Friday the 11th September this year was a gloriously sunny day, at least it was in Arras. I happened to be over there for three days leading a group around the 1915 battlefields of northern France, and ahead of joining everyone for breakfast I popped out to grab a copy of the “Voix du Nord”, the regional daily newspaper, and an early morning coffee. On page 15 the paper carried an article that provided closure on a matter that I had touched on in ‘Arras Memorials’.
The article, which concerned the re-burial of an officer from the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, described the quiet, dignified ceremony that had taken place two days earlier at HAC Cemetery, Ecoust-St-Mein, one of the many cemeteries featured in ‘Arras South’. Unfortunately, he was laid to rest as ‘an unknown officer of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry’. According to the newspaper, his regiment had been determined by insignia found with the body, the remains of which were found in a private garden following a period of heavy rain. The man’s identity was eventually narrowed down to four possible candidates, but despite the best efforts of the Ministry of Defence and others, it proved impossible to progress the enquiries any further. I, like many others, had been hoping that a positive identification would be made, but it was not to be, and the names of the four possible candidates remain inscribed on the Arras Memorial.
Nevertheless, the article was topical, and very timely, because we had been out on the Loos battlefield the day before where we had visited St. Mary’s ADS Cemetery and the grave that is now thought to be that of Lieutenant John Kipling, though not everyone is convinced. I had also mentioned to the group the case of Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, 8th Black Watch whose name, like Kipling’s, is still on the Loos Memorial, but who is now known to be buried in Quarry Cemetery, Vermelles, following evidence provided by his family. Our final visit of the trip was to Fromelles and Pheasant Wood Cemetery where in recent years modern science, coupled with great diligence, has led to the identification of numerous soldiers whose remains were found nearby.