Sunday, 21 February 2010

Unknown to his family, soldier lay buried close to home for 94 years

From The Scotsman:

THE family of a Scots soldier who died in one of the worst battles of the First World War visited his grave for the first time yesterday almost a century after his death.

Brothers Richard Doyle, Bernard Doyle and Patrick Doyle visit the grave stone of their uncle Dennis Doyle at Cambusnethan Cemetery, North Lanarkshire

Private Dennis Doyle, from Wishaw in North Lanarkshire, was shot in the head during combat in France in 1916 and died on his return to the UK.

Though he was a buried in a North Lanarkshire cemetery close to his home, a mix-up led to him being recorded as one of the thousands of missing servicemen from the Battle of the Somme.

Pte Doyle is one of the 72,090 soldiers commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France.

However, the error was uncovered by local historian Joe O'Raw, who contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and in turn erected a granite headstone to mark the Scottish soldier's true resting place in December.

Pte Doyle's nephews Patrick, Richard and Bernard visited the grave at Cambusnethan Cemetery for the first time, 94 years after his death.

Patrick Doyle, who lives locally, said: "We knew nothing about our uncle's grave until recently. He was a much-loved man and the family are thankful to Joe O'Raw and the War Graves Commission for providing this headstone, and giving us a focus to pay our respects to Dennis."

Pte Doyle was 30 when he was wounded while serving with the East Lancashire Regiment, having signed up after moving to Manchester for work.

He had been in France for about eight months when he was shot through the head by a sniper. He was taken by ship to England, but died from his wounds on arrival.

His body was taken to Wishaw, where he was buried in the cemetery close to his mother's home in the town's Glasgow Road.

Mr O'Raw said: "I am immensely grateful to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for erecting this headstone, thus ensuring that a brave man is properly and fittingly remembered."

Pte Doyle's death was recorded at the time in the Wishaw Press and Advertiser, now the Wishaw Press.

The article reads: "Six weeks ago, ago, while engaged in bomb-throwing, he was shot in the head by a sniper.

"Last weekend he was brought across the Channel for treatment in England; but, ere the hospital ship had been docked, he succumbed to his injuries.

"The body was brought to Wishaw, and arrangements had been made for a military funeral, but unfortunately at the last moment a message was received from the garrison adjutant at Hamilton that a funeral party could not be furnished."

The Battle of the Somme, in Picardy, is considered to be one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded, with almost 60,000 British casualties recorded on the first day alone – the British Army's worst single-day combat losses in its history.

The battle lasted five months, but by the time the fighting had petered out in late autumn of 1916, a total of more than 1.5 million casualties had been suffered on both sides.

The Somme had been part of wider offensive along the Western Front to breach the German lines.

Dennis Doyle's details from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

Initials: D
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: East Lancashire Regiment
Unit Text: 8th Bn.
Date of Death: 19/02/1916
Service No: 16195
N.B.: Previously commemorated on Thiepval Memorial
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec E Lair 1475

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