Molentje, Damme Casualty Identification

Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson

Death Notice from The Dutton Advance 7 June 1945
An announcement confirming
Private Duncanson’s death
was made on 7 June 1945.
Photo credits:
The Dutton Advance,
7 June 1945, page 1

Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson was born on 7 June 1915 in Wallacetown, Ontario. He married Mabel Lillian Haggarty in 1939 and lived in Dutton, Elgin County, Ontario. Before joining the Army, he was a truck driver for Strathcona Creamery, but his goal was to own and operate his own grocery store.

On 24 August 1942, five days after 2nd Canadian Division conducted the raid on Dieppe, France, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to infantry training in camps at Ipperwash and Stratford Ontario. On 14 September 1943 he left for England and was assigned to No. 3 Canadian Infantry Reinforcement Unit (3CIRU). In preparation for the Normandy invasion he was transferred to The Algonquin Regiment on 17 April 1944 as a rifleman.

The Algonquin Regiment left for France on 20 July 1944 as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division. Private Duncanson fought in the final phases of the Normandy Campaign, including the Falaise Pocket. He was involved in the pursuit of the German Army across the Seine and the Canadian Army’s move north in the battles leading up to the Battle of the Scheldt in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Recovery work in Molentje Belgium
Members of the Belgian
Raakvlak Intercommunal
Archeological Service and
DHH begin the recovery of
the rest of Private
Duncanson’s remains
in April 2016.
Photo credit: DHH

According to witness accounts, Private Duncanson died on the morning of 14 September 1944 from wounds received during a German counterattack forcing the Algonquins to withdraw back across the Leopold Canal and the Dérivation de la Lys. Private Duncanson was declared “Missing in Action” as of 17 September 1944, then “Killed in Action” as of 31 May 1945, but his body was not recovered.

Following the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) engraved his name on panel 11 of the Groesbeek Memorial in the Netherlands with the names of other soldiers who have no known grave.

On 11 November 2014, a metal detector hobbyist discovered partial human remains in a farmer’s field near Molentje, Belgium. The discovery of the remains was reported to the Belgian Police, who recovered a small number of bones and four BREN Light Machine Gun magazines, which were then transferred to the CWGC. The partial remains were determined to be those of a Canadian soldier from the Second World War.

After extensive historical and forensic anthropological research by the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH), the remains were determined to be one of the eight missing soldiers from The Algonquin Regiment that fought near Moerkerke, Belgium, on 13-14 September 1944. The remaining human remains of this soldier were recovered by DHH in cooperation with the Belgian Raakvlak Intercommunal Archeological Service in April 2016. Numerous artefacts were also found, including: a gold signet ring, a compass, two combs, a razor, shaving cream, a wallet and a toothbrush.

With the assistance of the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team, as well as historical, genealogical, anthropological and archaeological analysis, DHH was able to confirm the identity of the remains as Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson on 27 April 2016.

The internment of Private Duncanson took place on 14 September 2016 at the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Members of Private Duncanson’s family, as well as representatives from the Government of Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces, attended the ceremony.

For further information on Private Kenneth Donald Duncanson, you can view his personnel file at Library and Archives Canada.

Private Duncanson’s wedding ring.
A gold wedding ring
was found with
Private Duncanson’s
remains. The ring has a small
diamond and the initials KDD
on the face.
Photo credit: Raakvlak
Intercommunal Archeological
Service
Compass found with Private Duncanson.
A compass recovered
with Private Duncanson’s
equipment.
After being buried
for over seventy years the
needle still
pointed north.
Photo credit: DHH
During the conservation of what was believed to be a “Snuffbox” found with Pte Duncanson, members of the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) discovered a bracelet.
During the conservation of what
was believed to be a "Snuffbox"
found with Pte Duncanson,
conservators of the Canadian
Conservation Institute (CCI)
discovered a bracelet.
© Government of Canada,
Canadian Conservation Institute