Unknown British WW2 soldier laid to rest - as War Graves Commission appeals for more families to come forward
A British soldier who is thought to have died on the Italian Front in the summer of 1944 was finally given a military funeral and laid to rest this week, more than 75 years after he died serving his country.
The funeral, which took place in Bologna, Italy, was organised by a special team within the Ministry of Defence known as the War Detectives, who are tasked with identifying British military casualties.
What do we know about the unknown soldier?
The soldier was of an unknown regiment and little else is known about him, other than that he served on the Italian Front and was discovered alongside military items in the location of the “Gothic Line”.
Since his remains were discovered in 2015, the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the War Detectives, have been working to try and find his identity.
However, despite extensive research and DNA testing, it was not possible to identify the soldier.
Experts believe he was a British serviceman killed during the Second World War, potentially some time between 19 and 24 October 1944.
He is thought to have been engaged in fighting along the German defensive line during the Italian campaign.
Tracey Bowers, one of the JCCC investigators, said: “It is a matter of great sadness that we have not been able to identify this brave man and bury him in the presence of his family.
“The battle for Italy was one of the War’s most exhausting campaigns and one often forgotten. His military family is here to remember, mourn and lay him to rest with the honour he deserves.”
The JCCC is tasked with trying to identify the remains of British personnel killed in historic campaigns dating back to the Great War, and verifying evidence which may provide the identity of individuals buried in “unknown” British war graves.
How was the funeral organised?
The funeral service, which took place on 27 April, was conducted by the Chaplain to the British Forces, Revered Mark Chadwick.
He said: “It has been a great privilege and honour to take this service here today and remember the sacrifice that so many made on our behalf”.
Serving members of both the British and Italian military were present at the service to pay their respects.
The headstone at the grave was prepared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), which maintains the resting places of members of the British Armed Forces.
They will continue to maintain the grave, which is situated at the CWGC’s Bologna War Cemetery in Italy.
Dave Avery, Commemorations Officer at the CWGC, said: “Whilst it has not been possible to identify this soldier by name, we are grateful that we can now lay him to rest with his comrades.
“The burial ceremony today enables us to renew our commitment to those we care for in perpetuity.”
The CWGC puts out regular appeals for relatives of deceased soldiers to contact them for a various reasons.
In some cases they may be looking to add a commemorative headstone to the grave of a soldier, or they may wish to inform relatives of the location of a deceased family member who has gone unidentified for decades.
Below is the CWGC’s latest appeal for relatives, for April 2022.