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Unknown First World War Canadian soldier identified

The identity of a previously unknown Canadian soldier of the First World War in CWGC Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, France, is now confirmed as Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt.

Photos courtesy Canadian Armed Forces

Company Sergeant-Major David George Parfitt

David George Parfitt was born on July 4, 1891, in London, England. He was the son of Frederick and Elizabeth Parfitt née Woodhouse) and immigrated to Canada at the age of 18. He was a mill worker in Keewatin, Ontario, before enlisting in Valcartier, Quebec. Three of his brothers also enlisted: William (Royal Canadian Navy), Arthur (Canadian Expeditionary Force) and Frederick (British Army): all three survived the war.

Having been a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia for four years, David Parfitt was promoted to the rank of sergeant upon enlisting. The 8th Canadian Infantry Battalion, with Sergeant Parfitt in its ranks, arrived in France in February 1915. In September 1915, he was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major.

He was killed in action during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, one of the Battles of the Somme. On September 26, 1916, one of the objectives of the 1st Canadian Division (which included the 8th Infantry Battalion within the 2nd Infantry Brigade) was to take and occupy a series of trenches located between Thiepval and Courcelette, France. Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt lost his life leading a platoon from D Company of the 8th Infantry Battalion in the attack that day.

Although his body was later found and buried in Regina Trench British Military Cemetery, there was insufficient evidence of his identity for the grave to be named. Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt was therefore commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, erected in memory of Canadian soldiers killed in France during the First World War who have no known grave.

The grave was known to be that of a ‘Sergeant Major of the 8th Battalion, Canadian Infantry’. who had died in the area where CSM Parfitt was last seen.

Following extensive archival research by the CWGC and the Directorate of History and Heritage to corroborate the findings of an independent researcher, the identification was confirmed in November 2019 by the Casualty Identification Review Board, which includes representatives from the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team and the Canadian Museum of History.

A headstone rededication ceremony will take place at the earliest opportunity at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Regina Trench Cemetery, in France.

The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence said:
"We remember the courage of the Canadians who served our nation both at home and overseas in the First World War. The successful identification of Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt is a reminder for all Canadians of the ultimate sacrifice made by many in service to our nation. To the family of Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt, know that Canada honours him and is grateful for his service."

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence said:
“Company Sergeant-Major Parfitt was one of our own – a Canadian soldier who fought for our country with honour during the First World War. His name is engraved on the base of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial along with those of the more than 11,000 of his comrades who were posted as 'missing, presumed dead' in France. Now that his grave has been identified, I’m pleased to know he will receive a permanent headstone to commemorate his courage, service, and ultimate sacrifice.”

Mel Donnelly, Head of Commemorations Casework at CWGC said:
"It is a privilege for us to work with our partners in Canada to continue the Commission’s efforts to identify the graves of those who fell more than 100 years ago. We’re grateful to all those who contributed to this case and honoured to be able to erect a new CWGC headstone naming CSM Parfitt."

Tags Canadian soldier Identification