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Still Unburied 2014


Seadog
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Those identified as possibles for the identity of the officer found in the garden in Beaurains in June 2012 are:-

ASHMAN, STANLEY. Rank: Lieutenant. Date of Death: 03/05/1917. Age: 29.
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. 5th Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 6 and 7. Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Alfred and Annie Ashman, of 6, South Field, Radstock, Bath; husband of Minna Ashman, of 24, Moorland Rd., Weston-Super-Mare.
BULMER, JOHN LEGGE. Rank: Second Lieutenant. Date of Death: 03/05/1917. Age: 22.
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. "A" Coy. 4th Bn. attd. 5th Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 6 and 7. Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of the Rev. Edward and Elizabeth Bulmer, of 1, Brooklands, Filey, Yorks. Educated at Marlborough College. Postmaster of Merton College, Oxford, 1913-1915.
HARPER, CHARLES CROKE. Rank: Second Lieutenant. Date of Death: 03/05/1917. Age: 36.
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. 3rd Bn. attd. 5th Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 6 and 7. Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of the late Rev. E. J. Harper and Frances Wetherell Harper.
HAYNES, WILLIAM CHARLES. Rank: Second Lieutenant. Date of Death: 03/05/1917.
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. 3rd Bn. attd. 5th Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 6 and 7. Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
OK, all officers and all 5th Battalion and buried in 1917, specifically all died on 3rd May 1917....
So what do 2nd Lts and Lts have in common for any confusion? pistol, whistle?
Obviously no rank insignia found or they'd be able to eliminate Ashman.
How so specific that the burial was on 3rd May 1917, not April 1916 or March 1918 for example?
Perhaps a letter, but that would likely be in a wallet, therefore more identity clues than just a year...?
Carrying orders dated 2/3 May 1917 only addressed to 5th Bn OBLI officers?
Specific piece of kit only issued to officers in 1917, not before and not after? Unlikely as kit can't be so specific surely?
How possible to identify specifically 5th Battalion?
Was that the only OBLI unit there in 1917?
Why can they be so specific that it's the body of an officer, below Captain;
How can they specifically identify OBLI and moreover, the 5th Battalion?
How can they be sure it dates from 3rd May 1917?
Why not include this OBLI officer? He's also on Arras and killed the preceding month...
CALLAWAY, GILBERT CHARLES. Rank: Second Lieutenant. Date of Death: 26/04/1917. Age: 21.
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. 2nd Bn.
Panel Reference: Bay 6 and 7. Memorial: ARRAS MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Callaway, of 132; West Wycombe Rd., High Wycombe, Bucks.
I'm sure there are Pals here specialising in OBLI; in 1917 battles etc that could suggest better answers to how these pieces of information can be better assembled.
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As a 'newbie' I have really appreciated reading this thread,very very enlightening.

Thank You,Seadog on behalf of those soldiers found recently and those who may yet be discovered.

Your obvious passion for them to be treated fairly is really quite refreshing.

More power to your elbow, and yes most indigenous people of the UK DO indeed care.

Most are of the mistaken assumption that these men have been,and will be,given the compassion and care they justly deserve for their sacrifice.

How mistaken they appear to be ?

Thanks for your kind words and it is also a fact that the members of this forum have by their efforts particularly in respect of the BL-15 held the MOD to account which has resulted in I believe not just these soldiers being properly investigated and where possible DNA profiling being used but also the latest decision by the MOD to expedite investigation into and burial of the discovered soldiers within a period of 18 months from discovery.

Because even now the MOD refuse to share details of finds and any subsequent investigations with the public we must still rely on an element of guesswork but I have no doubt that the new timing arrangements have been brought about in part by pressure from the CWGC who must have expressed their concerns about being the custodians of so many sets of human remains as at present.

One shudders to think just how many more of our fallen could have been identified had the latest techniques been used proving the case in my opinion for extracting DNA samples from all discoveries as part of the procedures adopted when the fallen are found even if such profiling is not used at the time.

I appreciate that you are a recent member so it may be interesting for you to know that the whole sad saga came to light when years ago a member spotted a newly dug grave on the Western Front and after pressurizing the CWGC it became clear that our fallen were being quietly buried and the public were none the wiser.

Regards

Norman

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Kevin (Post 76) all the details which have led to the MOD to make the appeal will have been recorded by the CWGC Exhumation Officer and will include the description of any artifacts found plus full details of the human remains. The remains will be in the custody of the CWGC at Arras and the report will only be seen by those who are undertaking and overseeing the identification process i.e the JCCC based at Innsworth.

Regards

Norman

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In post #30 Steven Broomfeld wrote "I stick to what I said - they've been dead for 90+ years and I suspect very, very few people living today know (or, dare I say, care) whether they are Great Uncle bert or not"?

Well...you did dare to say and...

How wrong you are ? As a classic case in point, today,and for quite some time now, the 'fourteenEighteen' researchers attached to TLLT are unable, because of huge and overwhelming demand, to accept any new orders for research ? They are asking for those requesting to revisit the site later this week to 'top up' their order book but it will obviously be on a 'first up,best dressed' basis? I suspect there may well be a call for re-enforcements at the NA soon? :D

Further to that there are many organisations who will capitalise on 'Battlefield Tours' over the next 5-6 years and even our very own BBC is planning on releasing a considerable number of programmes involving thousands of feet of celluloid footage that has so far, never been used (on top of the original Great War documentary of 1964),I dont think they would have bothered if there would be 'little' interest as you imply ?

I suspect that you probably also choose to dismiss the recent explosion of interest in Family History groups and web sites (as opposed to Military History Groups ?) and "Great Uncle Bert" is exactly the motivation that is leading to interest in the "War to end all Wars"? That interest is manifest also in the way their family lived as civvys. Everything seems to be 'period' dress these days is it not, and is proving very popular ?

I am led to this site in my search for answers for an Uncle I never even knew existed till 5 years ago simply because the generations who fought through that period and saw the horrors ,lived in the poverty it helped to create and suffered the losses of friends and family members or the shame of reliance on the workhouse etc they very rarely spoke about it, they were not memories they wished to keep alive. They wanted above all to forget those times,and we let them.

In the case of my missing kin,I have no knowledge of what happened to his mortal remains and he exists as just two lines on the Menin Gate. I would love to be able to provide a dna sample and provide 'closure' to his life,unfortunately he may have already been discovered and buried in an 'unknown' grave,the likelihood of which would be he remains always as known only unto God.

You may wish to reconsider ?

Seadog, you wrote " years ago a member spotted a newly dug grave on the Western Front and after pressurizing the CWGC it became clear that our fallen were being quietly buried and the public were none the wiser."

By this I take it to mean that these graves WERE in approved cemeteries but no attempt was being made to match them with their fighting unit or even their families ?

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Tell you what: let's take a stroll down Southampton High Street and do a vox pop. Because some people are interested (and are prompted to by the mawk-fest that the Centenary is rapidly turning into) doesn't mean everyone, or even a sizeable minority, is interested.

We're interested - that's why we're here - but I'd bet the farm that 90% of the population couldn't give a flying whatever.

Feel free to discuss.

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Post 79

Seadog, you wrote " years ago a member spotted a newly dug grave on the Western Front and after pressurizing the CWGC it became clear that our fallen were being quietly buried and the public were none the wiser."

By this I take it to mean that these graves WERE in approved cemeteries but no attempt was being made to match them with their fighting unit or even their families ?

You are right the new grave I mentioned which for your information was in London Cemetery at High Wood this one plus all the rest were in CWGC war cemeteries but because as now the MOD did not routinely report the discoveries in the media and at the time the CWGC considered it the responsibility of the MOD to publicize the burials no record whatsoever existed in the public domain.

As for whether attempts were made to identify the finds on that subject I would very much like to think that every effort was being made to do so but given the present facts now available I have doubts as to whether the proper level of investigation was carried out. I stress that this is my opinion only as due to the lack of transparency shown by the MOD it is impossible to prove one way or another.

Take for an example the 20 sets of human remains which are to be buried in the Loos War Cemetery in March 2014 of which only one will be named for I cannot recall reading anywhere of such a number being discovered presumably within the general location of the cemetery so who is to know the details of the finds including any artifacts discovered with the soldiers which may have helped with dentification.

Regards

Norman

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Norman, in deference to you, as the thread progenitor, I bow out...

It strikes me that you appear to be the only one permitted to make criticisms of the CWGC and woe betide anyone else with the temerity to pose questions....

Kevin (Post 76) all the details which have led to the MOD to make the appeal will have been recorded by the CWGC Exhumation Officer and will include the description of any artifacts found plus full details of the human remains. The remains will be in the custody of the CWGC at Arras and the report will only be seen by those who are undertaking and overseeing the identification process i.e the JCCC based at Innsworth.

Ah! that says ... what, exactly?

Hold me up, lads, but is that you DEFENDING the CWGC? Glory, Hallelujah

Never mind, I'm out of here so you can have your say unhindered by mere mortals.

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Perhaps I did not make it clear so let me try, my post was trying to explain that as all of the information relating to the soldier is confidential and in the hands of the CWGC and MOD then any surmising about the details of the find would appear to me to be pointless but of course feel free to specualate as much as you like.

Regards

Norman

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This has been a huge thread, so forgive me if I join in late and say something that's already been addressed earlier on.

The thing that really matters - to me - is that each and every one of nearly 1.7 million Commonwealth war dead is commemorated, irrespective of whether the body has been found, let alone identified.

It seems to me that this high standard has been upheld.

Phil (PJA)

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Kevin #76

I cannot answer all of your questions because I am not privy to the Finds and Anthropology Reports for this set of remains - in fact I have not even had a look at the 5th Battalion War Diary for 3 May 1917.

The starting point for any identification process always has to be the geographical locality and artefacts that can establish regimental affiliation. I assume, in this instance that an OBLI capbadge or collar dog was recovered to tie up not only the regimental affiliation but also the fact that the remains belong to an officer. From that point it is then a matter of identifying which Battalion of the Regiment can be tied to the particular locality.

Again, in this instance, I can only infer that the 5th Battalion is the only one that matches and then only for the Third Battle of the Scarpe 3-4 May 1917 during the Arras offensive.

The 5th Battalion, as part of the 14th (Light) Division, was severely mauled on 3 May and suffered 115 fatalities - 111 ORs and the four named officers, none of whom have known graves.

I have already provided the MoD with the full genealogy and contact details for the DNA compatible nephew and grandson of Ashman, two DNA compatible great nephews for Bulmer and likewise for Haynes.

The positive aspect of this development is that is now the third instance where DNA testing has been deployed to secure identifications - the Beaucamps Ligny 15 and the Comines-Warnerton 4 (not 6) being the others. It would appear that the MoD is now acting on the assurance issued a few years past in response to the BL15 campaign that DNA testing would be used in circumstances where the evidence can establish a select group; the group is sufficiently limited in scope and it can be demonstrated that there are DNA compatible relatives available.

Mel

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Mel, on the subject of the soldiers found at Comines I note that you quote the number as being 4 and not 6 although the latter figure is quoted both in the local press and by one of our Belgian members. Maybe you are refering to the numbers in some other context so perhaps you will confirm my understanding from the reports in the thread below or whether such reports are indeed incorrect.

Link

 

Norman

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Norman

There were six sets of remains recovered but two of them belonged to the Kings Own (Royal Lancasters),two had GS buttons but no badge and two were badged as Lancs Fusiliers.

There were 32 fatalities for the 1st Battalion of the Royal Lancs on 20 October 1914, only one of whom has a known grave. I have seen no indication that DNA compatible relatives have been sought for the Royal Lancs men which I do not find surprising simply because there is no guarantee that they were killed on the same day as the three Lancs Fusiliers named in the Battalion war diary and the field of potential candidates becomes even wider if the battalion fatalties are taken into account either side of 20 October.

That is why I made the reference to the Comines-Warnerton being four in number because there are only four up for DNA testing - Parkinson, Rowan and Pulford named in the war diary and Gemmell who was KIA on the same day with no known grave.

Mel

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Thanks Mel I thought that you were referring to the application of DNA profiling which you have now confirmed. I also note your comment about the MOD using such techniques in the identification process. Perhaps you have some thoughts on the reported assurances made by the MOD that commencing with the two soldiers found recently at Thiepval all such discoveries will now be processed and released to the CWGC for burial within a maximum of eighteen months from the date of the find.

Given that even the Comines discoveries are at least 5 years and maybe even six years old how are the MOD to achieve such a timescale. The only way that I can see this happening whilst still maintaining an acceptable level of investigation would be for the resources within the JCCC to be greatly increased or some of the functions of the JCCC hived-off and undertaken by non-MOD organizations in the private sector.

Regards

Norman

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Norman

I have never been convinced that the setting of any arbitrary time span between discovery and reburial is a desirable objective and neither do I accept that the retention of remains in the CWGC's mortuary at Arras becomes disrespectful after the passage of a particular period of time.

I can envisage the implementation of an 18 months time limit actually impairing the quest for successful identifications. There is certainly no way that a project such as the BL15 could be delivered within that time frame.

The plain fact is that the Historic Casualties Section of the SPVA only has two personnel with a massive workload and an insufficient budget. Where budgetary funds are made available, the services of leading experts in the fields of DNA and forensic anthropology are used and projects such as the three that I mentioned can come to fruition.

Decisions about budgetary matters of this kind are, I assume, taken at ministerial level and it is precisely at that level that interested parties such as the All Party Battlefields Group, WFA etc could usefully focus their energies to establish a protocol with a commitment to the appropriate level of funding as to how the recovered remains of soldiers should be dealt with.

Mel

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Thanks Mel I would make just a few points the first being one that of necessity must be a best guess, the vast majority of remains discovered will be completely unidentifiable in respect of any soldiers name although of course regiment and unit insignia etc may allow some very partial identification. In these cases I can see no reason whatsoever why the proposed timescale cannot be implemented.

You make a very good point regarding those remains which lend themselves to more complex identification processes and it is these that can only be addressed by increasing the resources at the JCCC or indeed handing over the complete process to a NGO such as those involved in the Fromelles case.

It is clear however that someone with executive authority has taken the decision of the 18 months and I cannot think that such a decision was taken without consideration of the wider issues involved. In a “worse case” scenario the MOD could of course adhere to the timescale by simply interring those for whom more extensive investigation is required as “Unknown” and at a later date replacing the headstone with one bearing the actual information gleaned which of course would be completely unacceptable and rightly so. .

Your points about the WFA and other interested parties are well made and I do believe that the All Party Parliamentary War Heritage Group as well as needing a snappier title is such a forum where pressure can be and probably has been applied to the MOD in relation to this matter.

Regards

Norman

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Following contact with my local MP I have received today the response sent to her by Mark Francois, Minister of State for the Armed Forces. The following are verbatim extracts from the letter.

  1. There are currently 43 sets of remains stored with the CWGC in Northern France that are believed to be British service personnel plus a further 10 from Commonwealth countries, the 15 found at Beaucamps- Ligny are included in this figure.
  2. It is not MOD policy to issue a press release announcing the discovery of human remains on battlefields, aircraft crash sites or shipwrecks. The only media releases relate to appeals in tracing family members of the deceased.

The number of human remains as quoted above are in my opinion dubious as the total would seem to be 53 and the figure given to Lord Faulkner in May 2013 (Post 65) is 75 sets of remains, a difference of 22 which when given the reported number of burials between May 2013 and January 2014 still appears to leave a not inconsiderable shortfall. One would have thought that the number of dead stored awaiting burial should be accurate. Important to bear in mind that there must have been discoveries in the period stated above which would make the figures even more suspect.

Nice to have confirmation that although responsible for the issue of press releases regarding the discovered dead the MOD have now confirmed that they have no intention to do so therefore as an example were it not for our French members the discovery of the BL15 would still be hidden from the public. In my opinion this total lack of transparency being adopted by the MOD is unacceptable and as they are unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities in this matter then the best solution would be for the CWGC as first responders to take this function on board.

A reply thanking my MP for her efforts in this matter including the above points plus the news of the 18 month deadline which the MOD has decreed will be the timescale for releasing the dead to the CWGC for burial has been sent.

Regards

Norman

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I presume that this refers to submissions like those made by the IFTC project and I thought that what is reported was already being done it would appear that this is just a formal recognition of the present situation.

Norman

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  • 1 month later...

My MP has received a response to my questions regarding both the actual number of unburied dead and the total lack of any official notification of the discovery of the dead made by the MOD to the media, here are the points detailed by the Minister, Mark Francois MP

1.0 The number of unburied dead

Now stands at 58 as since the time that the figure of 53 was reported (Post 91) a further 5 sets of remains have been found

2.0 Notification of the discoveries

The policy of not releasing details of the finds to the press before the relatives are informed will still apply

3.0 Timescale for reburial of remains

Confirmed that as per agreement between the CWGC and the MOD the JCCC have been directed to ensure that any known human remains have to be buried within 18 months of discovery. JCCC are now working to this timeline.

Points arising

1.0 Until the number of unburied dead is properly recorded in the public domain for instance as part of the CWGC Annual Report then confusion will still arise over the actual figures

2.0 There is of course a valid reason to keep discoveries secret until possible relatives can be informed. The problem with this policy is that it just does not work, take for instance the BL-15 and the two Irish soldiers found near Thiepval details of which are in the public domain and of course the foreign press is not affected. The MOD need to think a little harder on this subject for there must be a way of releasing the information without causing unnecessary concern to possible relatives.

3.0 I have already reported this welcome improvement but just how the staff available at the JCCC are going to expedite this without an increase in resources is frankly doubtful.

Norman

Note: An expanded version of the above sent to my MP for the attention of the Minister

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  • 1 month later...

Just an observation that the MOD is going to have to get a move on with the reburial of the fallen now in the care of the CWGC. Apparently they are to expedite this in 2014. With the exception of the BL-15 there must be at least 40 individual sets of remains awaiting dignified interment, the original discovery of some will date back many years. Experience has taught that where the MOD are concerned with this issue "seeing will be believing" and I await developments with interest considering that soon we will be half-way through the year!

Norman

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  • 3 weeks later...

In order that members are kept fully informed on the subject of this topic here is my response to a letter from Mark Francois MP via my MP in which he states that basically the CWGC reporting of the number unburied in their custody is a non-starter and that they (MOD) are taking steps to address the situation in the JCCC, there is no mention whatsoever of the MOD placing the news of found soldiers into the public domain and he suggests that my MP who is also a Deputy Speaker in the House further addresses my concerns to Lord Astor, a copy of this letter has also been forwarded to Lord Faulkner..

Dear MP

6th June 2014

Very many thanks for your letter dated the 19th of May received today and concerning the current treatment of the discovered human remains of British soldiers mainly found on the battlefields of WW1. I have read the attached response from Mark Francois MP which I am sorry to say is just a repeat of his previous responses on this matter. Please do not feel that I am the kind of person who is just complaining for the sake of it but I believe that there is still a scandalous situation existing with regard to both the manner in which our dead are still being treated and the total reluctance of the MOD to place the news of such finds into the public domain which looks like a deliberate policy to shield the facts from the public for I can see no other way of reading this situation.

The first part of the attached letter makes no sense to me whatsoever and I cannot see any logical reason why the MOD should not allow the CWGC to report the number of outstanding individual human remains that it has stored on behalf of the MOD in its annual report, if required this can be also be agreed with the other contributing countries such as Canada, Australia etc. This looks like yet another attempt to hide the facts from the public. The rest of the letter repeats the situation with the JCCC which if there is a problem this can be laid firmly at the door of the MOD for not resourcing this department properly.

There are I believe a total of not less that 58 sets of individual human remains now awaiting proper burial and being held by the CWGC at their Arras offices. This figure includes the 15 from Beaucamp-Ligny scheduled for burial in October this year which still leaves a substantial number outstanding which may of course be higher that I state due to the fact that the MOD impose a news blackout on the discoveries. There must be a way of breaking through this veil of secrecy and I implore you to put the following points to Lost Astor in the hope of obtaining a reasoned response to these matters which should be of concern to all of us in that these soldiers deserve proper treatment and their discovery must be placed in the public domain and not hidden from sight.

1.0 The news of the discovery of British soldiers on the battlefield of the Great War should be made available to the public by the MOD

2.0 The number of unburied human remains stored by the CWGC should be reported as part of their annual report

3.0 When are the existing human remains stored by the CWGC going to be buried, excluding the BL-15.

4.0 What action has been taken or will be taken to improve the performance of the JCCC in respect of the processing of the human remains given that the MOD has agreed with the CWGC to expedite the burial of such remains within 18 months of their discovery.

Yours Faithfully etc

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear members, may I ask your advice please. See below extract of a letter dated March 2013 and please note the remark regarding the stockpile of human remains then (And still) in the custody of the CWGC. My question is that considering that b*gg*r all has been done since this letter how are we to describe such a statement. I will kick off with two examples :

post-21884-0-90718200-1403939807_thumb.j

1.0 A gross distortion of the truth

2.0 A sop to shut-up Lord Faulkner to whom the letter is addressed

Other suggestions are invited:

Norman

PS No rude ones please as we must remain polite :whistle:

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Today’s Hansard includes both the question asked of the MOD by Lord Faulkner and the reply. Lord Faulkner asked if I would forward any further questions on this subject and these follow the Hansard item. Readers will no doubt see that the MOD have not addressed Lord Faulkners question regarding the plans for the burial of the presently stored human remains.

Hansard 3rd July 2014

World War I

Question

Asked by Lord Faulkner of Worcester

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many bodies of those killed in the First World War are currently unburied; and what are their plans for their interment.[HL506]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) currently holds the remains of 43 British service personnel killed in the First World War. A further eight sets of remains which were recovered with those of British personnel, are now believed to be members of other Commonwealth forces. The Ministry of Defence has an agreed target with the CWGC to complete investigations and reinter remains, with appropriate honours, within 18 months of discovery.

My further questions

1.0 When will the 51 sets of human remains presently held by the CWGC on behalf of the MOD be buried bearing in mind that the assumption is that the figure includes the 15 soldiers found in 2009 at Beaucamp-Ligny who are scheduled to be buried in October 2014?

2.0 What action has the MOD taken in respect of the present JCCC to ensure that the 18 months agreed timescale from the discovery of human remains until burial in a War Cemetery can be achieved?

3.0 Who gave the information to Lord Astor in March 2014 that ALL the human remains in the care of the CWGC would be buried by the end of June 2014?

4.0 What action is the MOD prepared to take to ensure that details of the discovery of human remains are placed into the public domain?

Questions 1 and 2 need to be addressed

Norman

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Norman

I still fail to see what you are so exercised about.

You have secured confirmation that there are 43 sets of British remains from WW1 being held by the CWGC pending burial.

At least 26 of those can be referenced from threads on this forum alone:

  • the Beaucamps Ligny 15, ten of which have been successfully identified hitherto
  • the Comines Warneton 6 with three potential identifications in the frame
  • the two sets of remains found at Thiepval last November, one of which has been sucessfully identified as Sgt David Blakey of the Inniskillings
  • the OBLI subaltern KIA on 3 May 1917 with four candidates in the frame for identification
  • the two sets of remains found at Albert in April

I am not disposed to having confidence in any institution of the state but, in this instance, there is no conspiracy, dereliction,disrespect or any other imagined wrongdoing.

I honestly do not think that your soufflé of outrage is worth putting on the menu.

Mel

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There are 51 sets of human remains in store including the supposed 8 commonwealth finds. The Comines remains were found at least four years ago. I know nothing about the OBLI you mention, Subtract the recent finds (4) plus the BL-15 (15) from the total (51) = 32 outstanding burials exceeding the 18 months timescale agreed by the MOD. Read the extract from Lord Astor (Mar 2013) whereby the MOD pledged to bury ALL outstanding remains which I suggest are the 32 above by the end of June 2014. It is not possible for me to make it any clearer than this.

Norman

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