Missing British soldier reburied in Belgium

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The body of a British infantry officer, missing for more than 100 years, has been reburied in Belgium.

Second lieutenant Eric Henderson was serving with the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) on 7 June 1917, when his unit went over the top on the first day of the Battle of Messines.

The battalion was tasked with attacking a portion of the German front line and a blockhouse known as the Dammstrasse. However, many were hit by machine gun fire both from this objective and also from German troops dug in within the grounds a large house known as the ‘White Chateau’.

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Identity disk

Second lieutenant Henderson’s remains were discovered during road works. Several distinctive items helped with his identification, including a silver coin engraved with his name, rank and unit.

He was born on 10 November 1895 in Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, the son of Reverend Joseph Graham and Emily Alice. He had a brother, Charles and a sister, Elsie. The family lived in Barnet, Hertfordshire and Charles also served in the First World War.

Judith Leyman, Charles’ grand-daughter and Eric’s great niece, said on behalf of the family: ‘Being here in Ypres, and knowing Eric’s resting place, means an awful lot to us. He wasn’t a dusty memory in our family, but part of our mental landscape.’

The newly placed headstone bears a moving personal inscription: ‘Tread softly o’er my beautiful Eric’s grave for a mother’s love lies here.’

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War Horse to return to London stage

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War Horse, the widely acclaimed stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s First World War novel, is scheduled to return to the National Theatre later this year.

Productions are due to coincide with the centenary of Armistice Day (in November) and are set to run from 8 November until 5 January 2019.

War Horse charts what happens to a farm worker and his horse when both are drafted into the army during the First World War. Its innovative stage sets and props have seen it hailed as one of the most innovative shows of the century.

The production is currently on tour. For dates and venues, click here.

 

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WW1 archeology exhibition in Ypres

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Ypres’ In Flanders Fields museum is focusing its attention on the subterranean relics of war this year.

Entitled Traces of War, WW1 Archeology the museum’s fascinating new exhibition explores the strata of buried First World War remains that lie less than half a metre beneath the surface of the farmland of modern-day Belgium and France.

History unearthed

Highlights include numerous artefacts that have been recovered over the past 10 years and the light they shed on everyday life in the trenches.

The displays also tell the story of some of the soldiers whose remains have finally been recovered and identified in recent years.

The exhibition runs from 17 February until 26 August. To find out more both about it and the In Flanders Fields museum, click here.

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Sargent’s Gassed headlines USA exhibition

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America’s National WWI Museum and Memorial celebrates the opening of its new, $5m Wylie gallery space with an exhibition dedicated to John Singer Sargent’s monumental painting, Gassed.

The 21ft-long work, on loan from London’s Imperial War Museum, depicts a line of blinded British soldiers making their way to a dressing station near Arras, while other wounded men lie on the ground.

Redolent with loss

The exhibition, which runs from 23 February to 23 June, also includes preliminary sketches, maps showing the dressing station’s location and objects relating to the chemical warfare that took place across the Western Front.

The huge painting has lost none of its ability to shock and is redolent with the waste of life and youth that was such a feature of the First World War.

On seeing the work for the first time, Sir Winston Churchill, himself a veteran of the trenches, wrote: ‘With all its brilliant genius and painful significance… how the field of national psychology must have been harrowed by events which had taken place during the war.’

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MoD searches for relatives of missing Bedfordshire soldier

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is trying to trace relatives of a World War One soldier who died in France in 1918.

Sergeant Edward Norton was born in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, in 1881 and lived in Luton. He enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment, but was later transferred to the 7th Battalion Durham Light Infantry.

Clues unearthed

In July 2016 human remains were discovered in Gavrelle, northern France, close to where Sergeant Norton went missing. Researchers also discovered a shoulder title from the Durham Light Infantry.

The battalion’s records show six men died during that month; four officers and two soldiers. After analysing the artefacts and accoutrements at the site, the researchers believe the remains are ‘likely’ to belong to one of the two soldiers.

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Not unknown

A grandson of the other soldier has been traced, but the team have been unable to find any relatives of Sergeant Norton.

Louise Dorr from the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) said: ‘He is to be buried in France on 15 March.

‘Rather than bury him as an unknown soldier, I would love to be able to identify him so that his headstone may bear his name.’

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Epic Nevinson painting leads Sotheby’s sale

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One of the greatest works produced by British war artist Christopher (CRW) Nevinson will go on sale at Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art Sale on 21 November.

Entitled A Dawn, the powerful image depicts a unit of French infantry, bayonets fixed, marching through a town centre.

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Vorticist masterpiece

A gripping example of Nevinson’s thought-provoking Vorticist style, the painting was first exhibited at the artist’s 1916 solo exhibition to an audience that included Sir Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw.

Simon Hucker, Sotheby’s senior specialist in modern & post-war British Art, said: ‘Nevinson’s A Dawn ranks alongside the Tate’s La Mitrailleuse and the Imperial War Museum’s French Troops Resting as the very best of the artist’s war paintings, works that define our vision of the Great War.

‘With the majority of Nevinson’s most important works in major museums, the term “museum-quality” can be applied with total confidence to this profoundly powerful painting. The auction represents a very rare opportunity for collectors.’

A Dawn was last on sale in 1964. It will be offered with an estimate of £700,000-1m.

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Welsh memorial for 1917 VC winner

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Some 100 years after he won the Victoria Cross in Belgium, a soldier from Ceredigion has been honoured with a memorial in his home county.

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Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Pugh Evans received the award for his actions on 4 October 1917 when he singlehandedly captured a machine-gun emplacement.

Severely wounded, he went on to lead his troops from the 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment to attack another enemy position.

Evans was later promoted to general and was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, the Belgian Order of Leopold and the French Croix de Guerre, in addition to being mentioned in dispatches seven times.

Lucky man

His citation stated the officer had observed an enemy gun emplacement that was causing casualties and had rushed at it firing his revolver, forcing the German gunners to surrender.

His grandson, Christopher Evans, told the BBC his grandfather always felt he had been lucky; both to have survived the war to have been awarded the VC.

The memorial is in Llanbadarn Fawr, near Aberystwyth.

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