The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.
British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.
The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.
Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.
So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.
Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.
Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.
“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”
“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”
The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.
France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.
More photos from the ceremony can be found at the United Kingdom government website.