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Webmatters : Re-Burial at Loos British Cemetery, Loos-en-Gohelle
Rough Map of Area

Loos British Cemetery

William McAleer

In 2010 work began on a new prison at Vendin le Vieil on the site of Hill 70. Even before construction could begin the battlefield archaeologists had recovered a large quantity of Great War battlefield debris including jars, bayonets and 5,000 unexploded shells.

Further searching recovered the bodies of thirty German soldiers (who were handed to their own authorities) and the remains of twenty British soldiers, all buried in a common grave.

Some of the British soldiers still carried regimental insignia on them which helped allocate them to particular regiments. Seven Royal Scots Fusiliers; two of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders; one of the Northumberland Fusiliers and one of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

The nine others remained completely unidentifiable.

Of all of the British soldiers found only one carried anything on him to allow a personal identification. A small, oval, metal, home-made identity tag identified its owner as William McAleer a Private (13766) with the 7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers—45th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division.

Almost nothing is known about him apart from the fact that he was born in Leven, Fife and was 22 years old when he died soon after he went into battle on 26th September 1915. His father was killed in a pit accident and his mother would later re-marry. Following the war, the family would emigrate to the United States.

This was the second day of the Battle of Loos and a struggle was taking place for the top of the hill (near where the hospital roundabout is today).

In just two days of fighting the 7th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers suffered almost five hundred casualties.

This area would see further combat in August 1917 when the Canadian Corps succeeded in taking the ridge from the Germans.


The burial

On a very misty morning the crowd of on-lookers, guests and representatives of the known regiments concerned gathered at Loos British Cemetery for the re-burial of all twenty soldiers.

The nineteen soldiers who had not been identified by name had already been placed in the grave and it was only William McAleer who represented them all as he was borne into the cemetery by a party formed by the 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

A startling find whilst preparing the grave was the discovery of a 155 mm shell.

The funeral was led by the Reverend Colin Macleod with two scripture readings given by Brigadier Stephen Shirley, HQ Rapid Reaction Corps, Lille and Lieutenant Colonel Robin Lindsay, Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Before being lowered into the grave the coffin was undressed of its Union Flag and accoutrements which were then offered by Lt Colonel Lindsay to William McAleer’s Great step-nephew, Stephen McLeod who had travelled over from Scotland for the occasion.


Some photos from funeral


Other cemeteries in the area

Recent Additions

Brimont Churchyard

Braine Communal Cemetery

Soupir Churchyard

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