On Tuesday 8 March, the graves of Sapper (Spr) Stanley Evelyn Barnden of 17th Field Company Royal Engineers, Lance Corporal (LCpl) Owen James Munday and Private (Pte) Leonard George Holiday, both of 15th (Hampshire Yeomanry) Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, were rededicated more than a hundred years after they died.
The services, which were organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’, were held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Kandahar Farm Cemetery, Heestert Military Cemetery and Vichte Military Cemetery respectively, all in Belgium.
The services were attended by serving soldiers of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment 35 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, and veterans from the Hampshire Regiment Association.
Rosie Barron, JCCC said: “It has been an honour to organise these rededication services alongside The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and 35 Engineer Regiment, and to have played a part in the identification of the graves of these missing soldiers.
“Although the families of Spr Barnden, LCpl Munday and Pte Holiday were not able to attend these services today, their sacrifice has been remembered in the presence of their regimental families.”
The graves of all three men were identified after researchers submitted evidence suggesting that their graves had been located. After further research by CWGC, the National Army Museum and MOD JCCC, it was confirmed as part of MOD JCCC’s adjudication process that these men had in fact been found.
The initial evidence concerning the graves of LCpl Munday and Pte Holiday was submitted by Michiel Vanmarcke, a local Belgian student with a passion for First World War history. Michiel attended the services along with members of his family.
Michiel Vanmarcke said:
“I am deeply honoured to have contributed to the identifications of L/Cpl Munday and Private Holiday. As a 21 year old Belgian who grew up in the area where both these men were killed, I feel some sort of connection with them. Seeing Munday and Holiday honoured today, a few years after handing over my initial report, really is the cherry on the cake.
“What truly matters is that two more missing heroes have been found, and that their relatives have the closure they deserve.”
The services were conducted by the Reverend Nick Sharpe CF, Chaplain to 4th Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
The Reverend Sharpe said: “Leading these Rededication Services has been a privilege and honour. The examples of and courage shown by service personnel in giving their lives is a humbling reminder that we must do all that we can to strive for peace and remember those that have paid the ultimate cost for our freedom.”
Spr Barnden was born in Walton-le-Soken, Essex. He was a pre-war regular soldier, often referred to as the ‘Old Contemptibles’, who formed the British Expeditionary Force sent to the Western Front on the outbreak of war. He was killed on 12 December 1914 near Neuve-Église in Belgium aged 25.
It was during fighting four years later that LCpl Munday, 26, from Stockbridge in Hampshire, was killed on 22 October 1918, and Pte Holiday, 19, from Drayton St Leonards in Oxfordshire, was killed on 26 October 1918, just weeks before the cessation of hostilities. They were recorded as missing and commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
The headstones over their graves will now be replaced by the CWGC. Geert Bekaert, CWGC Director for the Central and Southern European Area said:
“It’s a privilege to be present at the rededication of the grave of Lance Corporal Owen James Munday, his final resting place enabling us to renew our commitment to care for Commonwealth graves, in perpetuity.
“Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated researcher, we are also delighted and honoured to mark the grave of Private Leonard George Holiday, who is buried in the CWGC’s Vichte Military Cemetery. And finally, to honour and respect Sapper Stanley Evelyn Barnden, who was previously recorded as missing and commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.”