Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

February 24, 2011 13:00 ET

Remains of Unknown First World War Soldier Identified

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Feb. 24, 2011) - The Honourable Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, announced today that Department of National Defence has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Avion, France, in 2003, as those of Private Thomas Lawless of Calgary, Alberta.

"We are thankful that Private Lawless will finally be laid to rest with the honour and dignity that he deserves," said the Honourable Laurie Hawn. "Private Lawless gave his life in the name our country and his contribution to Canada in the First World War will not soon be forgotten." 

"Nearly 28,000 Canadian soldiers went missing during the Great War, Second World War and Korean War," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence. "New remains are discovered every year and my department and their partners work diligently to identify these fallen to ensure that their ultimate sacrifice is honoured." 

In October 2003, two sets of human remains were found at a construction site south of Avion, France, in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Over a period of six years, the Casualty Identification section of the Directorate of History and Heritage, sought the identity of the soldiers.

The first soldier was identified, in February 2007, as Private Herbert Peterson of Berry Creek, Alberta. Through continued genetic testing using inherited genetic material through the maternal line (mitochondrial DNA), osteology, facial reconstruction, military history and finally, stable isotopes – the second soldier was identified as Private Thomas Lawless on January 10, 2011.

Veterans Affairs Canada has made contact with the members of Private Lawless' family and will provide on-going support to the family as arrangements are made and carried out for the final interment.

"Once again, we are reminded of the value of a single human life and our debt of gratitude when that life is given in the service of others," said the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs. "We are now able to share Private Lawless' story of courage with other Canadians, and we will remember him."

Private Thomas Lawless, born April 11th, 1889, was a member of the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and will be buried at La Chaudière Military Cemetery in Vimy, France, on March 15, 2011, with his family in attendance. La Chaudière, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, currently has 907 servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated there, including Private Herbert Peterson.

Note to editors: For more information on the Department of National Defence's casualty identification process, please visit:

Contact Information