Search for final resting place of WW1 soldier

Soldiers of the Royal Irish Rifles at the Somme in 1916.

A military history researcher is asking the public to help him locate the final resting place of a local soldier who died shortly after returning home from fighting in the First World War.

Hazlett Turner, who is originally from Omagh but now lives in Yorkshire, is a volunteer with the In From The Cold Project - an initiative devoted to finding the graves of personnel who died as a result of military service, but whose names do not appear on Commonwealth War Graves Commission casualty lists.

“The aim of the project is to locate the graves of these missing casualties and have them added to the official list of those who gave their lives,” Mr Turner explained.

As part of his research, he is currently trying to locate the grave of local soldier Eli McKibben, who died on March 22, 1919 - just four months after the end of the war.

“Eli was the son of Thomas and Ellen McKibben who were living at Ballyaghlis, Drumbeg at the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland. The family were Presbyterians,” Mr Turner said.

“Eli served with the 11th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles who were part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. He held the rank of Rifleman and his service number was 11/2182. An older brother, Lantay or Lantry, may have served in the same unit.

“Eli was medically discharged before the end of the war and returned home, obviously a sick man. The brief service records available indicate that he died at Ballycairn from ‘tubercole of the lung’ – presumably tuberculosis, which seems to have claimed a lot of victims among those who served in France and Belgium.

“Eli was married to Agnes (possibly Walker). Although he died at ‘Ballycairn’ his address is recorded as 35 Young Street, Lisburn.”

While many thousands of men who gave their lives are named on memorials, Mr Turner believes those who’ve been “largely forgotten” - men such as Eli McKibben - also deserve to be recognised.

“If we can locate and identify his grave we would then pass the information to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for consideration for the erection of a memorial headstone – subject to the approval of the cemetery management and the family, if they are still in existence,” he added.

Anyone who thinks they might be able to help Mr Turner with his search can contact him via email - t.plan@btinternet.com

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