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Grave of Donegal soldier identified over 100 years after his death

The service was supported by serving members of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment. (Crown copyright)

A rededication service was held for Company Quartermaster Serjeant (CQMS) John Doherty MM (Military Medal) at CWGC Savy British Cemetery, near Saint Quentin, France on 9 July 2024.

CQMS Doherty went missing in France on 22 March 1918.

More than 100 years after his death, the location of his grave was finally identified after his great great nephew submitted evidence to CWGC hoping to have found his final resting place. Further research by CWGC, the National Army Museum and Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) confirmed his findings.

The service, attended by members of the extended Doherty family who had travelled from the UK and Ireland to pay their respects, was organised by the MOD’s JCC and was also attended by serving soldiers of The Royal Irish Regiment.

Chris Doherty, great nephew of CQMS Doherty said:
“My Grandfather William survived the war, he returned home married and raised his family. He ensured his brother’s John, Daniel and James who all gave their lives so we could live ours free, that their names would never be forgotten. On behalf of the Doherty family, we wish to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Rosie Barron and JCCC War Detectives and their colleagues at the CWGC that have given myself and my family the privilege of being present today of the rededication of the final resting place of our Grand Uncle, CQMS John Doherty MM, 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, in this beautiful setting, in the company of his comrades, some of whom he may have lived, fought and died with.”

Chris Doherty lays flowers at his great uncle's grave in Savy British Cemetery. (Crown copyright)

On the morning of 21 March 1918, the German Army launched Operation Michael, the first phase of its Spring Offensive. In 1917, Russia had surrendered in the east and the USA had joined the war on the side of the Allies. The aim of the spring offensive was to defeat Allies in the west before American troops could arrive in number. When the attack commenced 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were located at Le Hamel, southwest of Saint Quentin. They were ordered up to the battle area and remained in their positions under heavy shellfire that day.

On 22 March 1918 A Company was attacked and was forced back with heavy casualties. Around 40 men, all that remained of the battalion, fought their way through the enemy. By the end of the day more than 500 men were missing. CQMS Doherty, aged 36, was amongst them and was commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

JCCC Caseworker, Rosie Barron, said:
“It has been a privilege to work with The Royal Irish Regiment to organise the rededication service for CQMS Doherty. His family suffered heavily because of the World War 1 having had three sons go missing whilst serving with The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. For their widowed mother this loss must have been profound. It has therefore been fitting to have so many of their family in attendance today to celebrate the life of CQMS Doherty and his brothers and to honour their sacrifice.”

The Rev Jason Clarke MBE CF, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, conducts the rededication service for CQMS Doherty. (Crown copyright)

The service was conducted by the Reverend Jason Clarke MBE CF, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment who said:
"Today we rededicate this grave and in so doing acknowledge by name CQMS John Doherty. In so doing we honour his memory and give thanks for his example of courage to the end. In the horror of such terrible fighting, he was faithful and true, fighting alongside his men and giving his life in the defence of others.”

The headstone over the grave was replaced by CWGC.

Xavier Puppinck, CWGC France Area Director said:
"It is a privilege to care for the grave of CQMS John Doherty MM. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is dedicated to ensuring that this serviceman, who made the ultimate sacrifice, is remembered with the dignity and respect he deserves. We are committed to ensuring his memory lives on in perpetuity, providing a place of reverence and respect for generations to come.”

CQMS John Doherty MM

CQMS Doherty, who hailed from Letterkenny, County Donegal, was a regular soldier of The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who had seen previous service in South Africa. He arrived on the Western Front on 23 August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. In 1915, he saw action in Gallipoli before returning to the Western Front. He was later awarded the Military Medal which was published in the London Gazette of 18 July 1917. On 13 March 1918, he was appointed the acting CQMS to D Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

In total 4 Doherty brothers served with The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the First World War, with 3 of them making the ultimate sacrifice. Lance Corporal Daniel Doherty was killed on 1 July 1916 whilst serving with 11th Battalion and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Corporal James Doherty was killed on 16 August 1917 whilst serving with 11th Battalion and attached 109th Trench Mortar Battery and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Tags Rededication Service France