First World War soldier from West Ham buried century after death
PUBLISHED: 16:32 19 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:40 19 October 2016
A soldier whose grave was wrongly marked for more than a century has been buried with full military honours.
Private Harry Carter, from West Ham, was 21 when a 15-tonne underground German mine detonated beneath him on November 22, 1915.
The infantryman, from the 10th Battalion the Essex Regiment, was subsequently given a grave and headstone at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in France.
But nearly a century later, in 2013, investigators discovered Pte Carter had actually remained buried where he died – in the village of La Boisselle – and had been incorrectly commemorated in the Somme cemetery because of a War Office error.
Earlier today, Pte Carter was buried in Albert with fanfare in a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and attended by relatives.
Brian Churchyard, the soldier’s great-nephew, said: “It is a remarkable story and really does bring home the bravery and sacrifice made by such young men.”
National anthems were sung in English and French after a rendition of the Last Post, and members of the 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment – successor to the 10th Essex – provided a bearer party for the coffin and fired a salute.
Rev Richard Priest, who led the ceremony, said: “It is just as important for today’s soldiers to know that their comrades are buried with full military honours as it was 100 years ago, and that we honour our fallen from past conflicts.”
Another British soldier from the same regiment as Pte Carter – Pte William Marmon, from Holborn – was also found in the series of French trenches known as the “Glory Hole”. He was buried in Albert in the same ceremony as his comrade.
The remains of the two fully kitted men were found beside their rifles and ammunition, grenades and flares. Small figurines of children were also found in a pouch, along with a bullet carved into a love heart.
According to the battalion’s War Diary, the blast that killed Pte Marmon and Pte Carter was of such ferocity that it “filled the dugouts for about 50 yards and completely obliterated the front face”.
Genealogy research was used to identify and trace the surviving relatives of all eight soldiers reported as being killed while DNA analysis proved the remains were Pte Marmon and Pte Carter.
Steve Brown, from the MoD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, said: “The commemorative event today is a culmination of detailed work by many organisations to achieve a common goal – the identification and burial of exceptionally brave young men who died serving in arguably the most difficult and dangerous place during the First World War.”