Ceremony rededicates resting site of Winnipeg soldier killed in First World War

Cpl. Frederick Percival Bousfield was buried at the Bedford House Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium. A new headstone was put in for the Winnipeg soldier this year. Courtesy of Danielle Roubroeks

A ceremony was held Thursday to rededicate the headstone of a gravesite near Ypres, Belgium after it was identified to be that of a Canadian soldier who had fought and died in the First World War.

Frederick Percival Bousfield, a corporal with the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada militia unit, was born on March 8, 1886. According to the Department of National Defence, Bousfield immigrated to Canada in 1913 from Cotehill, Cumberland, England. He settled in Winnipeg and briefly worked as a carpenter.

In 1914 he joined a militia unit, and by the following year had been assigned overseas, where he joined the 43rd Canadian Infantry Battalion with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. After some training in England, he was promoted to the rank of corporal.

By February 1916, Bousfield was in France, fighting in the war.

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“For over a century, Cpl. Bousfield was officially listed as ‘missing in action.’ His family suffered the pain and sorrow of having never had the chance to say farewell to him,” said Linda Tomlinson-Seebach, major brigade chaplain with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group. “Now the lost has been found right where he laid the whole time. Now Cpl. Bousfield’s burial is complete.”

Major Linda Tomlinson-Seebach with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group offered a prayer a new headstone was unveiled on Sept. 14, 2023, over the gravesite of Cpl. Frederick Percival Bousfield. Courtesy Danielle Roubroeks

The corporal is said to have been a part of the Battle of Mount Sorrel, which took place outside the town of Ypres, Belgium, from June 2 to 13, 1916. The Department of National Defence says Canadian soldiers had to defend their position on a piece of high ground. The Winnipegger was struck by an artillery shell on June 7.

Letters that his family received from members of his battalion paint the picture of Bousfield’s final moments. Bousfield was carrying wounded men to safety and in going back for another stretcher, he was hit. He died at the age of 20.

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All these years later, his family now lives in Toronto. They were informed that his final resting place had been identified, with his remains having been buried in the Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium. This comes after nearly a century of not knowing where he was laid to rest. A marker identifying his temporary grave is said to have been destroyed, according to the department. And when his remains were reburied at Bedford House Cemetery, they could not be identified.

On Sept. 14, 1923, a headstone was registered on his plot that read: “A Corporal of the Great War – Canadian Scottish – Known Unto God.”After the war, his name was engraved on the Ypres Memorial, which was erected in honour of the soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient during the First World War and who had no known graves.

The corporal’s identity was finally confirmed through historical and archival research. On Thursday, a ceremony was held near Ypres to rededicate the new headstone, which identifies the grave as belonging to Bousfield.

Commanding officer Lt.-Col. Jon Baker with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada placed a wreath at the new headstone of Cpl. Frederick Percival Bousfield on Sept. 14, 2023. Courtesy of Eric Compernolle

The ceremony was attended by 15 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including the commanding officer and regimental sergeant-major of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, as well as almost 40 members of Bousfield’s family and the public.

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“Honouring our fellow Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country is one of our most important military customs. All soldiers and their families deserve the same dignity and respect for their sacrifice, regardless of whether their death occurred yesterday or 107 years ago,” said Lt.-Col. Jon Baker, commanding officer with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.

“It is with great honour that we can engrave the name of Cpl. Percy Bousfield on his place of interment and bring closure for the family of our fallen comrade: they can know for certain where their loved one is finally laid to rest.”

Click to play video: 'Fallen Winnipeg soldier’s grave rededicated more than a century after death in WWI'
Fallen Winnipeg soldier’s grave rededicated more than a century after death in WWI

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