First Newfoundland Regiment Soldier to be Identified Through Descendant’s DNA
Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation
December 1, 2020
The following is being distributed at the request of The Rooms Corporation:
First Newfoundland Regiment Soldier Identified through Descendant’s DNA
This morning The Rooms is announcing the role they have played in assisting the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces’ Casualty Identification Program in the successful identification of the remains of Private John Lambert, #3026 of The Newfoundland Regiment (now the Royal Newfoundland Regiment).
Private Lambert died in combat on August 16, 1917, during the First World War at the age of 17 from wounds sustained in action at the “Battle of Langemarck”, in Belgium. A biography for Private Lambert can be found in the backgrounder below.
In April 2016, four sets of human remains were discovered during an archaeological dig near Ypres, Belgium. Military identifiers discovered with the remains indicated that three of the soldiers were British and one, by the “NFLD” shoulder badge was a soldier of the Newfoundland Regiment.
Belgian authorities contacted the Canadian Armed Forces’ Casualty Identification Program upon the discovery of the soldier. The Casualty Identification Program reached out to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment for assistance finding the soldier’s descendants, and the Regiment, in turn, reached out to The Rooms for their assistance with the search.
DNA samples from the soldier’s descendants made it possible to confirm the soldier’s identity, Private John Lambert of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. This is the first time a Newfoundland Regiment soldier has been identified by using this process.
Provincial Archivist and Director of The Rooms Provincial Archives, Greg Walsh, provided vital archival research to locate Private Lambert’s direct descendants.
Military records confirmed there were 16 Newfoundland Regiment soldiers who had fought in the vicinity, with no known grave. Walsh, began his year-long search with this list of 16 soldiers and proceeded to find living descendants for 13 of the 16.
He meticulously examined a variety of archival sources and collections including vital statistics registers, census records, newspaper records, phone books, ancestry.ca, family search.org, attestation papers and nominal rolls, phone books, Canada 411, Facebook, Google, yearbooks, group photos of the regiment, birth/death/marriage records, and obituaries.
Walsh’s task was complicated by the fact that the age on Private Lambert’s official documentation was incorrect. Private Lambert was approximately two years younger than indicated when he enlisted.
“One of the key pillars of Honour 100 was a commitment to reconnect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with their pasts. Knowing that our Provincial Archivist was able to assist the Department of National Defence in successfully identifying Pte. Lambert 103 years later, exemplifies how important the preservation of archival records are. Newfoundland and Labrador’s First World War story continues to remain very much in the forefront of our hearts and minds.”
Honourable Bernard Davis
Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation
“In 2016, The Rooms made a commitment to the families who provided content for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment gallery, to our donors, and to our community, that we would continue our work to research and uncover untold stories about the men and women who answered the call to serve in the First World War. Today’s meaningful example demonstrates the impact our work can have in bringing these stories to light.”
Anne Chafe, CEO
The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador
“My involvement in the search to identify Private Lambert has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences as Provincial Archivist of Newfoundland and Labrador. To be the lead archivist involved in identifying the first Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldier found and named in this way has been an honour. I am proud to have done this work on behalf of Private Lambert’s family, The Rooms Corporation, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the Province, and for the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Greg Walsh, Provincial Archivist and Director
The Rooms Provincial Archives
Biographical Information – Private John Lambert
Private John Lambert (Regimental Number 3026) is commemorated beneath the Caribou in Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Park.
His occupation prior to military service recorded as that of a labourer earning a weekly four dollars and fifty cents.
John Lambert was a recruit of the Tenth Draft. Having presented himself for medical examination at the Church Lads Brigade Armoury in St. John’s on August 14, 1916 when he enlisted for the duration of the war – engaged at the daily private soldier’s rate of $1.10 – and attested on that same August 14.
It was August 28 when Private Lambert embarked for passage to the United Kingdom and it was on board His Majesty’s Transport Sicilian that he was to make the trans-Atlantic crossing to the United Kingdom. This was the third such voyage that the ship was to make in 1916, the Newfoundlanders likely sharing the vessel with Canadian personnel.
Private Lambert was a soldier of Section 16, Platoon 12, ‘C’ (Reserve) Company of 3rd Battalion, and one of a draft of two-hundred forty-two personnel from Newfoundland in all.
The son of Richard Lambert and Elizabeth Lambert of Cuckold’s Cove Road on the outskirts of St. John's, he was brother to at least Annie – to whom he had allotted a daily sixty cents from his pay.
Private Lambert was at first reported as wounded in action on August 16, 1917, then as having died of wounds while serving with ‘D’ Company in the fighting at the Steenbeek. There being no evidence of medical treatment given, it is most probable that he died in the field.
At home, it was the Reverend Dr. Kitchen who was requested to bear the news to his family. John Lambert had enlisted at the age of eighteen years and three months.
Private John Lambert was entitled to the British War Medal and also to the Victory Medal (InterAllied War Medal).