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Graves of three First World War soldiers rededicated in Belgium

Photo: Eric Campernolle.

The graves of three World War One soldiers, from Somerset, London and Staffordshire, have now been marked more than a century after their deaths.

Two rededication services were carried out at CWGC cemeteries in Belgium on 20 March 2024. The morning ceremony was held for Private (Pte) Albert (Wilfred) Culling and Pte Charles William Green, both of 1/24th Battalion The London Regiment (The Queens) at Buttes New British Cemetery. The afternoon service at Hooge Crater Cemetery was for Serjeant (Sjt) John Harold Bott DCM of 11th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

Privates Albert Wilfred Saunders Culling and Charles William Green

Private Culling (courtesy of the family). The Service for Pte Culling and Pte Green at Buttes New British Cemetery (Crown Copyright).

Albert Wilfred Saunders Culling was the son of Albert and Kate Culling, of Castle St., Keinton Mandeville, Taunton, Somerset, the eldest of five children. He joined the Somerset Light Infantry in December 1915, having previously been a Stonecutter. He completed a period of service at home before being sent to France as part of the 1/24th London Regiment (The Queens) on 15 June 1916.

Charles William Green provided no next-of-kin details upon enlistment and was unmarried. He joined the army in December 1915, joining the 3rd Battalion London Regiment. He too had a short period of home service before arriving in France with the 1/24th London Regiment (The Queens) in August 1916. His record notes that he suffered shell shock in June 1917, but later returned to duty.

Both men were serving in Company C, 24th battalion London Regiment (The Queen’s) at the time of their death in August 1917.

Around midnight during the night of 25 to 26 August 1917, the 1st/24th Bn. London Regiment was heavily shelled while in a position beyond Westhoek, on the Westhoek ridge. The heavy barrage left three dead and 14 wounded.

The three men who died in the bombardment were Ptes Albert Wilfred Saunders Culling, Charles William Green and Albert Henry Hale. They were buried in a shared field grave until March 1920, by which time any marker which might have recorded their names had been lost. As a consequence, they could not all be identified when they were reburied in the CWGC’s Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Belgium.

All three wore regimental insignia identifying them as members of the 24th Battalion The London Regiment, and one had an identity disc which allowed him to be identified as Pte Hale. All three were reburied next to each other at Buttes New British Cemetery, the two unidentified men were buried with the inscription: ‘A Soldier of the Great War – 24th Bn London Regiment – Known Unto God’.

Separately, the names of Pte Culling and Pte Green were engraved on the CWGC’s Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the missing. More than 100 years later, research confirmed the two previously unidentified burials are those of Pte Culling and Pte Green.

Kelly Salter, great niece of Pte Green, stands with the military party behind his headstone (Crown copyrignt).

The new Commission headstones marking their graves bear epitaphs provided by their relatives:

Private Charles William Green: ‘He was loved and he bravely did his duty’

Private Albert Wilfred Saunders Culling: ‘Remembered always by your family’

JCCC Caseworker, Alexia Clark, said:
“I am grateful to the researcher who submitted this case. Their work has led us to recognise the final resting place of Pte Culling and Pte Green, to restore their names to them and to allow their families to honour their sacrifice. It has been a privilege for me to have contributed to this case and to have organised the service for the rededication of these graves today.”

Serjeant John Harold Bott, DCM

Serjeant Bott (source unknown). The military party stand behind the grave of Sjt Bott (Crown copyright).

John Harold Bott was born in Longton, Staffordshire, one of four brothers born to Herbert Bott and his wife Mary Ann. His younger half-sister, Ethel, was born later to his mother and stepfather. The 1911 census records that he was working as a hairdresser’s apprentice.

John enlisted into the Army in September 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the World War One, and was posted to 11th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). He arrived on the Western Front on 26 July 1915. In the summer of 1916, he fought and was wounded on the Somme. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions there. The medal citation, which was published in the London Gazette of 25 November 1916, stated that it was awarded ‘For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a bombing party with great courage and determination, capturing an enemy machine gun and killing the team.’

In the spring of 1917, the 11th Battalion The Royal Fusiliers fought in the Battle of Arras before moving to Flanders. On 31 July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battalion went into action again.

On 10 August 1917, they took part in an attack on the Westhoek ridge with the aim of taking Inverness Copse, Glencorse Wood and the southern end of the ridge. The two attacking companies followed a barrage at 04:35 hours after which they and the support company reached the Jargon Support Line north of Fitzclarence Farm.

Having come under machine gun fire, the advance halted and their position remained the same until around 06:00 hours, by which stage most of the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, including Serjeant Bott, aged 21, had become casualties. The enemy counterattacked from Inverness Copse and the Battalion was pushed back to a strong point on the crest of the Westhoek Ridge. The position was consolidated and held until they were relieved.

After the war Serjeant Bott’s body was recovered and he was buried as an unknown soldier of The Royal Fusiliers in Hooge Crater Cemetery. It was noted that the Serjeant had received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). As he was missing, Serjeant Bott was commemorated on the CWGC’s Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial to the Missing. His grave has now been identified after research was submitted to CWGC by two separate researchers. After further research by CWGC, the National Army Museum and JCCC, the findings were confirmed.

JCCC Caseworker, Rosie Barron, said:
“Sjt Bott lost his life in one of the most notoriously horrific battles in history, the Third Battle of Ypres. It has been an honour to have played a part in identifying the location of his final resting place and to have been present today as we remember this brave soldier’s sacrifice and service.”

The services were conducted by the Reverend Thomas Sander CF, Chaplain to The Household Cavalry and were attended by representatives from The London Guards and The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

The Reverend Sander said:
“Today we have rededicated the graves of Pte Culling, Pte Green, and Sjt Bott in sure and certain hope that they have found rest among all those who we love but see no longer. We continue to cherish the memory of all those who were lost in the cause of war and pray for peace among all nations and families.”

Area Director for Central and Southern Europe at the CWGC, Geert Bekaert, said:
“For decades, the names of these three brave men have been etched on to our Ypres Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Ieper. Finally, we will now be able to remove those from the plates, which is a very special and poignant moment, and mark their graves with new headstones at Hooge Crater Cemetery and Buttes New British Cemetery respectively.”

Tags Rededication Service Belgium