Wednesday, May 18, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Peace for a Missing Piece of Dutton

     How could I not devote a post to this incredible story, which has made the news across Canada and sparked comments from both Minister of Veterans Affairs The Hon. Kent Hehr Canada's Defense Minister, The Hon. Harjit Sajjan?? I've tried to compile as many details as possible and add in some extra things I was able to find.

     Let's start at the beginning. Kenneth Donald Duncanson was born in Wallacetown on June 7, 1915 to parents Donald and Floretta. He graduated from Dutton High School in 1929:
The 1929 graduating class of Dutton High School
Kenneth Duncanson shown under the arrow
     If you would like a closer view of the full class photo, complete with the list of names, you can find it here:

     In 1939 he married Mabel Lillian Haggerty, and the couple settled in Dutton. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted with the Algonquin Regiment, R.C.I.C. on August 24, 1942 in Listowel, later serving with Headquarters Staff in Canada at Listowel and at Ipperwash. After one year of training in Canada he trained for ten months in England. Along with the regiment, he participated in the fighting at Caen, the Falaise Gap, and the Leopold Canal. The Algonquins served in the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Armored Division in Northwest Europe.
     Pte. Duncanson was twenty-nine years old when he was killed on September 14, 1944 during an attempt by the Algonquin Regiment to establish a bridgehead crossing of the Derivation de la Lys and the Leopold Canal in Belgium. On 2 October 1944, he was reported missing in action, and on 15 June 1945, definite news was received that he had been killed in the battle of the Leopold Canal.  He was included in the Groesbeek Memorial in the Netherlands, and is commemorated on page 296 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. He also appears in the local A Tribute to Valor:

     Then, on Remembrance Day 2014, a metal detector hobbyist combing a farmer's field in Belgium discovered the remains. After combining the historical context, anthropological analysis, artifact evidence, and dental records, they were identified as Pte. Duncanson by the Raakvlak Intercommunal Archaeological Service of Belgium.

     “We are grateful for the dedication of the Raakvlak Intercommunal Archaeological Service of Belgium, and the support of our international partners, which ultimately made it possible for our officers to identify Pte. Duncanson,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Monday in a release.

     “Now, finally, he may be solemnly laid to rest with the honour and dignity he deserves,” said Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr.

     Officials say members of Duncanson's family have been notified and Veterans Affairs is providing support as the final arrangements are made. He is to be interred in the fall of 2016 at Adagem Canadian War Cemetery in Belgium by his regiment, and his next-of-kin have been invited to attend. 

     This outcome undoubtedly brings peace and closure to an incredibly painful chapter in both our history and the lives of those Pte. Duncanson left behind. The communities of Dutton and Wallacetown remain just as proud of his contributions as the day he departed to make them, and the remarkable attention the story has been paid serves as a testament to the ways in which the effects of the Second World War are still very much being felt.

     Acknowledgements as always to Elgin County Archives, as well as CTV News, The Toronto Star, and Veterans Affairs Canada, and Angela Bobier for the A Tribute to Valor material.
     Thanks for reading, 
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

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