Lieutenant John Gordon, Kavanagh, Age.23, B/63798 Missing in Action since                   06-04-1945 (Case forwared on 16-02-2018.)

taken from local newspaper Stentor, copyright Kavanagh Family
taken from local newspaper Stentor, copyright Kavanagh Family


War time map of Rha
War time map of Rha

Family Garritsen Farm
Family Garritsen Farm

Fieldgrave location, route followed by A Company, april 1945
Fieldgrave location, route followed by A Company, april 1945

example of Canadian beret
example of Canadian beret

Steenderen Cemetery
Steenderen Cemetery


Case Forwarded in February 2018

Used sources:


War Dairy

National Archives, Kew



De "onbekende " soldaat. 

Article by me in "Zwerfsteen" local historical magazine.




Mrs D. Garritsen

Mr J.M. Stephens



Dear Sir/Madam


I would like to put the following case forward to you, for a possible identification of the unknown soldier, buried at Steenderen, General Cemetery, killed on 6-04-1945 near Steenderen, which I believe is:



Died 06/04/1945

Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, R.C.I.C.


I will send you a Wetransfer file with a number of documents attached, some will be in Dutch as I found them in the Dutch archives, others are from the QOR of C war diary.


Lieutenant J.G Kavanagh was found in April 1947 on the farmland of Farmer D.J. Garritsen of Doesburgseweg, Steenderen, Netherlands, the farm is still there, the body was found 250meters west of the farm, the farm was destroyed during the fighting, but rebuild after the war. (photo1). The photo comes from the Garritsen family, note the location of possible field grave location in red.

From documents found at the municipality archives of Steenderen (photo,2,3) mention of the grave, with location and a remark that as the area was evacuated the grave was only recovered after the war, and that there was no one who could provide information (However this turned out to be incorrect, as I have been in touch with the daughter in law of Mr D.J. Garritsen, who owned and lived on the farm until 1974, when his son and daughter in law took over, she send me the photograph of the farm, and told me that her father in law, who like others in beginning of April when the fighting started was evacuated.


However, being the farmer and he was concerned about the farm and livestock, he returned to the farm 3 days after the fighting, to have a look at the situation at the farm, the farm was damaged, and he discovered the grave of a hastily buried soldier with a boot visible, he covered the body up and left. Why this information was not taken up in the documents in 1947 it is not known.


(photo 4), a document from the Steenderen archives, with information of the finding of the grave, which was then concluded it had to be an Canadian soldier, as they fought and liberated the area, and also the find of the remains of a beret with some still readable details, from which it turned out a Canadian fabric beret (example photo 7).

Another document tells about the finding of 3 other items beside the body, a small etui, with a little scissor which was placed in the coffin, a pocket watch which was handed over at the townhall, it also stated that Garritsen, wrongly spelled as Gerritsen, In this document claimed that another farmer, named Verhoeff, found a ID tag near the location of the fieldgrave, which also was handed over at the townhall, again no mention of what happened to the watch and the ID tag.


Photo 6, another document about the mention of an unknown soldier, No.11 on the Steenderen casualty list.


Lieutenant Kanavagh (photo Kavanagh, from QORC museum which confirms that he was killed in Ijssel area on 6-4-1945) returned to the Battalion in December after an OTC in Canada, he left the Battalion in 1943, I also have attached pages from the book Battle Dairy of A. Company Sergeant Major C.C.Martin DCM,MM, 1994, ISBN 1-55002-214-8. )Battle Dairy 1,2,3)  no mention of Lieutenant Kavanagh, but it would give you an idea about the fierce fighting in the area.


Also I have attached the QORC war dairies pages of that period which gives in formation the Lieutenant Kavanagh was killed and went missing in the Steenderen area. No other officer or men of the Battalion that liberated/fought in the Steenderen area went missing other than Lieutenant Kavanagh. Also of the 5 allied planes that crashed in the Steenderen area no crew members are missing. No other allied troops fought in this area.


As you can read on the 5 April 1945, 10 platoon had their officer killed, which was the only officer of the Battalion in that period, I have also attached 2 map of 1944/1945 period, which show the location/places mentioned in the maps and the War diary, including the trench system mentioned.


After looking all the missing/killed men in the area in the period and that area, only Captain Kavanagh is the only one missing killed, no other officers are known to have been killed or missing in that area between 6th April 1945 and 4th May 1945, all others from the QORC who were killed or died of wounds are accounted for:


It is believed that Lieutenant Kavanagh was killed by either a so called Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck projectile widely used by the German troops, which might have been a reason why identification was not possible in 1947, with also missing most likely the now attached details and documents, which would then could helped out with his identification.

What also make me believe that the unknown soldier is Lieutenant Kavanagh is the fieldburial location, in the WD you can read that the fighting took place between Rha, Pipelure and Zwaarte Schaar. (See google earth map Fieldgrave-route A Company) as you can see the farm of the Garritsen family is on the route to Zwaarte Schaar, the farm is can also been found on the 1944/1945 map named: Pellebartelsplaats, it is believe that this farm was used by men of A company as Company HQ, which stated by Mr Garritsen when he visited the farm on the 9th of april hence his remarks to the family that there was an soldier buried (no mention of any other casualties from that location) and that there must have been fighting.



Corporal Frank Charles Crawford, killed on 5 April, fieldgave Prinsmaatweg, Rha.

Now Canadese Begraafplaats, Holten.


Rifleman James Earl Aiken, killed on 5 April, fieldgrave Prinsmaatweg, Rha.

Now  Canadese Begraafplaats, Holten.


Rifleman Max Duralia, died of wounds received at Rha on 27 April, begraven op Brookwood Military Cemetery, Engeland. (A. Company)


Rifleman Harold F. Goldsmith, died of wounds  on 8 April, fieldgrave Cemetery ’s Heerenberg.

Now Canadese Begraafplaats, Groesbeek.


Rifleman Ronald Macara, overleden aan verwondingen  op 4 April, fieldgrave Cemetery ’s Heerenberg.

Now Canadese Begraafplaats, Groesbeek .


Rifleman Michael Joseph McKenna, killed on 6 April, fieldgravef Prinsmaatweg, Rha.

Now Canadese Begraafplaats, Holten.


Rifleman Donald Norman, Patience, gesneuveld/overleden aan verwondingen op 6 april, veldgraf tijdelijke Canadese begraafplaats Nijmegen.

Now  Canadese Begraafplaats, Groesbeek.


Rifleman George Clifford Woodruff, killed on 6 April, fieldgrave Prinsmaatweg, Rha.

Now Canadese Begraafplaats, Holten. (A.Company)



I hope that above and attached information, will give to enough information and documentation to have a look at this case, which hopefully can lead to an identification of the unknown soldier as being Lieutenant J.G. Kavanagh.


Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.




Met vriendelijke groet-With kindest regards,


Yours Sincerely



Philip Reinders, Netherlands


Case out come: February 2020 (Positive)

Mr Reinders,

Yes, the information you provided along with a review of other sources of information in our Archives and those of CWGC did result in the identification of Lt Kavanagh.  The Casualty Identification Review Board reviewed all the information when it met in November and confirmed that all the evidence presented did confirm the identification. The media release went out last week following the notification to the family by members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. 


Thank you very much for your assistance in this identification process, your participation was an important part of the successful outcome. 



Carl Kletke, MMM, CD, MA, B. Ed.

DHH 6- 2 Assistant Heritage Officer, Directorate History and Heritage (DHH)

Department of National Defence / Government of Canada Heritage Officer, Directorate History and Heritage (DHH)

Department of National Defence / Government of Canada


Photo via the QORC Museum
Photo via the QORC Museum

Dear Mr Reinders,


Thank you for submitting your evidence for the identification of Lieutenant Kavanagh’s grave.


We received multiple submissions for this proposal, which together with research undertaken by ourselves and the Canadian authorities, overwhelmingly proved the connection between the grave in Steenderen General Cemetery and the final resting place of Lieutenant Kavanagh.


The following webpages may be of interest to you: Canadian announcement of Lieutenant Kavanagh’s identification and Queen’s Own Rifles Museum biography, including a letter to his sister.


You may wish to keep an eye on our News page, which will be updated with details of the ceremony.


Your ongoing support and evidence based contributions are much appreciated.


Kind regards,




Commemorations Officer