After more than a century, remains belonging to Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldier to be laid to rest
More than a century after he died in battle, a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment will finally be laid to rest in Belgium later this month.
Family, government representatives, and members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment will travel to Belgium for the burial of Pte. John Lambert, who was only 17 when he died in battle nearly 105 years ago.
"It's surreal. It's totally surreal for me," said Greg Walsh, provincial archivist at The Rooms, who will also attend the ceremony.
Walsh was a key part of the identification of Lambert's remains.
Lambert's remains were discovered alongside three other unknown soldiers in 2017. Archaeologists determined that the remains belonged to a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment because of the signature "Nfld" shoulder flash on his uniform.
Walsh said Lt. Paul Furlong of the Newfoundland Regiment asked him to help identify the remains. He said he began with a list of 16 soldiers, all who died in the Battle of Langemarck and had no known resting place.
"I was asked to take that list and kind of do a backwards family tree," he explained.
WATCH | Anthony Germain speaks with archivist Greg Walsh about the identification of John Lambert:
Walsh said he used census records, parish records, baptism records, social media accounts, local statistics, Ancestry.ca information and more to create genealogy reports. He sent those reports to forensic anthropologists in Ottawa who did DNA comparisons. In December 2020, he got an email from casualty identification co-ordinator Sarah Lockyer confirming that the remains belonged to Lambert.
"It's the first time anyone from the regiment has been identified like that," Walsh said. "Very satisfying, as an archivist, to have used my training, my experience, the records, of course, and my understanding of the process to help."
When he enlisted, Lambert lied about his age, saying he was 18 years old when he was actually just 16. Walsh says when he died at 17, Lambert already had a stellar record — he earned two medals posthumously.
His family never forgot him, either.
"I've spoken with many of them and he was present in all their lives and conversations, different generations," Walsh said.
Walsh said the identification of Lambert's remains gave the family some closure.
"It's a very significant thing for them," he said.
Walsh said The Rooms has had discussions with Lambert's family to feature his story as part of the current Royal Newfoundland Regiment exhibit.
"He deserves a spot here among his comrades, so to speak," Walsh said.
The burial of Pte. John Lambert will take place on June 30 at New Irish Farm Cemetery, near Ypres in Belgium.
"It's so satisfying to be able to have contributed my own little part to this. Bring closure to the family, allow him to have a proper military burial and just tell his story," Walsh said.