British Soldiers Who Fell at Loos Reburied

 

Scotsman William McAleer's identity disc pictured with an official program from the March 14 reburial.

Scotsman William McAleer’s identity disc pictured with an official program from the March 14 reburial.

 

During a construction project near Loos-en-Gohelle, France, in October 2010, workers discovered a mass grave from the Battle of Loos during the First World War.  The grave contained the remains of 50 soldiers – 30 German and 20 British- killed in the 1915 battle.  Based on its location, it was determined that the carefully prepared grave had been dug by German soldiers.

On Friday March 14, 2014, the remains of the 20 British soldiers discovered in the mass grave were reburied with full military honors at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos Cemetery.  Of the 20, one soldier, Scotsman William McAleer of Fife, could be identified.   McAleer, a soldier in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, was killed on September 25, 1915 at the age of 22.  Identification was made possible by virtue of his identity disc discovered among his remains.

The 19 unidentified British soldiers received headstones bearing the epitaph “Known Unto God.”  Following the discovery of the mass grave, the remains of the 30 German soldiers were turned over to the German War Graves Commission (VDK) for identification and reburial.

The two-week Battle of Loos in September-October 1915 was the largest British offensive on the Western Front up to that time and resulted in nearly 60,000 British casualties.  The failure of the British Expeditionary Force to break through the German lines at Loos led to the replacement of General Sir John French by General Douglas Haig in command of the BEF.

For more information on the March 14 reburial, see the Houston Chronicle story here.