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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Possible Grave of missing RB man?

Stephen Nulty

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While looking into the history of a local man, I found myself looking at the Burial Return for Serre Road Cemetery Number 1 and the section shown on the attached image. In graves VIII.C.28 – 30 are three UBS of the Rifle Brigade. All were exhumed from 57d.r.19.c.9.3

I’m far from being an expert on trench maps and co-ordinates, but I THINK that this refers to a location just to the north of the village of Thiepval.

The chap in Grave 29 has an additional comment on the return, which states “No on strap:- 179-4”

Does this simply mean that his number can be completed by adding in the missing digit?

I looked on CWGC and extracted Rifle Brigade entries, then filtered away at my data until I was left with two possibilities.

S/17944 Rfn Herbert William Chase, 2nd Bn., who died on 23/10/1916

S/17964 Rfn Walter George Collins, 16th Bn., who died on 06/10/1916

Both are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

I then considered that as they had been exhumed from the same location, it might be fair to assume that the three UBS had been killed at the same date/time.

17964 Collins is the only RB casualty dated 06/10/1916 while 17944 Chase is one of 43 men of 2nd Bn who died on 23/10/1916 and who do not have a marked grave (all commemorated on Thiepval). The 2nd Bn diary reports heavy fighting around MISTY, ZENITH & ECLIPSE trenches, with over 230 OR killed, wounded and missing.

A bit of assumption and speculation, I readily agree, but on the balance of probability, is the Grave VIII.C. 29 at Serre Road Cemetery Number 1 that of S/17944 Rfn Herbert William Chase?


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Hi Steve

Misty,Zenith and Eclipse trenches are located in 57c N.28 so you can discount Rifleman Chase from the equation.The 39th Division was positioned near the Schwaben Redoubt in early October 1916 so it is possible that these men are from the 16th Battalion. This fact is supported by the original grave site of L/C Wray at R.19.a.7.8. Have you discounted the possibility that the grave could relate to March or August 1918?

There is no doubt that after the First World War names were attached to graves through service numbers located on ground sheets and equipment but today the CWGC would be a lot more cautious especially considering that it is only a partial number. Looking at the facts it is possible that it is the grave of S/17964 Rifleman Collins but from my experience the evidence falls short of what the CWGC would except.


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Thanks Mick, that's useful

I wasn't really proposing a CWGC submission because I have had my fingers burnt before, but I was curious as to the probability with this case that I just accidentally stumbled across


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As I suspect you know, a submission based on probability is not going to succeed. When there is a choice, you have to provide conclusive evidence that excludes the other possibilities.

My failing in this sphere relates to the identification of a sergeant pilot. I had done extensive research, eliminating all other possibilities so I thought, that proved my man must be the other occupant of the plane which also killed the man in the adjacent grave. I was utterly convinced I had enough. Then CWGC just presented me with the "concentration report" that said he was in officer's clothing. Bu&&er!

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Thanks John


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