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Unknowns: Battle of Messines 7 June 1917


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I was checking up on my Great Uncle William Kennedy (14th Bn., Royal Irish Rifles) and noticed that a number of the men were buried in smaller local cemeteries around Wytschaete 28.O.19. There are a number of unknowns, perhaps with clues as to their identity.


There is a concise write-up on the battle on the CWGC website: https://www.cwgc.org/history-and-archives/first-world-war/campaigns/western-front/battle-of-messines


At the Lone Tree Cemetery 79 of the 88 men are identified. One of the unknowns jumps off the page (GRRF 1820585) who may have been a 12th Royal Irish Rifles man with a number 156 93. If he is a man of the 12th Battalion, there is only one missing that day, Rifleman Robert Campbell #953 (some of the correct numbers but scrambled?). Can't say there is enough proof (yet) to make a case, but if I was family I might consider that I should drop by and pay my respects.


A number of the smaller cemeteries in the area also have Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. There is one man missing from the 11th Battalion on 7 June 1917 Private John WIlliam Barlow, so I will have a search for him as well.


I have the GRRF documents collected for some but not all of these smaller cemeteries, so I will collect the rest and see if we can put this together as a package.


I think it will be interesting to put all the unknowns together with the possible locations and see if there are matches. If anyone has grave site photographs for these cemeteries, please let me know. My Great Uncle William Kennedy is in grave C.1 at Spanbroekmolen.


spanbroekmolen.jpg william_kennedy_kingandcountry.jpg


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Good observation and definately very worthy of more research. My main interest is The Royal Inniskilling Fusileers and Donegal soldiers so have visited those 4 graveyards many times.

And as you note they are small quite localised graveyards with not many unknowns as the fighting there was quite swift and effective.

The numbers of unknowns are quite low so it should be possible to have a good idea of the graveyard but narrowing down the exact grave could be a challenge.

I will look over my names of Inniskillings so see if I can identify any potential here too.

I don't have much better of a photo of W Kennedy but have noticed his grave as Kennedy is a common surname here, and have a few location shots that may be of interest until someone can produce closeups of this cemetery.


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FYI here's my Re Farm and Irish House GRRF records so feel free to add these to the link above if you wish


Irish Househttps://www.mediafire.com/file/034fjfdxx5masy9/Irish_House.zip/file

RE Farm: https://www.mediafire.com/file/a2dkborn96otrak/RE_Farm.zip/file


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Only the UBS that would appear to have some interest because there is at least some information:


Irish House Cemetery

  • A.10 6/ Royal Irish Fusiliers 9 June 1917 - only 3 men of 9th Battalion missing on that date (CWGC Link)
    • GRRF 2365080 has the details
    • I see the issue, as the 6th Battalion had been absorbed into the 5th Battalion as of 2 November 1916 (or visa versa - LLT not clear)
    • no men missing and on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial at any time for either 5th or 6th Bn.
  • A.11 missed in first round, Grummer 16986 changed to UBS
    • Crommer 16986 of the 11th Bn is in Spanbroekmolen C.4 KIA 7 June 1917
    • UBS was changed from 11th R.Inns.Fus. to 14th R.I.Rifles - the battalion my Great Uncle served with on his death 7 June 1917
    • if date is still 7 June 1917, or any date in June, the only candidate is Rifleman James Leonard Knight #2192
    • all other missing 14th Bn Royal Irish Rifles are missing in August 1917
      • 24 of 14th RI.Rifles in Spanbroekmolen for 7 June 1917 - one of whom is my Great Uncle
      • 10 in Lone Tree for 7 June 1917
      • 13 in New Irish Farm all for August 1917
      • on 30 July 1917 the battalion was at Camp 20.L.15 about 3 miles from Poperinghe (war diary page 246 of 479)
      • going into the line on 2 August 1917 and arrived Ypres 3 August 1917. 5 killed by artillery on the 4th (dates don't match CWGC)
    • I would say that we have Rifleman Knight as no longer missing
  • A.12 7/8 Royal Irish Fusiliers 8 June 1917 - none missing (CWGC Link) - see table below for 7th to 10th
    • there are 18 men of the Royal Irish Fusiliers missing from 6 June to 10 June 1917 in Belgium
      surname forename death rank RIF Bn #
      JESTIN MARTIN 7/6/1917 2nd Lt 7th Bn.  
      BRADLEY ALFRED WALTER 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '18848'
      BRANNAN MICHAEL 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '15874'
      DUFFY THOMAS 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '15949'
      GALLOWAY ROBERT 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '22941'
      GEOGHEGAN PATRICK 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '23960'
      HAGGERTY MATTHEW 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '22162'
      HALFPENNY JAMES 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '21118'
      HOOPER THEOBALD A. 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '21841'
      HOUSTON ROBERT 7/6/1917 Serjeant 7th/8th Bn. '5645'
      LYNCH JAMES 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '43181'
      MOYLAN JOHN 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '43160'
      RATH JOHN 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '23267'
      TURKINGTON JOHN 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '23358'
      WILSON THOMAS P. 7/6/1917 Private 7th/8th Bn. '45051'
      BATTERBEE CHARLES 9/6/1917 Private 9th Bn. '43374'
      ROUNTREE WILLIAM 9/6/1917 Private 9th Bn. '23880'
      WAINWRIGHT ALFRED 9/6/1917 Private 9th Bn. '20029'
  • there were two (2) others lost during the first two weeks of June, one (1) on the 4th (Cave) and one on the 12th (Randerson), both 9th Bn.
  • A.13 7/8 Royal Irish Fusiliers 9 June 1917 - same as above - correction, the unit affiliation is not specified, so that is a generic UBS
  • A.31 and 30 NCO's and men? Gordon Highlanders?

Lone Tree Cemetery

  • 1.A.1 a 1916 UBS in the first original grave but questionable if the cemetery is related to Lone Tree Crate of 7 June 1917 (CWGC Link)
  • they added in some unknowns in Row D graves 1.a, 2.a and 2.b, all marked as UBS, no other details
  • 1.D.18 Sgt. Loyal North Lancs ?92717? 7 June 1917 - only Serjeant Patrick Goulding is missing on 15 June 1917 (CWGC Link)
    • correction, Goulding was the only Serjeant of the 7th Bn missing on 7yh June but the date is not specified
    • there were four (4) Serjeants of the regiment missing on 7 June 1917, two (2) each from the 8th and 9th battalions
  • 2.B.6 was a 12th Royal Irish Rifles with numbers 156 93 - see original post in this topic above
    • they did not find a man with the numbers 15693
    • did they mean to strike out the battalion and the number or just note that there was no man with that number?
    • if he was 12th Bn and KIA on 7 June 1917, then the only candidate is Rifleman Robert Campbell #953

R. E. Farm Cemetery

  • 1.B.1 1/ Bedfords with a group from 20 February 1915 - 5 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial for February 1915 (CWGC Link)
  • 2.A.1 Royal Irish Rifles with 18/ CEF Logan from 28 September 1915 (COD: DOW at Listening Post in trenches south of Kemel)
  • 2.D.5-9 4 or maybe 5 men from the 3/ Cheshires - is it strange that there are only five (5) on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial for 1914-1915? (CWGC Link)
    • 3/ |Cheshires is a Reserve Battalion, so they could be in any one of the serving battalions
    • were they in a regimental burial ground and moved here as a "batch"?
    • just a coincidence, these 5 are all officers and one of the missing men was a Corporal
    • 24 Corporals on the Menin Gate Memorial

Spanbroekmolen British Cemetery

  • 1.A.9 was a man of the 9/ Royal Irish Rifles 40741 Bates
  • 1.D.11 was Seales 41390 Royal Irish Rifles (note next grave 1.E.1 is Beales 41397 - probably a link here!)
  • 1.E.5 was L/Cpl. Suttle 144716 11/ Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (oops had 14th before)
    • there is a 14416 Lance Corporal in the cemetery in D.5 of the 11th Bn., so that is probably the error
    • 3 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial for 7 June 1917 but all 9th Bn (CWGC Link)
    • 2 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial for the 11th Bn but both 15 September 1916 (CWGC Link)
    • only two (2) Suttles killed in Belgium and no apparent link to this case (CWGC Link)
Edited by laughton
updated information
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End result is two (2) possible men for identification:

  1. Rifleman James Leonard Knight #2192
  2. Rifleman Robert Campbell #953


Rifleman James Leonard Knight #2192

14th Bn., Royal Irish Rifles

7 June 1916

Iron House Cemetery Row A Grave 11

Rifleman Robert Campbell #953

12th Bn., Royal Irish Rifles

7 June 1916

Lone Tree Cemetery Plot 2 Row B Grave 6

doc2365080.JPG doc1820585.JPG


Edited by laughton
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I have been looking at Robert Campbell and that seems very likely to be him.

Of the 20 men killed that date from the 12th RIR he is the only one missing.

9 are buried in Lone Tree, 6 in Spanbroekmoelen, 1 in Pond Farm and 3 in Bailleul.

None of the few unknowns in those other 3 cemeteries suggest anything with RIF or even 12th RIF unlike the scribbled out line on the GRRF.

That's great work you have done so far as usual.




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