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Mangoman

Repatriating those KIA

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Mangoman

My grandfather's brother was KIA in 1915 and is buried in the Lancashire Cottage Cemetery, Belgium. I am given to understand that parents/wives/families could arrange for those that had fallen to be retuned home for burial in their local town or community. What would have been the process behind this?

The reason I ask is that my great grandfather was quite well off and it surprises me that he didn't arrange for the body of his dead son to be returned for a home burial.

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Coldstreamer

I was always under the impression this rarely happened.

Many fallen Coldstream offices came from financially very well off families and their sons are buried where they fell

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keithfazzani

It wasn't allowed.

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Coldstreamer

I thought that too (but the speed of the forum today i couldnt edit?)


can you imagine the logistical nightmare and the potential for disease to spread

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Hedley Malloch

Repatriation could not be afforded either after WW1 or WW2. And a good job, too. The French could repatriate and now throughout France there are thousands of graves of poilus, whose families have died out or moved on. There is no one responsible for the upkeep of their graves and the communes don't have the money.

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tharkin56

There were several posts on the forum about the Fallen being repatriated, seems to have ceased round about Q1 1915

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Mangoman

The reason I asked is that I was recently watching at.v. programme about WW1 and it was mentioned that dead soldiers could be repatriated 'if this could be afforded although ?this was very infrequent'. Must try and remember which programme it was and perhaps put the producers right.

The more one thinks about it, it makes sense that the men were buried near to where they fell rather than bringingthem home and running the risk of possibly spreading disease.

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johnboy

Men could have been buried within hours of being killed. There would have been to no time to notify nok. I doubt there would have been refrigeration units to keep the bodies.

If a man were critically ill in hospital it was possible for nok to visit and maybe a decision about burial could have been reached.

I have come across records of men for instance, wounded abroad , sent to a UK hospital and nok having them buried in their home town. The cost to nok would have been the train fare for freight?

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tharkin56

Also as a case i looked at with a Battle of Britain pilot, his family went for his remains and was convinced it was a bag of stones when he carried the coffin, if a body came home and the family looked inside can you also imagine the horror then...

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KevinBattle

There were a few early instances of men being repatriated, where the family could pay the (substantial in those days terms) of bringing them home, but it was quickly stopped as there simply wasn't sufficient space for the crossing of the channel needed for wounded men etc.

It became part of the ethos of the War, that men were buried where they fell, with their comrades, without favour for wealth or status.

As regards the French, there are many ossuaries near the battlefields where the bones of their dead are stored, and somehow that just doesn't seem honourable to me.

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Mangoman

Many thanks to you all for your contributions. Very enlightening

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kenf48

Suggest you read ' Empires of the Dead' David Crane This Guardian review of the book describes Fabian Ware's vision and the opposition he faced from those who wanted their loved ones repatriated.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/22/empires-dead-vision-david-crane-review

Despite some criticism here, and in the review a readable and accessible biography that has the blessing of CWGC

Ken

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Mangoman

Very interesting. Thank you for sending me the link.

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Moriaty

The University of Leeds, Yorkshire in the Great War has an interesting article on The British War Graves Association founded in Leeds in 1919 by Sarah Ann Smith whose son had died of wounds in 1918 and was buried at Grevillers near Arras.  She believed that those soldiers killed in action who could be brought home for burial should be. Within 2 weeks there was a petition of 2,500 signatures to the Prince of Wales, branches of the Association were set up in Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield and Mrs Smith fought for this cause for several years, she died in 1936.  In 1920 the House of Commons debated the IWGC policy that all war graves would be treated equally and uniformly and that relatives would not have the right to erect individual memorials.

 

On 3 July 1920 the Countess of Selborne wrote an article in the National Review entitled "National Socialism of War Cemeteries" stating that the rights of the next of kin had been abrogated by "a secret treaty with a foreign power".

 

I wonder whether any Forum member has a copy of the full text of Lady Selborne's article?

 

Moriaty

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KevinBattle
Old Tom

Quite out of place but it may be interesting to add that certainly in WW2 and perhaps in WW1 the families of US soldiers were permitted to have the body repatriated. As an aside, from the family history point of view, such soldiers seemed to escape the readily accessible records available fro those resting in military cemeteries.

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Ralph J. Whitehead

U.S. families had the option of bringing back the fallen. This was more as a result of expenses than anything else. Families had the right to be sent over to visit the grave of a fallen family member at Government cost. It was far cheaper to send a coffin back than a family overseas. My wife's great uncle Otto Ernst was brought home in this manner and rests in the National Cemetery in Queens, New York. 

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clive_hughes

I believe that WW1 Canadian families could opt to have their dead returned, provided they had died in the UK - owing to a technicality of some sort, based on Great Britain not being a theatre of war or not classed as fully "overseas" or something along those lines?

 

Whether the families had to pay for this, I don't know: nor how many took up the option.  Certainly one of the five men killed in the Kinmel Park disturbances of 4-5 March 1919 was repatriated in this way (Gnr. J.F.Hickman, Dorchester, New Brunswick), the others rest at Bodelwyddan Churchyard.  

 

Clive

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NigelS
8 hours ago, Ralph J. Whitehead said:

U.S. families had the option of bringing back the fallen. This was more as a result of expenses than anything else. Families had the right to be sent over to visit the grave of a fallen family member at Government cost. It was far cheaper to send a coffin back than a family overseas. My wife's great uncle Otto Ernst was brought home in this manner and rests in the National Cemetery in Queens, New York. 

 

But not, apparently, without some risk, this from the London Times of 26th August (datelined 25th) 1921:

The bodies of 5,000 American soldiers which have just been brought from France, narrowly escaped cremation in a fire which burned several piers and buildings at Hoboken, on the Hudson River opposite New York, yesterday evening. The Liner Leviathan (formerly the German line Vaterland), which was lying a few yards, was also in danger for some time, but escaped with the loss of two lifeboats and a great deal of paint.

A footnote to the article gives:

The army piers are those which formerly to the North-German Lloyd, and were taken over by the United States Government as an embarcation port when the United States entered the war. They are on the west side of the river, opposite the Chelsea piers in New York.

 

NigelS
 

 

 

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Thanks for the info Nigel, I had never heard that before. I should also note that not only did the military make an error in Otto's name, Ernest instead of Ernst, but when they removed the body the one that was in Otto's grave was not Otto, he matched the body listed in the next grave, who happened to be Otto. It was one of a number of misidentified burials in the cemetery in France.

 

Ralph

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Moriaty

Thanks KevinBattle for the two links, I have not been able to trace copies of the National Review of 3 July 1920 to read Lady Selborne's article.

 

Moriaty

Edited by Moriaty

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Stoppage Drill

Some years ago I had reason to visit a person who lived in an old Vicarage. I was surprised to see that the doorstep was a CWGC headstone for a Canadian soldier who had died in Wiltshire in the bad winter of '14/'15.

 

The householder explained that the soldier's family had repatriated the body, and that the IWGC had made an error in producing the headstone in the 1920's. The vicar of the parish where the man was mistakenly thought to be buried kept the stone and found a use for it. It is probably still there.

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NigelS
23 hours ago, Ralph J. Whitehead said:

Thanks for the info Nigel, I had never heard that before. I should also note that not only did the military make an error in Otto's name, Ernest instead of Ernst, but when they removed the body the one that was in Otto's grave was not Otto, he matched the body listed in the next grave, who happened to be Otto. It was one of a number of misidentified burials in the cemetery in France.

 

Ralph

 

Ralph, the coverage in the NY Times is, as would be expected, is far more detailed and reveals that it was far more dramatic than the London Times indicated. Try this link http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch/#/hoboken/from19210820to19210901/ which will hopefully give links to pdfs of three articles on the fire (it maybe necessary to copy & paste this link into your browser )

 

NigelS

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Interesting articles Nigel, thanks for the link.

 

Ralph 

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