will forever remember his ultimate sacrifice."
The CWGC’s section of the Steenderen General Cemetery and the new headstone for Lieutenant Kavangh.
See below for a selection of images taken from today's ceremony: