The Battle of Hill 70, Casualty Identification

Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston

Church Parade 10th Bn. Abeele, Belgium, May 1916
Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston
Source: Veterans Affairs Canada

Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston was born on 10 August 1895 in Springfield, Manitoba, Canada, son of Joseph William Johnston and Margaret Jane Johnston. The family moved to Fairford, Manitoba when Reginald was an infant.

Johnson grew up and worked as a homesteader in Fairford until he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) with the 107th Overseas Battalion in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 19 January 1916 at the age of 20.

A damaged ring found with
Private Johnston’s remains.
Source: DHH

Private Johnson sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia on 18 September 1916 for England, arriving in Liverpool eight days later on 25 September 1916.

Following months of training at Witley Military Camp in Surrey, England, Johnston transferred to the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (The Canadian Scottish) on 28 November 1916. The Battalion took Private Johnston on strength on 4 December of that year.

In the following months, Private Johnson and the 16th Battalion participated in numerous battles, including the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Private Johnston and the 16th Battalion fought in the advance on Hill 70 that began 15 August 1917 and lasted ten days ending on 25 August 1917. The advance was in two stages with the capture of two objective lines. The 16th Battalion secured its part of the first of these objectives called the “Blue Line” soon after the start of the attack. The second objective, called the “Green Line” was secured early the following day.

Private Johnson’s service and medical records originally listed him as wounded with later reports indicating he was missing and presumed to have been killed in action on 15-16 August 1917 at the age of 22.

Following the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission engraved his name on the Vimy Memorial with the names of other soldiers who had no known grave.

In August 2011, skeletal human remains were discovered during a munitions clearing process near rue Léon Droux, Vendin-le-Vieil, France. A 16th Battalion button was found with the remains as well as a legible identification disc.

A 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion
(Canadian Scottish) brass button
found with Private Johnston’s
remains. In the centre of the button
is St. Edward’s Crown overtop a
Cross of St. Andrew. The battalion’s
motto “Deas gu cath,” which is Scottish
Gaelic for “Ready to sting,” surrounds
the crown. This is encircled by the words
“Canadian Scottish,” the number 16, and
a thistle. Source: DHH
Private Johnson's identification disc
The identity disc found with Private
Johnston’s remains. Although
damaged, Johnston’s name,
service number, and religion are
legible. Source: DHH

Through historical, genealogical, anthropological and archaeological analysis, with the assistance of the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team, and the Canadian Museum of History, the Casualty Identification Review Board was able to confirm the identity of the remains as Private Reginald Joseph Winfield Johnston.

Private Johnston was buried on 24 August 2017 in the Loos British Cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle, France by members of The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) from Victoria, British Columbia. Attending the burial was Pte Johnston’s niece, nephew and great-nieces, as well as representatives of the Government of Canada, the local French government and the Canadian Armed Forces.

For further information on Private Johnston, you can view his personnel file on the Library and Archives Canada website.