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Remembered Today:

2nd Lt P F Cormack - RAF man buried under a French cross


SteveMarsdin
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Hi All,

I don't know whether anyone's posted this link (I couldn't find a topic when I searched)

http://www.cwgc.org/news-events/news/2013/12/second-lieutenant-p-f-cormack-gets-a-known-grave.aspx

It was on pages14-18.

He was buried in a marked but French grave and the CWGC originally commemorated him on the Arras Flying Services Memorial

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Bit funny to say he "finally has a known grave." It was always there with his name on. I suppose they mean "known to the CWGC." Wonder how he got there though, and if there are any similar cases.

Cheers Martin B

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The French records never seem as thorough or complete as the CWGC ones so it may be worth looking out for those Anglophone names in their cemeteries !!!

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Took a trip out to pay my respects to 2/Lt. Cormack back in August (see my 'Holiday Snaps 2013' thread). Glad I did it then while he was still under his French grave marker as I always find something rather 'lonely' about individual CWGC headstones surrounded by French crosses (and vice-versa actually) in a French cemetery.

Curious as to why the CWGC was unaware of the location of this grave until 2009 though... French sources pre-dating this by several years (at least 1997, which was the publication date of the book that first made me aware of the 'lone British grave in Machelen') have been quite open about it. (and I never mentioned it to them because I thought that it would have been quite widely known to them... obviously not!)

Dave

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Note that it has taken the authorities four years to rectify this, the CWGC having been notified in 2009. Whatever caused such a delay.

Norman

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Note that it has taken the authorities four years to rectify this, the CWGC having been notified in 2009. Whatever caused such a delay.

Norman

To be fair, this is a slightly different case from the usual ones that appear to concern you. It has taken 4 years to replace a headstone, yes, but 2/Lt. Cormack had been commemorated by the CWGC for many years already. He had also already received a proper burial in a fully marked up grave in an established military cemetery and was, way before the erection of a CWGC headstone ,listed on the CWGC 'Debt of Honour' database as being buried in Machelen French cemetery (since 2011(ish) at least?).

The only thing that has taken 4 years to do is actually erect a CWGC headstone which is something that , personally, I'm not too sure was all that necessary (and was ,possibly, lower down on the CWGC list of priorities too?).

Dave.

(I just hope that the French authorities (actually, the cemetery could possibly fall under the Belgian authorities here) don't charge the CWGC 'back rent' for the maintenance of the grave over the decades! :whistle: )

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  • 3 months later...

A letter from the wife of Lt Cormack's nephew appears in today's (29th March '14) Daily Telegraph: Click (scroll down to Museum workers solve First World War mystery) which gives a plausible explanation as to why the CWGC's commemoration was 'No known grave' until recent years - an unfortunate case of mistaken nationality at the time of death.

Museum workers solve First World War mystery

SIR – Petersfield has a small museum, which has put on a special display of artefacts from the First World War. My husband lost two uncles during the war and has loaned the museum some interesting items relating to these two brave men for display.

One uncle was a pilot in 204 Squadron of the RAF and died on October 27 1918. After the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) confirmed on three occasions in writing that neither had a known grave.

However, two young museum workers organising the exhibition did some research and found that, in fact, the original information held by the CWGC was incorrect, and that Lt Philip Frederick Cormack did, indeed, have a grave, in a French cemetery in Belgium.

An English researcher visited the cemetery in 2009, found a grave with the name Cormack on a cross, and realised that the name was English and he should not have been there. The French confirmed that they had no record of a Cormack being killed. It seems that, shortly after being shot down in 1918, he was found by the Belgians, who mistook him for a Frenchman, and he was buried in the Machelen cemetery 25 miles from Ghent.

The mistake was rectified 95 years later, when the CWGC replaced the French cross with a British headstone last December.

Doubtless Petersfield Museum was able to identify that there was a grave from the updated CWGC's database, but the credit for discovering the location must surely be down to the 'local researcher' (CWGC link in post #1) / the 'English researcher' (in the letter) who notified the CWGC and Dave's (Croonaert) 'French sources' of c.1997 in Post # 4, who discovered that it wasn't the grave of a Frenchman in the first place?

RIP 2nd Lt PF Cormack :poppy:

NigelS

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