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Burial services held for two unknown soldiers who died on the Somme

TWO burial services have taken place on the Western Front for two unknown soldiers.

One is from the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) and the other, an unknown soldier of an unknown regiment.

Both fell during the first world war on the Somme in France.

The coffin of an unknown Sherwood Forester is carried by his latter-day brothers' in arms. Pictures courtesy of the Ministry of Defence. Crown copyright. (8809030)
The coffin of an unknown Sherwood Forester is carried by his latter-day brothers' in arms. Pictures courtesy of the Ministry of Defence. Crown copyright. (8809030)

The first service of the unknown solider of an unknown regiment took place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs.

The unknown Sherwood Forester was buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery.

On his way to his final resting place. (8809037)
On his way to his final resting place. (8809037)

The services, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), part of Defence Business Services, were conducted by the Rev Tim Flowers CF, Chaplain to 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

Lest we forget. (8809064)
Lest we forget. (8809064)

Rosie Barron, JCCC said: “It has been a privilege to organise these burial services here on the Somme. "Although the identities of these two soldiers remain unknown, it is only right that they are afforded the burial and recognition that they deserve.

"They are now at rest amongst their comrades who lived and fought with them in the cause of freedom.”

The Rev Flowers referring to the service for the unknown Sherwood Forester, said: “It is a tremendous honour and privilege for me today to conduct the funeral service of one our fallen comrades over 100 years since he fell in battle. He is known unto God.”

We will remember them. (8809081)
We will remember them. (8809081)

The remains of both soldiers were discovered on the edge of the village of Ginchy, during work on a wind turbine project.

Whilst one soldier was identified as being a Sherwood Forester through artefacts found with his remains, no artefacts were found with the other soldier.

His identity and regiment are therefore unknown.

The JCCC believe both soldiers were killed in September 1916 during heavy fighting in the area.

Despite extensive research by the MOD team, it was not possible to identify the Sherwood Forester, although it is believed that he was most likely a member of the 2nd Battalion of that regiment. However, there are still too many members of that Battalion missing in the area from that period to identify him.

Both men were laid to rest by a burial party composed of members of The Mercian Regiment, the antecedent regiment of the Sherwood Foresters.

The new graves were prepared by the CWGC.

Mel Donnelly, CWGC commemorations manager, said: “These two soldiers, unknown but not forgotten, have been laid to rest alongside their comrades in Guards’ Cemetery and Guillemont Road Cemetery with honour and dignity.

"The Commonwealth War Graves Commission will ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten and their graves, together with all of those who served and fell, are cared for in perpetuity.”

Rev Flowers gave his personal thoughts: “Each year on the first Sunday in July a pilgrimage and service is held at the Crich Memorial in Derbyshire.

"Members of the Mercian Regiment and the Regimental Association of the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters, both old and new gather to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

“The memorial tower was originally built to remember the 11,409 Sherwood Foresters who gave their lives in the Great War. I have been privileged to take part in that service every year since I have been Padre to the 4th Battalion.

“It is perhaps fitting to think that perhaps his family would have been at Crich when it was officially opened in August 1923 as the one place along with their local war memorial they could have gone to remember their loved one.”

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