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Burials for unknown Irish WW1 soldiers

Colonel Des Bergin representing the Irish Embassy and Lieutenant Colonel Ret’d Dominic Hancock of the British Embassy lay wreaths at the graveside (Photo: UK government)

Two burial services have taken place on the Western Front, in Belgium and France, honouring four unknown Irish soldiers who died during the First World War.

The first service took place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Messines Ridge British Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium with a second burial taking place at Guillemont Road Cemetery, on the Somme in France.

The services, organised by the Ministry of Of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), part of Defence Business Services (DBS), were conducted by the Reverend Nathan King CF, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment.

The bearer party at each service was composed of members of 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Royal Irish Regiment.

Despite extensive research, the JCCC said they were unable to identify any of these soldiers due to the high numbers of casualties in both areas.

The Hauntings Soldier at St Stephen’s Green commemorates the centenary of the ending of World War I. (Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie)

“It has been a privilege to organise these two services and to work with The Royal Irish Regiment to ensure these Irish soldiers have had the burial they deserve,” Rosie Barron, of the JCCC, said. “Although their identities remain unknown, they are now at rest alongside their comrades and their sacrifices will not be forgotten.”

The first service saw a soldier of The Royal Irish Rifles and an unknown soldier of an unknown regiment, laid to rest at Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The remains of these two soldiers had been discovered during work to widen a drainage ditch south west of the town of Wijtschate. Research, conducted by JCCC, shows they were most likely killed in either June 1917, during the Battle of Messines or in April 1918, during the Battle of the Lys.

A second burial service took place for a soldier of The Connaught Rangers and an unknown soldier of an unknown regiment at Guillemont Road Cemetery.

The remains of these two soldiers had been uncovered during work on a wind turbine project near the village of Guillemont. They are believed to have been killed in September 1916.

Paul Bird, CWGC Recovery Officer, added: “Although it has not been possible to identify these four soldiers, their service and sacrifice has not been forgotten.

“They have been laid to rest with respect and dignity alongside their comrades in Messines Ridge British Cemetery and Guillemont Road Cemetery.”

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