Scarborough soldier to be buried a century after his death
The news the bodies of two Yorkshire soldiers and four others had been discovered buried side-by-side in a field on the outskirts of Ypres in Belgium was a bolt out of the blue for their families.
Subsequent DNA tests revealed the young men killed in the Great War included Gunners Joseph Rowbottom, from Scarborough, and Albert Venus, from Hull, and next week the pair will be laid to rest in a cemetery in Ypres over a century after they were killed, serving their country.
Among those who will travel out to honour the men is Kathleen Grantham, from Hessle, near Hull, whose great uncle was Gunner Venus.
“When I got the message to say that they had found Albert’s body I was absolutely amazed,” she said.
“I did not know where he had died and how he had died.”
“For me its very, very special,” she said of the discovery and the opportunity to pay her respects and mark the sacrifice of her relative and the other soliders - four of which still remain unidentified.
The burials of Gunner Rowbottom and Gunner Venus along with the remains of four other unknown soldiers will take place at Ieper Town Cemetery Extension, Ieper, Belgium. Both Gunners Rowbottom and Venus were killed in action on May 24 1915.
Shoulder titles from North and East Riding Batteries, Royal Field Artillery were discovered with the remains. Research pinpointed the 2nd Northumbrian Brigade to this area on May 24 1915.
The men were caught up in a fierce battle, known as the Battle of Bellwaarde Ridge.
Also among those travelling to Belgium will be retired Thorne Grammar School headteacher Tony Brookes whose research has helped ensure that Gunner Venus was accepted for commemoration by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Names of fallen soldiers are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.
Gunner Venus grew up in Thorne, near Doncaster, before later moving to Hull and Canada and Mr Brookes was researching names on Thorne War Memorial and realised Gunner Venus was not known to the CWGC.
Remarkably his remains, together with those of the five other soldiers were discovered by chance in 2014.
Mr Brookes said: “As far as I understand it it was during building work on the outskirts of Ypres when they found the six bodies.
“I did not expect this outcome when I started researching Albert Venus; it is wonderful that he and Gunner Rowbottom will finally be buried in marked graves – a rightful tribute to two brave men who gave their lives for their country.
“Albert Venus was completely forgotten, he was a name on a war memorial and for some reason he had slipped through the net and he was not commemorated,” he added.
Mrs Grantham said she thought it was right all six will be buried together as they had been for over a century.