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Remains of 3 Canadian WWI soldiers found in France identified through DNA

Private William Del Donegan (left), Private Henry Edmonds Priddle (centre) and Sergeant Archibald Wilson (right).
Private William Del Donegan (left), Private Henry Edmonds Priddle (centre) and Sergeant Archibald Wilson (right). Department of National Defence

More than 100 years after fighting in a battle in northern France during the First World War, the remains of three Canadian soldiers have been identified.

The soldiers’ remains were found over the course of a year in 2010 near the village of Vendin-le-Vieil in northern France.

READ MORE: The Battle of Hill 70 — Canada’s forgotten Vimy Ridge

Through DNA, genealogical and historical analysis, they have now have been identified as Private William Del Donegan, Private Henry Edmonds Priddle and Sergeant Archibald Wilson.

All three soldiers were from Manitoba and enlisted in Winnipeg. They died in the Battle of Hill 70 as members of the 16th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

The Battle of Hill 70 took place in August 1917. It was the first major action fought by CEF under a Canadian commander in the First World War. Around 2,100 Canadians gave their lives in the battle — over 1,300 of whom still have no known grave.

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WATCH: Battle of Hill 70 remembered 100 years later

Battle of Hill 70 remembered 100 years later
Battle of Hill 70 remembered 100 years later

But now three of the soldiers in the battle will be laid to rest.

“A century has passed since these three soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice on a battlefield half a world away, but time has not diminished their legacy,” Seamus O’Regan, Veterans Affairs Minister and Associate Minister of National Defence said.

“It seems fitting that their final resting place is in the land which they helped to free. We will lay them to rest with the honour they and their families deserve. May they never be forgotten.”

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All three of the families have been tracked and Veterans Affairs Canada said its providing them with ongoing support as final arrangements are made.

READ MORE: Mapping Canada’s war dead, house by house

The soldiers will be buried by their regiment and their families at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos British Cemetery outside Loos-en-Gohelle, France, on Aug. 23 at 1:30 p.m. CT. The public is welcome to attend.

“We are honoured to have shared in the efforts to bring these lost soldiers to the attention of Canadians, as we will be honoured again later this year to mark their graves with headstones so that all who pass by will know what they gave for us,” Brigadier-General (Ret.) David Kettle, Secretary General, the Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said.

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WATCH: Why Canada remembers the First World War

Who were the soldiers?

Private William Del Donegan.
Private William Del Donegan. Department of National Defenc

Private William Del Donegan was born on March 27, 1897, in Ottawa. His family moved to Winnipeg and he worked as a railway clerk before he enlisted in the CEF on Feb. 21, 1916, at age 18.

He joined the 16th Battalion CEF in France on April 21, 1917, and died on Aug. 16, 1917, at the age of 20, during the Battle of Hill 70.

Private Henry Edmonds Priddle.
Private Henry Edmonds Priddle. Department of National Defence

Private Henry Edmonds Priddle was born on May 17, 1884, in Norwich, Ont. In 1910 he married Florence Hazen, and the couple settled in Winnipeg. Priddle worked as a broom-maker before enlisting in the CEF on April 1, 1916, at age 31.

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He joined the 16th Battalion CEF in France on May 9, 1917, and died on Aug. 16, 1917, at the age of 33, during the Battle of Hill 70.

Sergeant Archibald Wilson.
Sergeant Archibald Wilson. Department of National Defence

Sergeant Archibald Wilson was born on Feb. 12, 1892, in Campsie, Scotland. One of 11 children, he came to Canada with three brothers and two sisters in June 1910. Planning to eventually farm in Manitoba, he worked as a barber before enlisting in the CEF on Dec. 18, 1914, at age 22.

READ MORE: Dozens of Canadian First World War veterans’ widows still get pensions

He joined the 16th Battalion on Dec. 22, 1915, and participated in several battles throughout 1916 and the first part of 1917. On June 4, 1917, he was promoted to Sergeant, and he died on Aug. 16, 1917, at the age of 25, during the Battle of Hill 70. Two of his brothers, John and Gavin, also enlisted, and were killed in Belgium and France.

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Remains of another Manitoba soldier identified

Last year, the remains of another Canadian soldier were identified in the same village in France.

After extensive DNA analysis, it was discovered that the remains were Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston from Manitoba, who was a member of the 16th Battalion CEF.

WATCHFamily member talks about discovering the news about her uncle, Private Johnston 

DNA evidence unravels mystery of missing Manitoba solider from WW1
DNA evidence unravels mystery of missing Manitoba solider from WW1

Johnston was born in Springfield, Man., on Aug. 10, 1895. He grew up in Fairford, Man., and enlisted in Winnipeg on Jan. 19, 1916, at 20 years old. He was killed on either Aug. 15 or 16 in 1917, in the Battle of Hill 70. He was 22.

Family photos of Private Johnston in 1916.
Family photos of Private Johnston in 1916. Global News