24 May 2023
Remains of World War One airman finally identified
RAF representatives at the graveside of 2nd Lt Hutton. (Photo: Eric Compernolle)
More than a century after the end of World War 1, an unmarked headstone of a Commonwealth war grave finally carries the name of the young airman who rests there.
A ceremony was held in Belgium on Wednesday 24 May for World War 1 Royal Flying Corps (RFC) Officer, Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) William Wallace Hutton, who was aged 24 when he was killed.
Lt Hutton, from Cape Town, died in October 1917 after his plane left Dunkirk on a bombing raid to Saint Denjis Westrem in Belgium.
The ceremony at Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, was held after evidence was presented that an unknown grave was his. It was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’.
Tracey Bowers of JCCC said:
“I am grateful to those who submitted this case. The evidence led to us to recognise the final resting place of 2nd Lt Hutton. For such a young man William had seen many years of service so far away from his home in South Africa and we can only imagine how difficult this must have been for him and his family, especially as his brother Albert had been killed in action just a month before William. We thank them for their sacrifice.”
2nd Lt Hutton was flying as a crew member on Handley Page O/100 serial number 3122 when he went missing on 28 October 1917. The Admiralty notified the War Office that, according to German sources, Hutton had been killed in the crash, and the two other crew members taken prisoner.
Placing the wreath at the new headstone of 2nd Lt William Wallace Hutton. (Photos: Eric Compernolle)
As an Officer with previous service in a different regiment when he joined the Royal Flying Corps, he was permitted to wear his earlier uniform along with a Royal Flying Corps insignia. This explains why those who originally tried to identify his remains thought he was with 7th London Regiment but could not link that to a name.
Reverend (Flight Lieutenant) Robert Hadfield, Chaplain at RAF Lossiemouth, led the service. He said:
"It’s an enormous privilege for me to have played a part in this rededication ceremony for Second Lieutenant William Wallace Hutton, whose name is at last etched into stone as an ongoing testament to the ultimate sacrifice he made."
Mel Donnelly, CWGC Head of Commemorations said:
“We are honoured to rededicate the grave of Second Lieutenant William Wallace Hutton today. Marking his last resting place with a new headstone which can now bear his name is especially poignant in War Graves Week. It enables the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to renew our commitment to care for the graves and memorials of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice, in perpetuity.”
William Wallace Hutton
William was born on 13 September 1894 in Cape Town, South Africa to Albert Edward Hutton and Jessie Adelaide Bryne. William had three sisters Charlotte, Jessie, and Ellen all of whom sadly died very young, he had 2 brothers Lawrence and Albert.
William initially served with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles from 1913 and then saw active service with this regiment. He attended Officers Training Corps in 1915 and was then attached to the 1st South African Infantry Brigade. William was granted a Commission in the Regular Army with the 3/7th City of London Regiment. Second Lieutenant Hutton attended 5th Wing Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in 1917 before being transferred to Royal Flying Corps 83rd Squadron.
Photo: 2nd Lt William Wallace Hutton. (Copyright unknown)