CAF Story | An honour for any soldier: Private Duncanson given proper burial 72 years after killed in action.
Video / November 8, 2016
For me, I think the most profound thing was studying about the history. Having been to Afghanistan twice, and been in situations similar to what Private Duncanson was in. The mental state that they would have had, being given orders and going into a very hostile environment; encountering situations that they had not planned for with weapon systems right in front of them, dealing them significant causalities. And then staying there overnight on that ridge-head and being infiltrated by the German army and counter attacked; and the confusion, the pain. All those things all happening in one place, and just kind of being able to connect my own experiences there on the ground. That was the most profound thing for me.
This is a huge honour for any soldier and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for any soldier or officer in the military, to find a soldier from your regiment who was killed and give them the opportunity for a proper burial, and to provide that closure to the family. You can’t begin to describe how important that job is. And to be the leader of these soldiers of the burial party going over was a huge honour for me. So when it was indentified that he was from my home area, my discussion with the commanding officer…I wanted to be very sure that he was aware that it was that much more of a connection for me to go and do this task.
Dutton, where he was living at the time with his wife, is about a forty-minute drive from St. Thomas. I live just outside of St. Thomas, or I did live there until I moved away. I have family there and it’s just an interesting set of circumstances that I’ve been in that town and seen the area where his grocery store was, and not known that.
They’re having a service on the 5th of November in the community where they’re going to actually have a service and have a grave marker there in a cemetery in Dutton. So that the community can actually have a place where they can say their respects to Private Duncanson.
One interesting thing though, was before leaving, my aunt took a couple of vials and took some soil from Dutton. So I had this soil from Dutton in an empty container. My aunt said, “Could you please make sure that this soil makes its way to Private Duncanson’s gravesite and bring us back some soil from Belgium for the service.”
And the soil that she had provided to me I gave to the padre. And the funeral director used that soil to put the cross on the grave when he was interred. So during the actual ceremony itself, that was the soil that was used was from Dutton. So it all kind of connects. So when I was looking out over that ground and picturing where they were and what that would have looked like, it all makes sense. And it’s a memory that you’ll always have.
So now for however many years I have left in the military to offer, that’s one of those things that when I come up to a hard point in my training or in my whatever duties I’m going to be asked to do, one of those memories that I’ll have and say, ‘you know what, other people from this regiment have gone through a lot more and they did just fine’. So that’s what I’ll take home with me.
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