Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Unknown burials


Michael
 Share

Recommended Posts

What info does the CWGC have on those soldiers that are in graves but could not be identified ?

Also, how extensive was the investigation to determine identity ?

Mick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark,

I have a book somewhere about the CWGC, I`ll did it out and get back to you.

Gordon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike,

Have you read the book `The Unending Vigil` the history of the CWGC by Phillip Longworth, it has a chapter on unmarked graves. Its a very interesting book and well worth a read.

Gordon.

I wrote an article about a gardener for the IWGC/CWGC that might be of interest, you should be able to find it under Frank Pears.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

CWGC only hold the information given to it by the army burial parties.

IWGC/CWGC did not do the burying - that was the army's job. CWGC only took over the cemeteries after the army deemed them to be complete and the Commission then undertook the work of landscaping, headstone placement and building works.

If the original burial returns have survived, they usually show what info was passed on relating to ID - if any (eg an Unknown Scottish soldier, Unknown serjeant of the KRRC etc).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(eg an Unknown Scottish soldier, Unknown serjeant of the KRRC etc).

I acknowledge that I have posed this before, but how can "Scottish" be inferred, and nothing more? And [being a tad sensitive about "Englishness", as I trace myself back many Anglo-Saxon generations in Sussex and Middlesex] can we be sure the man was born in Scotland, or of Scottish blood? Because if not, he was not Scottish, surely.

Let me see.

1. Scottish: Scots regimental badge? Shoulder title? Why not name the regiment?

2. Scots Divisional badge only? This would only work if ALL units in the Division including Div Arty, RE etc were Scottish units.

3. Kilt remnants? Surely other nationalities had, at least, kilted pipers?

4. documents, correspondence on the body?

A letter FROM Scotland hardly establishes nationality, and certainly not one TO Scotland. I had a letter from Germany last week, and it doesn't make me German.

My conclusion is that "Scottish Soldier" [and, even less so, "Welsh" or "Irish"] on a headstone means little or nothing, in terms of evidence.

Do I have agreement on this, please?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

LB

I understand where you are coming from and you are probably right that many of these partial IDs were a bit dubious.

Two points first... The term 'Scottish' on the headstone refers to the origins of the unit and not the man's origins (so it would mean a Scottish unit). Secondly, the phrasing on the headstone is not the 'evidence' - only the result of the 'evidence'.

The evidence is what we do not know unless we investigate a specific example with CWGC. Assuming documentary evidence still remains for a particular 'Scottish Unknown' burial, that would show how the decision was arrived at by the army. I suspect that the majority of partial IDs for 'Scottish' Unknowns also ID the unit.

However, I agree that errors would have been made and I am sure that the burial parties often worked on a balance of probabilities when completing their paperwork (ie It was all Scots around here so he is probably one of them - and here's a bit of a kilt!).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

lets not forget also that the task was gruesome and however well intentioned the men working in these units were to identify remains they found I am sure they did not get too close or go rumaging through shreds of uniforms / body parts of all bodies they found if they could help it. Remember that nowadays if decomposed bodies are found in buildings for example, people use breathing apparatus and protective equipment to remove them. In those days they had none of that, I wonder how many succumbed to disease or mental illness as a result of the nature / stresses of their job. I presume they got paid a good wage for their work?? Cheers Neil.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Drummy

I feel sure these guys would have been extremely through as they would want as many families to know where their loved ones were buried. Admittedly early dog tags and papers dissolved in the soup of decomposition. As someone who has worked in knackeries etc will tell you the first day is the worst, you get used to everything and soon its just a job to do and you do it to the best of your ability.

Fred

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone for their contributions. Whilst trying to stand up in the wind at Tyne Cot on Saturday I found an unknown grave that can be narrowed down to only a few individuals. I'll contact CWGC and see what info they have.

Mick

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Jimmy Knacky
I acknowledge that I have posed this before, but how can "Scottish" be inferred, and nothing more? And [being a tad sensitive about "Englishness", as I trace myself back many Anglo-Saxon generations in Sussex and Middlesex] can we be sure the man was born in Scotland, or of Scottish blood? Because if not, he was not Scottish, surely.

Let me see.

1. Scottish: Scots regimental badge? Shoulder title? Why not name the regiment?

2. Scots Divisional badge only? This would only work if ALL units in the Division including Div Arty, RE etc were Scottish units.

3. Kilt remnants? Surely other nationalities had, at least, kilted pipers?

4. documents, correspondence on the body?

A letter FROM Scotland hardly establishes nationality, and certainly not one TO Scotland. I had a letter from Germany last week, and it doesn't make me German.

My conclusion is that "Scottish Soldier" [and, even less so, "Welsh" or "Irish"] on a headstone means little or nothing, in terms of evidence.

Do I have agreement on this, please?

I agree.

Just because they were from a Scottish regiment does not say they were Scottish.

I have great uncles who were in Scottish regiments that are of the "missing" but they certainly were not Scottish.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jimmy

You are, of course, right.

However, as I said above, when talking about headstone inscriptions, the nationality refers to that of the unit rather than of the man. There can be no way anyone would know the personal nationality of an unknown casualty.

In the same way, CWGC refers to nationality on their web site and there it also refers to the nationality of the unit not the man (ie an Australian serving in the Canadian army is 'Canadian' and a Scot serving in the Indian Army is 'Indian').

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Jimmy Knacky

I know what you mean.

But there was nothing to stop them putting British Soldier from say Royal Scots.

I would not expect them to say Geordie Lad from the Royal Scots.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Again, you are right Jimmy.

However, the burying and recording of details was done by the army and not by CWGC. I suspect regimental pride came into play with the words 'Scottish', 'Welsh' and 'Irish' being used. I don't recall seeing any headstones marked as an 'English' soldier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...