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Coldstream guardsmen missing since 1944 buried in Normandy

Two young World War 2 tank crewmen who were reported missing have finally been laid to rest.

Guardsman (Gdsm) William Bayliss, aged 22, and Gdsm David Blyth, aged 25, were serving with 1st (Armoured) Battalion Coldstream Guards in Normandy when their tank was destroyed.

The remains were found by a farmer ploughing a field in the hamlet of La Marvindière, near St Charles-de-Percy, in Normandy. The ground had not been disturbed since World War 2, when a pair of Sherman tanks, operated by soldiers of the Guards Armoured Division, were destroyed there on 4 August 1944. A Coldstream Guards cap badge was found close by.

The remains of Gdsm Bayliss were identified after his nephew agreed to assist with DNA testing. Having found a positive DNA match to some of the remains, the rest were then tested and a further match was found to the son of Gdsm Blyth.

Burial services for both soldiers, 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) St Charles-de-Percy War Cemetery in France today (19 September).

This has been a fascinating and complex case to research Rossie Barron, JCCC

Rosie Barron, JCCC case lead said:

“This has been a fascinating and complex case to research and it is very rewarding to have seen a positive result for the families of Gdsm Bayliss and Gdsm Blyth. Gdsm Bayliss was a young man with an exciting future ahead of him.

"He was recently married and had just discovered he was to become a father. Gdsm Blyth had a wife and young son who grew up not knowing what had happened to his father and spent nearly 50 years searching for answers.

"The focus is often placed on the sacrifice made by soldiers such as Gdsm Bayliss and Gdsm Blyth, but this story also brings home the reality of life for those they left behind: young widows who struggled without their husbands, a daughter who would never meet her father and a son who only knew his father as an infant.

"I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Gdsm Bayliss’ grandsons and wider family and Gdsm Blyth’s son, Peter, and to have been part of their stories.”

The services were attended by both families, including Gdsm Bayliss’ grandson, Dean Taylor and Peter Blyth, the son of Gdsm Blyth.

We feel William Bayliss is our hero Dean Taylor, grandson of Gdsm Bayliss

Dean Taylor, grandson of Gdsm Bayliss said:

“To suddenly hear that William Bayliss had been found in a field in France, a field that had remained untouched since the second world war was unbelievable.

"The sacrifice of William Bayliss’ life was known, he gave his life that we might live, the family were very proud of this, he was lost at war, presumed dead.

"In April 2023, a letter from Rosie Barron at the JCCC to the next of kin suddenly gave life to William Bayliss, the letter informed us that William Bayliss’ remains had been found. William Bayliss became alive to the family, a real person, a Father-in-Law, a Grandfather, a Great Grandfather, a Great Great Grandfather and an Uncle.

"The family have had the joy of being able to reconnect with distant relatives to William Bayliss. May God bless William Bayliss for his sacrifice, without William many of us would not be here.

"May he now rest in peace with his comrades. It has been an honour to attend William Bayliss’ burial service in France. We feel William Bayliss is our hero and he fills us with immense pride.”

Peter Blyth, the son of Gdsm Blyth said:

“It was a happy coincidence that the ploughing of a field that had lain fallow since 1944, exposed human and materiel remains lost in an action fought by units of the Guards Armoured Division in August 1944.

"However, it is through the hard work and dedication of the JCCC War Detectives and their colleagues of the CWGC that have given me the privilege of being present today of the laying to rest of my Dad, Guardsman David Blyth Coldstream Guards, in this beautiful, serene setting, in the company of contemporaries, some of whom he may have lived, fought and died with.

"Sadly, this has come too late for his wife, parents and siblings. So, on their behalf, mine, us, “bloody marvellous, Rest in Peace Dad”.

The services were attended by serving soldiers of The Coldstream Guards and were conducted by the Reverend Martin Robbins, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards.

A legacy for which we will always be grateful Reverend Martin Robbins

The Reverend Robbins said:

“The Regimental family of the Coldstream Guards places great importance on remembering and honouring the service of those comrades who have gone before us. At its heart this story is essentially a very human one.

"A story of young men with their whole lives ahead of them torn away from all that they knew and loved, to answer a call of service to others and deter a tyrannical ideology from destroying a way of life which we hold dear today.

"In answering that call these men paid the ultimate sacrifice, but in doing so left a legacy which is enjoyed today throughout western Europe. A legacy hard won and achieved at great cost. A legacy for which we will always be grateful.”

The headstones will now be cared for in perpetuity by CWGC.

Iain Lower, Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Director of Global Strategy & Commonwealth Relations and Communications said:

"We are deeply honoured to care for the final resting places of Guardsman William Bayliss and Guardsman David Blyth at St Charles-de-Percy War Cemetery.

"Their memory shall endure eternally under our watchful care and commitment. Their sacrifice and service are indelibly etched in both stone and history.

"The presence of their families during this solemn occasion was profoundly moving, serving as a poignant reminder of the legacy and sacrifices borne by those left behind.”