Enigma Shrouding Canadian WWII Soldier’s Burial Solved after 70 Years

Jimmie Griffiths

Morley Roney served Canada as a soldier for four and a half years during the Second World War. He spent some service time in Italy. While there, he met and befriended a 17-year-old kid Jimmie Griffiths.

“He was a big, strong kid,” Roney said. “We kind of took little Jimmie, or big Jimmie, under our wing there because he was just 17-years-old.”

He and fellow soldiers of the regiment they were serving looked after the kid.

However, just weeks after Jimmie had his 18th birthday, he took a fatal hit. Roney was standing next to him when it happened.

And for the next 70 years, Roney never knew if his friend received a decent burial or not.

Roney is now 91 years old. Recently, he was able to meet a distant cousin residing in the same part of Italy where the manitoban war vet was stationed during WWII – Corrin Fraser. In the course of their conversation, Fraser offered to take photos of the area as well as graves of fallen soldiers.

And, in what could be called as a stroke of luck, Fraser was able to stumble literally upon the grave of Jimmie Griffiths, the young soldier who never left Roney’s mind.

Fraser lost her way when she was getting to the  Moro River Canadian Cemetery and instead ended up in Coriano Ridge War Cemetery where she found Jimmie’s gravestone.

And after seeing the pictures of his friend’s proper grave site, the old WWII veteran finally has some peace of mind.

Roney may not be able to go back to Italy due to his old age but his cousins have laid gifts in his friend’s grave for him.

“It has really brought a lot of comfort to my dad. And peace to know that he found his friend he lost 69 years ago,” said Roney’s daughter, Janice McDonald.

Meanhile, Roney’s connection to his fallen friend did not end with the found graveyard. Griffith’s family had contacted him after seeing an image of the headstone was posted in an ancestry site4 online.

“They had no idea where he was buried,” Roney said. “They had no idea idea he was even in the army until he was dead.”

Roney had never thought a simple friendship with a fellow soldier would reach this far and would make a great difference to one family after almost seven decades. Jimmie’s relatives had little information about him, they didn’t even have a photo of him, that is until Roney shared his recollections about his friend.

“I just told them that he didn’t suffer,” said Roney.

The Griffiths, on the other hand, stated that their friendship with Roney, their last connection to their kin who was one of the soldiers who fought in WWII, brought them a sense of comfort.

Furthermore, encouraged by her success in finding the graveyard Roney asked, plans to bring comfort to other war veterans.

As she was not able to find Canadian flags in Italy, she asked friends back home to send her some so she could put them in the fallen soldiers’ graves. Days after asking, she had received so many heartwarming responses to her request getting hundreds of flags with others promising to give.

On November 11, Roney’s daughter along with other family members will travel from Canada to Italy bringing the flags with them. They will lay these flags in honor of the Canadian soldiers who died in WWII and were buried in the country. On that day, the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery will be celebrating its very first Remembrance Day.

Families of fallen soldiers buried in the site are also sending personal memories to their buried kin through the group.

“It’s very touching,” said McDonald, Roney’s daughter. “It’s just touched so many people.”

Roney, on the other hand, said he is glad his family is doing this kind of service to other families and that they are paying due respects to his fallen comrades in battle.

“Brings a tear to my eye,” he stated.

Article based from CTV News (click on link for video about the news)




Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE