Soldiers buried a century after they fell

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One hundred years after they were killed in action, the remains of 15 soldiers from the York and Lancaster Regiment were solemly re-interred yesterday.

The ceremony, with full military honours, came after the remains were discovered during building work near the French village of Beaucamps-Ligny.

DNA tests were carried out on samples provided by surviving relatives, enabling 11 of the soldiers to be positively identified.

Their relatives were at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Y-Farm Cemetery in Bois-Grenier in northern France yesterday for the service as the dead were finally laid to rest.

They died in the first months of World War One which was to see the regiment suffer huge losses including nearly 9,000 dead.

Historians said the 2nd Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment advanced on the small hamlet of Beaucamps-Ligny west of Lille on October 18, 1914.

But they encountered an enemy force vastly superior in numbers and came under withering fire.

In the engagement that followed, the battalion suffered heavy casualties, with 93 wounded and 34 killed in action.

Glyn Prysor, historian with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: “They came up against very heavy machine-gun and shrapnel fire, which had devastating results.

“They tried to advance several times but they were beaten back and really that was a foretatste of what would then happen over the next few weeks in what became the first battle of Ypres.”

The soldiers’ remains were discovered in 2009 during construction work.

Although DNA tests proved the identity of 11 of the soldiers, work is continuing to try to identify the remaining four soldiers.

Those who have been positively identified and whose suriving family members have been traced include Private Herbert Ernest Allcock, 32, of Leeds.

He had two young daughters and a wife Ethel who never remarried and died aged 91.

Others who have been identified include:

• Private John Brameld, born in Sheffield

• Private William Butterworth, born in Wakefield

• Corporal Francis Carr Dyson, born in Wakefield

• Private Walter Ellis, born in Doncaster

• Private John Willie Jarvis, born in Rotherham

• Private Leonard Arthur Morley, born in Boxhill, Surrey

• Private Ernest Oxer, born in Rotherham

• Private John Richmond, born in Nottingham

• Private William Alfred Singyard, born in Newcastle Upon Tyne

• Lance Corporal William Henry Warr, born in Dorset.

In yesterday’s ceremony, the dead were accorded all full military honours by the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.

Records show the battalion had arrived in France on September 10, 1914.

They landed at St Nazaire and marched to Aisne to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force.

The extensive forensic, documentary and DNA analysis involved to uncover the men’s identities was undertaken by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre.

The investigations were assisted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, DNA specialists, geneticists, military historians and descendants of 58 soldiers of The York and Lancaster Regiment, killed at Beaucamps-Ligny, who have until now had no known grave.