Scarborough World War One soldiers buried at ceremony

The coffin of Gunner Joseph William Rowbottom, of Scarborough, is carried into Ypres Town Cemetery Extension.
The coffin of Gunner Joseph William Rowbottom, of Scarborough, is carried into Ypres Town Cemetery Extension.

The remains of six World War One soldiers, including four from Scarborough, were buried at a military service at Ypres, Belgium.

Two of the six, Gunners Joseph William Rowbottom, from Scarborough, and Albert William Venus, from Hull, had been positively identified by DNA records. Their coffins were carried into the Ypres Town Cemetery Extension by soldiers of 4th Regiment Royal Artillery (The North-East Gunners), based at Alanbrooke Barracks near Thirsk.

Members of The North-East Gunners who took part in the service.

Members of The North-East Gunners who took part in the service.

The other four remains have not yet been positively identified but are almost certainly those of Corporal Tom Carr, from Scalby, Gunners James William Clarke and George Robinson of Scarborough, and Driver Robert Corner Wilson.

Their coffins were already laid in their grave at the start of the service, and, until positive identification, their headstones bear the badge of the Royal Artillery and the words, ‘A Soldier of the Great War, Royal Field Artillery, 24th May 1915, Known Unto God’.

The men died on that date at a place known as "Death's Corner", just east of Ypres during the second battle of Ypres. An enemy shell struck the right wheel of their gun, killing them instantly. They were buried that evening beneath a hedge, with wooden crosses marking the graves, but their graves and any identification of them were subsequently lost.

The well-attended service was conducted by Revd. Richard Hall CF, Chaplain of the Regiment. Readings were given by Regimental Colonel Richard Collinge OBE ADC, and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Belgium, Miss Alison Rose. The hymns ‘Abide with Me’ and ‘Guide me O Thou Great Redeemer’ were accompanied by Royal Artillery musicians, and three standard bearers from the Royal British Legion were in attendance.

Three researchers from Scalby attended the service. Lesley Newton, Denise Howell and Robin Boddy were accompanied by Lesley's husband Howard and Robin's wife Helen. The three have uncovered the stories behind most of the 27 men listed on Scalby's war memorial, including Tom Carr. "It was a very moving occasion, although I was disappointed to discover that Corporal Tom Carr’s name did not appear on the funeral service sheet," said Lesley.

Family members present included Caroline Rowbottom, from near Brigg, North Lincolnshire. She and her father had no idea that her grandfather’s cousin, Joseph, had been killed in action in the Great War until they received a letter out of the blue from the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, whose Commemorations Team is responsible for undertaking work to identify and bury the remains of recently discovered Service personnel killed in historic campaigns from World War One onwards.

Lesley added: "We were delighted to meet Caroline and to be able to give her a photo of her relative, Joseph, from the Scarborough Mercury of 11 June 1915."

Researcher Mel Pack said: “The successful identifications were the product of DNA testing. It has been a frustrating project because the range of potential candidates for the six sets of remains was so narrow and there was high expectation of more successful IDs. The outcome of the project does demonstrate one of the shortcomings of DNA testing - namely the intercession of 'false paternity' on the Y line and mis-attributed maternity through informal adoption on the mitochondrial line. Those intercessions can occur at any point in the familial chain which is not surprising given that it is not unusual to have to go back to a second cousin of a soldier i.e. the cousins of the soldier's grandparents in order to bring forward a familial line to a living donor who is DNA compatible. The quest continues.”

Mel Pack has asked the Scalby researchers to help him identify Tom Carr by finding the parish records for ancestors of his mother, Jane Adamthwaite, so that further DNA samples can hopefully be taken from relatives. Lesley added: "We are determined to do this, since we feel that, having come this far, Tom Carr’s body deserves a named headstone."