After 90 Years in the First Clues to Heroes Who Died Mass War Graves, Our Great War for Their Country

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), May 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

After 90 Years in the First Clues to Heroes Who Died Mass War Graves, Our Great War for Their Country


Byline: Helen Thomas

THEY fought and died for their country more than 90 years ago but now these brave Coventry and Warwickshire men may finally be properly laid to rest.

Their names are included in a list of soldiers whose remains have possibly been discovered in a mass grave found in Fromelles, in northern France.

The discovery of five burial pits was made in May last year. They have been undisturbed since the First World War but are thought to contain the remains of up to 400 British and Australian soldiers, believed to have been buried by German troops after the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916.

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) has begun the task of trying to identify some of the dead and has published a list of names of soldiers it believes may have been buried at the site. Work has started to recover the remains so they can be properly buried with a commemorative ceremony in a new cemetery. It is hoped DNA testing will lead to living relatives of some of the soldiers.

After seeing the list of names published by the CWGC Coventry historian and author Trevor Harkin, of Earlsdon, matched up the local soldiers with his own detailed research.

The 37-year-old, who lives with his wife and two children, has already published four books about soldiers from the city, including a study of the memorial plaques in War Memorial Park.

He said: "I started the War Memorial project a few years ago and I researched the plaques in the park. I went through a lot of local papers and printed off details about the soldiers.

"What I've done since then is collaborate lots of information about soldiers from Coventry so when this list was published it was a case of checking them with my own database. I've been working with the Commonwealth War Grave Commission and they've sent me information.

The photographs were all printed in local newspapers at the time. It makes these people much more real when you see pictures of them." One of the reasons Trevor became interested in the First World War is because after researching his family history he found three of his grandmother's uncles had died in the conflict.

He said: "Their bodies were never found. It would be a very emotional thing for someone to be DNA-matched to one of these dead soldiers."

Almost 3,000 men from Coventry were killed during the First World War.

As well as the Coventry and Bedworth men researched by Trevor there are also several others on the CWGC list from Warwickshire who may also have been buried in the mass graves in Fromelles. These are: From the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 2nd/7th battalion - Privates William Henry Barnett, of Warwick, Harry Beckett, of Stratford, Frank Hinde Hayes, of Rugby, and Albert Beesley, of Stratford, Sergeants

Albert James Blakemore, of Warwick, and William Harvey White, of Rugby, and Corporal Harold Moore, of Nuneaton. From the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 2nd/1st Bucks battalion - Private George Alfred Castle, of Warwick. Anyone who believes they may be related to one of the soldiers on the list should contact Historic Casualty Casework, Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester GL3 1HW, phone 01452 712612 extension 6303 or 7330 or email S P VA - J C C C - f r o m e l l e s - GroupMailbox@spva.mod.

uk The full list can be seen by following the links on the website www.cwgc.org MORE than 7,000 British and Australian soldiers perished or were seriously wounded in the assault in Fromelles on July 19, 1916. The aim of the attack was to divert German attention from fighting at the Somme, 50 miles away. The Australians saw 5,533 men killed, wounded or missing while the British dead and casualties numbered 1,547. …

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