Closure For Families Of WW1 Fallen Soldiers

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The remains of 15 British soldiers are to be reinterred in France, 100 years after they were killed in action.

Eleven of the servicemen have been identified after surviving relatives were traced and DNA samples were provided.

“I got this letter saying they matched the DNA, and Great Uncle John was one of the 58 in this trench in France. It was mind blowing and humbling,” said Barrie Richmond, from Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire.

His relative, Pte John Richmond, and many other comrades from the 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, were killed in France on 18 October, 1914.

Their bodies were found during construction work near the French village of Beaucamps-Ligny in 2009.

Mr Richmond knew nothing of his Great Uncle until he began researching his family tree, and was later contacted by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre in Gloucester.

“He’d joined up the day after war was declared,” Mr Richmond explained. “He’d been in before as a regular, but came out and served in the reserves.

“Then, the day after it was declared, he enrolled again, which makes me very proud of him because he just could have left it or not even gone.

“He left his wife and family behind to go and fight for the country.”

Sue Raftree is part of a small “Commemorations Team” who works to find descendants.

Sometimes, artefacts like pipes, lockets and whistles are discovered with remains which help to solve cases.

But without such clues, if the team thinks there is a good chance of identification, they can turn to science.

“To be able to use DNA has made it much easier,” said Ms Raftree. “We are rewarded by being able to identify more of our soldiers and to trace their families and give final closure”.

Mr Richmond will attend the reinterment ceremony, with full military honours, in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Y Farm Cemetery in Bois-Grenier.

“We’ll be in the place where he actually fell, where they were just literally in a trench and covered up, and I think that will come home to us when we’re in that village,” the 75-year-old added.

“My son is going out with me, but the grandchildren will be able to go in the future and see the headstone and the sacrifice he made, and the great grandchildren.

“It’ll be there for those generations in the family to go and remember John as a member of the family tree who made a sacrifice for them as well as me.”

He has been given the opportunity to write an inscription for Pte Richmond’s headstone.

It reads: “He fell and was lost but now he is found. Rest in peace at last. His life given so that we might be free.”

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