10 October 2018

Graves of four First World War servicemen rededicated 100 years after death

The graves of four First World War servicemen, whose names had previously been listed on Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorials to the Missing, have this week been rededicated with new headstones bearing their names.

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Lieutenant John Gillis Butt, Royal Army Medical Corps, was attached to 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards when he was killed near Gheluvelt on 29 October 1914 during the First Battle of Ypres.

New research has shown that Lieutenant Butt was buried where he fell. His body was concentrated to Hooge Crater Cemetery after the war, where he was reinterred as an Unknown Lieutenant of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Following extensive case work it was confirmed that he was buried in this grave and a rededication ceremony was held on Tuesday 9 October.

Mel Donnelly, CWGC, said: “The CWGC remember the grief and loss felt by Lieutenant Butt’s parents, who despite every effort to establish his fate never knew that his wartime grave had been found. We are privileged that their descendants were here to rededicate his grave in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Hooge Crater Cemetery. Lieutenant Butt’s headstone now bears his name and a personal inscription chosen by his family on behalf of those who loved him a century ago.”

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A second rededication service was also held on Tuesday, for Lance Corporal Leonard Thomas Courtney, 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Stasegem Communal Cemetery in Belgium.

Lance Corporal Courtney was killed on 20 October 1918, just three weeks before the end of the First World War. For nearly a hundred years his final resting place has remained unknown and he was commemorated on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Tyne Cot Memorial until research determined he had been buried in this cemetery.

Mel Donnelly, CWGC, added: “The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is honoured to be able to re-dedicate the grave of Lance Corporal Courtney in Stasegem Communal Cemetery, now marked with a headstone bearing his name. 100 years after his death, the life and sacrifice of this young man is acknowledged in the personal inscription chosen by his family. This ceremony was an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to care for his grave and those of his comrades, forever.”

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Today, Wednesday 10 October, has seen a joint rededication service for Private George Skilbeck, Royal Army Medical Corps and Second Lieutenant Norman Frederic Surry, 16th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps being held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery in France.

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Private Skilbeck was serving with 53rd Field Ambulance when he was killed between the front line at Neuvilly and the village of Inchy on 11 October 1918. Second Lieutenant Surry was killed on 12 October 1918 during an attack on the Le Cateau to Solesmes railway line near Troisvilles. For nearly a hundred years their final resting places remained unknown.

Mel Donnelly, CWGC, said: “Commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial to the Missing for almost a century, it is now known that Second Lieutenant Surry and Private Skilbeck were recovered from the battlefield and buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a researcher, we are privileged to be able to mark their graves with headstones bearing their names and personal inscriptions chosen by their families. Today we remember the sacrifice of these brave men.”

The services were all organised by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, Ministry of Defence and attended by family members, British Defence Staff, Regimental representatives, CWGC staff and local dignitaries. 

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