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Remembered Today:

Northumberland Fusiliers: Long Lost Family Special: ITV Mon 18 July 9.00pm


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A long Lost Family special about the  nine Northumberland Fusiliers, seven of whom were identified, will be broadcast on ITV on Monday 18 July at 9.00pm.

The account of the burial last November below:

News story

Nine soldiers of the Great War honoured a century after their deaths.

Eight Northumberland Fusiliers and one unknown soldier of the Great War buried.

Ministry of Defence and Veterans UK
17 November 2021
Nine soldiers' coffins lay in wait. Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

Nine soldiers' coffins lay in wait. Crown copyright. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, 17 November 2021, just over 104 years after they paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their country, nine soldiers of the Great War were laid to rest with full military honours. The service was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the “MOD War Detectives” and was held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium.


Soldiers of the First Fusiliers stand ready with three coffins. Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent attended the moving service in his capacity as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Through a combination of military research, anthropology and DNA, the MOD War Detectives have successfully managed to identify seven of the nine casualties by name. An eighth casualty, who remains unknown, is believed to have been serving with the same regiment (11th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers) whilst the nineth and final casualty is sadly unknown by name or regiment.

Nicola Nash, JCCC said:

“After working on this case for nearly three years, it gives me an immense feeling of pride to see these men finally being laid to rest. It has been wonderful to share this emotional day with so many of the family members, who have travelled as far as Australia to attend.

“The sacrifice these men made will never be forgotten.”

During civil engineering works on Oude Wervikstraat in Beselare, several sets of human remains were found on 8 June 2018. During their recovery by archaeologists from the Flanders Heritage Agency uncovered the remains of a trench, an adjacent bomb pit and a separate bomb pit outside of the trench. The majority of the casualties were located within the trench and appeared to have died at the same time as the result of an explosion, although one was found separately from the rest.


2Lt Ablett is carried to his final resting place.

Identifying the soldiers

The following soldiers were positively identified by DNA:

2nd Lieutenant (2Lt) Leslie Wallace Ablett; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 20.

2Lt Edward Douglas Bruty; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 21.

Serjeant (Sjt) Thomas Feasby; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 32.

Lance Corporal (LCpl) Stanley Blakeborough; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 13 October 1917, aged 21.

Private (Pte) Harry Miller; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 28.

Pte Joseph Patrickson MM; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 24.

Pte Arnold Sanderson MM; 11th Batallion Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 14 October 1917, aged 26.

The eighth casualty was closely linked with this group and, although not identified by name, was buried as an “Unknown Soldier of the Northumberland Fusiliers”. The final casualty, having been found separately from the rest, had no artefacts found with him; he was buried as an “Unknown Soldier of the Great War”.

The MOD War Detectives worked tirelessly during the process of identifying the soldiers before dedicating their efforts on tracing possible family members who could then be approached for DNA testing. Where there was a match the team invited those families to attend today’s service, which five sets of family did and paid their respects during the service.


Five of the soldiers' families receive the Union Flag, regimental cap and wreath. Crown Copyright. All rights reserved,

Stephen Willis-Feasby, Sjt Feasby’s great nephew and who provided his DNA in order for the testing to be completed, said:

“It has been an incredible story from the very first letter received to the event that we are here today to honour our relatives. It is a privilege to be involved, so from myself and my family we thank the MOD War Detectives, and all involved for making this a remarkable day.”

Also in attendance was Rachel Fixsen, 2Lt Ablett’s 1st cousin 3x removed who also provided DNA for testing. Rachel said:

“To take part in the right and proper burial of a member of your family is a normal thing, but this whole experience has been anything but normal for us. My sister and I and our wider family never met our dear cousin Leslie in his tragically short lifetime, but 100 years later, he is firmly in our hearts and we’ve been privileged to accompany him on his final journey on behalf of those who loved him in life.

“I’m so grateful to the MOD War Detectives for their dedication in identifying these brave soldiers who fought and died next to each other. It’s awe-inspiring to stand here alongside all these members of the soldiers’ families, as we mourn across the generations.”

Despite returning a negative DNA test result herself, Elizabeth Richards attended the service in honour of the two two unknown soldiers. Elizabeth said:

“It is an incredible privilege to be here today to honour these brave soldiers who, after making the ultimate sacrifice, are finally able to be laid to rest.

“This service was a true testament to the wonderful work conducted by the MOD War Detectives, reuniting families with their long lost loved ones and ensuring a long lasting tribute.”

The service was conducted by the Reverend (Captain) Gary Watt, CF, Chaplain to the First Fusiliers, who said:

“It is an honour and a privilege to preside at the service of these soldiers and officers at such a significant location. Whom with great bravery, and with no thought for their safety sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country and the world.”

The graves will now be marked by headstones provided by the CWGC, who will care for their final resting place in perpetuity.

Claire Horton CBE, CWGC Director General, said:

“The CWGC is honoured to have worked alongside the JCCC in the recovery and identification of these men and to now be caring for them in perpetuity in Tyne Cot, CWGC’s largest cemetery. The fact that so many of them have been positively identified is testament to the collective dedication that continues to this day, to remember our fallen.”

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News story

Long Lost Family: The Unknown Soldiers

MOD’s ‘War Detectives’ make welcome return to ITV’s Long Lost Family in a one hour special on 18 July.

Ministry of Defence and Veterans UK
11 July 2022
Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell (ITV Copyright)

Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell (ITV Copyright)

Following the success of the first special shown on ITV1 in October 2019, the extraordinary work of the MOD’s ‘War Detectives’, part of Defence Business Services (DBS), will be appearing on the small screen once again as part the current series of Long Lost Family. Long Lost Family: The Unknown Soldiers, will broadcast on ITV1 at 21.00 on Monday 18 July.

The second episode, presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, follows what the War Detectives have described as a “once in a lifetime case”: nine soldiers of the Great War found buried on a roadside in Belgium. The hour long special will also feature soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and members of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Cellmark who were also involved.

Each year the remains of British service personnel killed in both World Wars are found by farmers, builders and archaeologists worldwide. Davina and Nicky follow the team, who are based in DBS Innsworth House in Imjin Barracks, Gloucester, as they use military and historical research to investigate these finds and work to trace surviving families so that a DNA comparison can be made that hopefully confirms an identity.

Behind the scenes of Long Lost Family filming MOD War Detectives (Crown Copyright)

Behind the scenes of Long Lost Family filming MOD War Detectives (Crown Copyright)

Nicky and Davina meet the families of the fallen heroes, helping them to form a picture of their relative and finally laying them to rest with a poignant full military burial at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.

Davina spoke positively of the continued efforts of the JCCC Commemorations Team when she said:

“It’s such a privilege to witness the amazing work that the MOD War Detectives does. To be able to answer people’s lifelong questions about what happened to their missing soldiers is incredible and to lay these soldiers to rest in named graves, after more than a hundred years, is extremely moving.”

The programme follows the team’s journey through the frustrations and breakthroughs as they attempt to piece together the life of the soldiers, from the time they left British shores to their final steps on the battlefield.

Caseworker Nicola Nash from the MOD War Detectives, said:

“The work we do in identifying these brave men is extremely important not only to us, but to the British Armed Forces as a whole, which I think this episode portrays so beautifully.

“It has been an amazing experience filming with Long Lost Families. From meeting Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell for the first time to watching the final edit, it has been an experience I will never forget.”

Behind the scenes of Long Lost Family filming MOD War Detectives (Crown Copyright)

Behind the scenes of Long Lost Family filming MOD War Detectives (Crown Copyright)

Tracey Bowers, MOD War Detectives team lead, said:

“When ITV asked to work with us again, I was delighted and proud but also apprehensive knowing what additional work this entailed, not just for the team but colleagues across DBS and wider MOD who’s help and assistance we rely upon, such as the Commercial Team who helped write the filming contact.

“Having been through the process once things were slightly easier but adding Covid into the mix, not being able to travel and therefore film things in a chronological order, made for interesting times!”

Brigadier Caroline Hull, Head of DBS’s Armed Forces and Veterans Services, said:

“It is a privilege to support all UK Armed Forces Personnel, whether they are serving in uniform today or have previously given loyal service.

“It is also important for the families of those who died in both World Wars, and for the nation, to know that the Ministry of Defence continues to provide for support for individuals in the Military Community who might otherwise be forgotten. I am delighted that through close cooperation with all our partners, we can provide a dignified, military burial to those who died in World War 1 and 2, and wherever possible, with the family in attendance.

“I am grateful that this programme shines a bright light on one of the unique roles we as part of Defence Business Services deliver, and will continue to deliver, for years to come.”


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