Saskatchewan soldier buried in a potato field honoured

A Saskatchewan first world war soldier will be honoured this weekend as an Ottawa man continues to search for his body.

Ottawa filmmaker is on the hunt for a Saskatchewan soldier buried in a French potato field

William Milne enlisted at the age of 24 on Sept. 11, 1915 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

A Saskatchewan First World War soldier will be honoured this weekend as an Ottawa filmmaker continues to search for his body.

Forty four Canadian soldiers are believed to be buried in a potato field near Vimy Ridge. They were part of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. Saskatchewan soldier William Milne is one of them.

Originally from Scotland, Milne worked on a farm near Moose Jaw, Sask., until he joined the war effort in 1915.

Norm Christie has launched a Fundraising campaign, Help Recover Our Vimy Heroes, with the intention of raising $110,000 to proceed with the second step in the recovery of 44 Canadian Soldiers buried an unmarked grave. (Submitted by Norm Christie)

Norm Christie, an author and documentary filmmaker from Ottawa, is on the hunt to find Milne and the 43 other soldiers of the regiment.

In one of his documentaries, Christie explored the mystery of where the soldiers were buried.

He discovered that a burial soldier placed the 44 soldiers in a mine crater in the middle of no man's land, registering the names of each dead soldier.

"We can't find these guys anywhere. Not as knowns. Not as unknowns. The only logical conclusion is they are still buried where they were in 1917," said Christie.

Christie would like to take an engineering team over to France to do non-destructive testing to verify where the mass burial could be.

"We are not going in there blind. We have the names of the guys buried there as well as the precise location," said Christie.

The total project will cost $110,000. The money is needed for an engineering crew and equipment, documenting the process, compensating local farmers, and safety and security costs. Christie hopes he can raise the funds in the next six months.

He said it's disrespectful to leave the soldiers in an unmarked grave. Once the bodies are found, Christie would like to see a commemorative war cemetery created for the regiment.

"Repatriation is illegal in the first world war," said Christie. "It's a very fascinating way the history is frozen over there. All those people are still there." 

William Milne will be commemorated on Sunday at the farm where he worked before enlisting.

Directions to the farm by owner Robert Cumming:

  • Go to Moose Jaw. 
  • Find Caribou Street.
  • From the intersection of Caribou and Thatcher Street drive 30 km straight west. 
  • Then turn south for 1.5 km.    


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