Reburial of soldiers at Loos British Cemetery, March 2014
The remains of the 20 British servicemen were uncovered in a communal grave in Vendin Le Vieil, France. The remains of 30 German soldiers were also found in close proximity and were handed over to the German authorities. Due to the presence of regimental insignia, the allocation of some of the remains to specific regiments was possible: seven of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, two of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, one of the Northumberland Fusiliers and one of the York and Lancaster Regiment. Nine soldiers remain completely unknown. Due to the high casualties in the regiments involved and the lack of personal artefacts, further identification has been impossible. Only one of the soldiers had an identity tag, and this was 13766 Private William McAleer of the 7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. All the aforementioned regiments will send representatives to the burial. The reb-burial was held for Private William McAleer and 19 unknown British soldiers at Loos British Cemetery on 14th March 2014. The servicemen were laid to rest in Plot 20, Row G, Graves 20 - 26 of the cemetery almost a hundred years after they died. The service has been organised by the MOD, whose representatives also attended the ceremony.
(Text courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.)
Sadly when dawn broke a thick fog hung over the Loos battlefields. The sun was weak and with no wind the fog, or thick mist, remained. Following a full dress rehearsal large numbers of World War I enthusiasts began to arrive to pay their respects and attend the ceremony. Thankfully as the ceremony began the mist also started to disperse but only when it was all over did the sun come out. It was a moving ceremony but unfortunately the Last Post was dreadfully mangled with hardly a recongisable note floating across the cemetery. Stephen McLeod, the step-great-nephew of Pte McAleer, was at the ceremony and was the first to lay a wreath. The poem that was printed by his parents in the In Memoriam card in 1915 reads:
He little thought when leaving home The he would ne'er return; And now he lies in a soldier's grave, And leaves us all to mourn.
Had I had seem him at his last, Or watched his dyng breath, Or heard the last sigh of his heart Or held his aching head.
Sleep on, dear son, in a foreign grave, Your life for your country you nobly gave, No friends stood near you to say good-bye, But safe in God's keeping now you lie.
Nameless his grave on the battlefield gory. Ony a cross on a mound of earth; Died in the priede of his youth and his glory, Far from his home and the land of his birth.
Sleep on, dear son, in a far off land, In a grave we shall never see; But as long as life and memory last, We shall remember thee.
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Loos British Cemetery
Loos (Loos-en-Gohelle) is a village to the north of the road from Lens to Béthune. From Lens, take the N43 towards Béthune. Arriving at Loos, turn right at CWGC sign post. The cemetery is about 1km from Loos Church in the southern part of the village.
The village has given its name to the battle of the Saturday 25th September to Friday 8th October 1915, in which it was captured from the Germans by the 15th (Scottish) and 47th (London) Divisions, and defended by French troops on the 8th October.
The cemetery was begun by the Canadian Corps in July, 1917, and the graves then made are contained in Rows A and B of Plot I and Row A of Plot II. The remainder of the cemetery was formed after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries over a wide area north and east of the village. The great majority of these soldiers fell in the Battle of Loos. There are nearly three thousand, 1914-1918 and a small number of 1939-1945 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, two-thirds from the 1914-1918 are unidentified and special memorials are erected to two soldiers from the United Kingdom and four from Canada who are known or believed to be buried among them. Other special memorials record the names of forty-four soldiers from Canada and twelve from the United Kingdom, buried in other cemeteries, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery covers an area of 11,364m2 and is enclosed by a rubble wall.
The following were among the burial grounds from which British graves were removed to Loos British Cemetery:
Barts Alley Cemetery, Vermelles, about 1km northeast of the village, named from a communication trench in which a Dressing Station was established. It contained the graves of thirty-eight soldiers from the United Kingdom, who fell, for the most part, in the Battle of Loos.
Caldron Military Cemetery (Red Mill), in the southern part of the town of Lievin, in which were buried eighty-five soldiers from the United Kingdom (mainly of the 46th (North Midland) Division), thirty-eight from Canada and one German.
Cite Calonne Military Cemetery, Lievin, in the middle of a mining village between Grenay and Lievin. The cemetery was begun by French troops and used by the British from March, 1916, onwards. It contained the graves of two hundred and seven soldiers from the United Kingdom, five from Canada, one hundred and thirty French and six German.
Corkscrew Cemetery, Loos, which was close to the mine known as Fosse II. It contained the graves of one hundred and sixty-eight soldiers from the United Kingdom and thirty-eight from Canada. Courcelles-les-Lens Communal Cemetery, in which nineteen soldiers and one airman from the United Kingdom, mainly of the 12th (Eastern) Division, were buried in October, 1918.
Lievin Station Cemetery, on the northwest side of the railway station, used in 1917 and containing the graves of forty-eight soldiers from the United Kingdom (almost all of the 46th (North Midland) Division) and twelve from Canada.
Loos (Fort Glatz) German Cemetery, named from a German strong point at the northwest corner of the village, and containing the graves of three soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in the summer of 1915.