Vimy gunner's dog tags found in French garden 100 years after death

On the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, former Cambridge, Ont., resident Cynthia Kerr found an online post from a man who said he'd dug up her uncle's First World War identification tags in his garden in France.

Man in France dug up identification tags in his garden

Canadian Gunner Harold Kerr died in battle June 26, 1917, near Amiens, France. Kerr's great niece, Cynthia, recently discovered an online post from a man who said he had found Kerr's dog tags. (Cynthia Kerr)

Cynthia Kerr's family has always believed her great uncle Harold's identification discs, often referred to as dog tags, were lost after he died in battle on June 26, 1917, near Amiens, France.

But the former Cambridge, Ont., resident never gave up hope of learning more about her uncle and every so often, she'd Google different terms to see if should could bring up information about Canadian Gunner Harold Clifford Kerr.

On April 9, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, she tried again.

"It was just this really dumb, Google search thing and then all of a sudden, I was screaming," Kerr told CBC News from her home in Australia.

She discovered her uncle's name on a French online forum. A man in France said he had been digging in his garden near Amiens and had found 17 different ID tags.

Harold Kerr's was among them.

A photo of her uncle also appeared on the screen.

"When the guy found the 17 tags, he looked up every single number and out of all of those tags, the only person that has a photograph up on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial is my great uncle," Kerr said.

Cynthia Kerr, formerly of Cambridge, Ont., raises a glass to the man who found her great uncle's dog tags in his garden in France. (Cynthia Kerr)

'I do this every year for Harold'

The man went and took a photo of her uncle's grave and Kerr said she was surprised to see it decorated with a flag and a picture.

When the man who found the dog tags posted to the forum saying it was nice to see someone had decorated the grave, another man said, "It's me. I do this every year for Harold," Kerr said.

"They've kind of taken him under their wing," Kerr said of those keeping watch over her uncle's grave.

Over the next week, Kerr has had late nights with numerous phone calls and emails with the people in France about her uncle.

The man who decorates the grave has shown her many pictures of the area.

"They've shown me in photographs exactly where my great uncle would have stood at Vimy Ridge firing the Howitzer," she said.
Cynthia Kerr says since learning a man had found her great uncle's dog tags, she has also connected with a man and his wife who regularly decorate her relative's grave. (Submitted )

100th anniversary of his death

Harold Kerr, the son of Robert and Mary Kerr of Cookshire, Que., was 25 when he died from wounds from a shell while fighting. His body lies in the Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery.

Kerr is now planning a trip to France in June to visit his grave.

"I wasn't there for Vimy Ridge, but it seems more appropriate that I go this year," she said.

"As far as I know, I could be the only family member that has ever gone to his grave."

Kerr said another plot twist to this story is the question of who uploaded the photos of her uncle to the virtual war memorial.

"Somebody out there in the family, a descendant, has a Kerr family photo album and they might also have his other medals, and I don't know who that is," she said.


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