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Re-interrment of soldier's remains - in a coffin or not?


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#1 tjpatti

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:23 PM

Dear All

The soldier I'm researching was exhumed in 1935, along with another, from the cemetery in which he was originally buried and was reinterred in another cemetery which had a greater concentration of CWGC graves.

When his remains were reburied, would they have been placed in a coffin or left as they'd been found (presumably in what was left of an army blanket)?

I asked this question of the CWGC but I don't think they understood what I wanted to know or, perhaps, don't know the answer themselves. However, they sent me a very interesting document about the burial of remains in the immediate post-war period.

Kind regards

Teresa

#2 Marco

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:28 PM

What is your definition of a coffin? recent reburials are a mix of full-size coffin and most being a wooden shoe-box. I wouldn't be surprised if in the 1930's it was the latter.

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Marco

#3 munster

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:28 PM

Hi Teresa i dont know about 1935 but i have seen film of german burials in recent times of recently found remains and they were in boxes a bit longer than the long leg bone.john

#4 truthergw

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:33 PM

Dear All

The soldier I'm researching was exhumed in 1935, along with another, from the cemetery in which he was originally buried and was reinterred in another cemetery which had a greater concentration of CWGC graves.

When his remains were reburied, would they have been placed in a coffin or left as they'd been found (presumably in what was left of an army blanket)?

I asked this question of the CWGC but I don't think they understood what I wanted to know or, perhaps, don't know the answer themselves. However, they sent me a very interesting document about the burial of remains in the immediate post-war period.

Kind regards

Teresa

Although the original burials would have been in a blanket or a groundsheet, sometimes in sandbags, when remains were dug up they had to be moved so they would be put in a box big enough to hold them. That would be for decorum and also ease of handling.

#5 tjpatti

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 08:02 PM

Thanks, guys

I guess I didn't mean a coffin as such, more of a wooden box as you're suggesting. It was just one of those things that had me wondering but, of course, it makes sense when you consider removing remains from one site to another that you put them in some sort of container. I don't know but I would guess that the blanket he was probably originally buried in in 1917 wouldn't be up to much 18 years later.

Kind regards

Teresa

#6 KevinBattle

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 09:25 PM

Not knowing the facts, but as you are researching this soldier, it may be a relative, so please don't take offence at the discussion of remains being in a shoe box as being derogatory.
As Tom made clear, all exhumations are treated with respect and handled with care.
This does mean that some of the original wrapping may be removed, for as you clearly understand, fabric objects would have deteriorated quite badly over time.

As munster said, the skeletal remains probably have the femur as the longest bone, so any casket would need to be at least that long, and maybe up to full size depending on the state of preservation of remains.

You may have heard of the Fromelles Project, which involved the meticulous recovery of over 300 sets of remains, principally Australian that were reburied last year.
Many of those remains were in a surprisingly good state of preservation, so your chap would have been treated in a very similar way.



#7 GRUMPY

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 09:33 PM

Yes, a box, just big enough for longest bones and skull. I saw a stack of them at Bedford Farm c. 1980, sharing a rum or two with a CWGC man.

#8 Marco

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 08:36 PM

You may have heard of the Fromelles Project, which involved the meticulous recovery of over 300 sets of remains, principally Australian that were reburied last year.
Many of those remains were in a surprisingly good state of preservation, so your chap would have been treated in a very similar way.


Well... Fromelles was high-viz so full size coffins. After such a time being burried I can asure you that the state of preservation has nothing to do with the size of the coffin.

All said with respect and as the parents of Sgt Dean quoted on his grave: "And though worms destroy my body yet in my flesh shall I see God".

Regards,

Marco

#9 corisande

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 10:05 PM

4 British soldiers were kidnapped at Macroom in Ireland and executed by the IRA.This is a fuller explanation of their kidnapping. Their bodies were later exhumed and a local paper carried a graphic story of the exhumation

The were buried in "marshy, swampy land" surrounded by similar land. A local paper, Southern Star dated 15 Dec 1923 has the fullest report and describes the true horror of the exhumations.

It was no easy matter to find the bodies, for the field, if it might be so called, where the bodies were buried in marshy ground of similar nature, and full of drains and mounds. The road which passes by this field, though under contrat, is little better than a borheen; a bleak unfrequented lonely laneway, serving the few farmhouses scattered far apart in that isolated district. It is about two and a half miles from the the main road and at the furthest part of the field from the laneway the bodies were discovered. The land belongs to a Mr Daniel Herlichy ...

A tragic figure beside the grave, pacing up and down restlessly, but without showing a trace of emotion, was Dr Dove, the father of one of the dead men. He smoked incessantly as the soldiers dug, looking into the grave intently and at frequent intervals, but otherwise giving no sign of what the tragic occurence meant to him.... At 3.45 the bodies were touched. They were about three feet deep, and the moment they were reached, soldiers were despatched for the coffins, which were in the lorries at the roadside. When they were brought, the first body was lifted out of the grave. Ropes were used for the purpose. The Burberry overcoat which the deceased wore was quite sound, and when some of the bog stuff had been cleared away, civilian clothes were revealed. When the corpe had been placed in the coffin, members of the Civic Guard made a search of the pockets. A pipe, practically new, was the only thing found. A gold stud and a gold tie pin were taken from the shirt and handed to Dr Dove,who expressed the opinion, judging by the length, for the deceased was very tall and that the body was that of Lt Henderson. Gloves were on the hands, but the boots were missing. The body was then wrapped in a white sheet and placed in the coffin, the lid of which was at once fastened.

A moment later the soldiers were engaged in transporting the second body from the pit to the surface. It was very much more decomposed than the first and the head came away. But there was little difficulty in identifying it for the blucher boots worn by British Privates, told that it was that of Driver Brooks. There were still two empty coffins on the field and two bodies in the grave, The soldiers resumed their gruesome work and soon had the third body out. It was more decomposed than the others and parts of the arms and other portions had to be heaped onto the trunk when it was being placed in the woollen sheet before being transferred to the coffin. Dr Dove said that this was the body of Lt Hendy. The fourth body was in a still more advanced state of decomposition. The skull was brought out of the grave in a shovel. In this case the boots were missing. His trench coat was intact but his hands and one foot were gone, they had fallen from the body. The soldiers looked at the skull and pointed out a bullet mark in the forehead. Then the clothes were searched, and a pipe and a tie pin were found. They were handed to his father, for this was Lt Dove who was identified by his prominent teeth, his pants and his long stockings..


The coffins were brought to Macroom, were placed in Macroom castle on Tuesday night, taken to Cork on Wednesday afternoon, and from there by boat to Fishguard

#10 Marco

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 12:17 PM

I do not want to divert this topic to one about decomposition but I was talking about remains these days, not in 1923.
Also there are excpetions such as WW1 glacier bodies, the Australian under his groundsheet near Ypres and bog bodies.
http://aur.home.xs4a...ws/news2004.htm

Regards,

Marco

#11 Ianander

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 11:43 AM

Hello teresa
I have a document telling us my great grandfather was remove and reburied in Amara War Cemetery, this what it's say's.
The Necessity for the removal is much regretted, but was unavoided for the above giving, but the work of re-burial has been carried out carefully and reverenty, special arangements having been made for appropriate religious services to be held.

I hope this helps

regards
Ian

#12 tjpatti

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 05:43 PM

Thanks KevinBattle, Grumpy, Marco, Corisande and Ian,

Thanks for your thoughts, guys. Sorry I have been dilatory in replying.

Very interesting what you say, Grumpy, about having seen the stack of boxes used by the CWGC for the burial of remains; I guess that answers my question. And Ian, the document you mention is very interesting too as presumably the elder sister of my chap (being next of kin, parents having died in the interim) would have received one similar.

Thanks again,

Teresa

#13 Ianander

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 07:51 PM

Ian, the document you mention is very interesting too as presumably the elder sister of my chap (being next of kin, parents having died in the interim) would have received one similar.

Thanks again,

Teresa
[/quote]

Hello Teresa
I could send you a copy of this document to have a look
regards
Ian

#14 tjpatti

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 06:35 PM

Sorry, Ian, for the delay in getting back to you - I would very much like to see a copy of the document, if it's not too much trouble.

Kind regards

Teresa

#15 Ianander

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 07:31 PM

Hi teresa
I just sent you a PM

regards
Ian

#16 AussiesinArras

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 01:09 AM

Hi Teresa,

I would say that in these days, re-burials, without fanfare, could be done in an Ossuary Box. A wooden container just long enough to take the longest bone (as previously mentioned). It is expected that most discoveries these days would be skeletal.


Now, if you go to a well attended re-burial, you would watch what happens with the coffin. If the coffin is lowered into the grave and the "lowering ropes/straps" are removed, then I would form the opinion that it is going to stay there. But, if the ropes/straps are still in place, or if the coffin is supported at ground level and people are encouraged to depart, then, I suppose, you have room to wonder about whether it is staying or not.

For me, as long as it is done reverently, I have no problems with an Ossuary Box.

To clarify the condition of the remains discovered at Fromelles. Not sure about a previous suggestion that there may have been quantities of biological matter on the bones discovered there but I was present when Dr Tony Pollard said that the "skeletal remains" were in excellent condition and that DNA testing success was without a doubt. Now, admit that I am not fully informed, but that is what he said when the remains were first revealed.

The next point is that the 250 sets of remains were stored within the portable buildings that were there, on site...they would take a lot of room if they were kept in a fully supine position.

Peter

#17 tjpatti

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

Thanks for your reply, Peter. In the case of my chap, and another who was moved from the same cemetery at the same time, the exhumation took place 17 years after the war ended, 18 years after he was killed. I'm not sure what state the remains would have been in, whether they'd have been entirely skeletal or not, but their subsequent re-interrment at a different cemetery would, in all likelihood, have been done with little or no ceremony so I'm going along with the suggestion that what was left of the body was buried in a simple box.

Kind regards

Teresa