Killed in action: Private Alexander Johnston died in September 1918, aged 33, during the Battle of the Canal Du Nord. His remains were only identified in March (picture courtesy of Daily Mail UK)
From the DND/CF:
October 25, 2011
SAILLY-LEZ-CAMBRAI, France – Private Alexander Johnston, a Canadian casualty of the First World War whose remains were identified last spring, was buried today with full military honours at Cantimpré Canadian Cemetery, in Sailly-lez-Cambrai, France. In attendance were members of Private Johnston’s family, a Canadian Forces contingent, Mr. Marc Lortie, Canadian Ambassador to France as well as other French dignitaries.
“After all these years, we are finally able to commemorate and pay tribute to this great Canadian hero who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. “By honouring Private Johnston today, we ensure that his courage and personal contribution in ending the Great War will never be forgotten.”
Private Alexander Johnston was born in Coatbridge, Scotland on August 20, 1885, and moved to Hamilton, Ontario, in his late twenties. He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 5, 1918, and was taken on strength of the 78th Battalion in the field on September 4, 1918. Private Johnston died during the Battle of the Canal du Nord on September 29, 1918.
During the Battle of the Canal du Nord, which took place in the last 100 days of the First World War, the area of Raillencourt-Sailly, France, was taken by the 4th Canadian Division near the end of September and beginning of October, 1918. The 78th Batallion was tasked with taking the villages of Sailly and Raillencourt following the fight to capture the line along the Douai-Cambrai Road. After crossing the Douai-Cambrai Road, the battalion came under heavy machine gun fire, and Private Johnston was lost during this time....
In July 2008, human remains were discovered in Sailly-lez-Cambrai, France. Found with the remains were two collar badges of the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). The Directorate of History and Heritage was notified of the discovery in February 2009, and Private Johnston’s remains were identified through mitochondrial DNA testing on March 31, 2011.
Still and video imagery of today’s interment ceremony are available on the Canadian Forces Image Gallery site at www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca.
For more information on the identification process for Private Alexander Johnston, please visit: http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/news-nouvelles/news-nouvelles-eng.asp?id=3971.
Additional information on the Canadian military’s involvement in the Battle of the Canal du Nord can be found at the following links:
Library and Archives Canada: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/firstworldwar/025005-1600-e.html.
The Daily Mail also has coverage here.
Rest In Peace, Sir.