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Rededication service for Unknown Soldier

07 September 2017

The resting place of a First World War soldier from Stoke-on-Trent was finally dedicated in his name at the Zantvoorde British Cemetery, Ypres in Belgium.

Serjeant James McLynn, aged 22, of the 4th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, was killed during heavy enemy shelling in Ten Brielen, Belgium on 1 October 1918 and later buried as an unknown soldier.

He was tragically killed just weeks before the end of the First World War.

Nearly a century later, new information about the unknown soldier’s grave was presented to the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC). The centre was satisfied that the evidence was clear and convincing and that the grave identified was that of Sjt McLynn.

In early July 2017 the JCCC appealed for the Serjeant’s family or anyone who knew him to get in touch so that they could be invited to attend a rededication service at his grave. A cousin twice removed, Maureen Heath, contacted the MoD and travelled to Belgium for the rededication ceremony accompanied by her husband.
Maureen Heath, second cousin of Sjt James McLynn, said:

“I am very honoured to have attended this service today along with my husband. So many years have passed since James lost his life fighting for his country. But it is reassuring that he finally has such a dignified, resting place with his name on a headstone. I would like to sincerely thank the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre for organising this service and giving our family the opportunity to pay our respects to James.”

James was the son of Mrs Agnes McLynn who, at the time of his death, lived in Waterloo Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. He also had a sister, Mary, who was living at home and was aged 25 when he died. James was a crate maker when he enlisted in the Army in Lichfield, Staffordshire in October 1915 aged 19.

At the end of September 1918 his regiment and others were fighting near the village of Zandvoorde in Belgium and succeeded in capturing it. On 1 October they were at Ten Brielen, a neighbouring village, when they were heavily shelled resulting in several casualties, one of which was James.

Sue Raftree MBE, from the MoD’S Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, said:

“This brave soldier was tragically killed and buried as an unknown soldier ‘Known unto God.’ Today’s service rightly honoured him and enabled his family to have closure after nearly a century. It has been a privilege for us to organise this service.”

The rededication service was organised by the JCCC, part of Defence Business Services and conducted by The Reverend Philip Burrows Chaplain to the Forces, Padre 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment.

The Mercian Regiment is the modern day successor to the North Staffordshire Regiment that Sjt McLynn belonged to. Known as the Heart of England’s Infantry, it recruits from the five counties which formed the ancient Kingdom of Mercia: Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

Along with Sjt McLynn’s family members, representatives of the Mercian Regiment, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, British Embassy in the Netherlands and Belgium and the local Mayor attended the service.

The Reverend Philip Burrows said: “Of humble beginnings, like so many before him, Serjeant James McLynn was not too young to die for his country. Discovered as an unknown soldier and recently identified, it is only right that his sacrifice is honoured today as we commit to Almighty God.”

A new headstone bearing Sjt McLynn’s name has been provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who will now care for his final resting place in perpetuity.


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