Grave of a Donegal soldier identified in France more than 100 years after his death

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The grave of Company Quartermaster Serjeant (CQMS) John Doherty MM (Military Medal) from Letterkenny, who went missing in France on 22 March 1918, has finally been identified more than 100 years after his death.

A rededication service was held today (9 July 24) at his graveside in Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Savy British Cemetery, near Saint Quentin in France.

The location was discovered after his great great nephew submitted evidence to CWGC hoping to have identified his final resting place. Further research by CWGC, the National

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Army Museum and Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) confirmed his findings.

Chris Doherty lays flowers at his great uncle's grave in Savy British CemeteryChris Doherty lays flowers at his great uncle's grave in Savy British Cemetery
Chris Doherty lays flowers at his great uncle's grave in Savy British Cemetery

The service, attended by members of the extended Doherty family who had travelled from the UK and Ireland to pay their respects, was organised by the MOD’s JCCC, also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’. It was also attended by serving soldiers of The Royal Irish Regiment.

Chris Doherty, great nephew of CQMS Doherty said: “My Grandfather William survived the war. He ensured his brother’s John, Daniel and James who all gave their lives so we could live ours free, that their names would never be forgotten.

“On behalf of the Doherty family, we wish to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Rosie Barron and JCCC War Detectives and their colleagues at the CWGC that have given myself and my family the privilege of being present today of the rededication of the final resting place of our Grand Uncle, in this beautiful setting, in the company of his comrades, some of whom he may have lived, fought and died with.”

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On the morning of 21 March 1918, the German Army launched Operation Michael, the first phase of its Spring Offensive. In 1917, Russia had surrendered in the east and the USA had joined the war on the side of the Allies.

The aim of the spring offensive was to defeat Allies in the west before American troops could arrive in number. When the attack commenced 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were located at Le Hamel, southwest of Saint Quentin. They were ordered up to the battle area and remained in their positions under heavy shellfire that day.

On 22 March 1918, the battalion was attacked again and forced back with heavy casualties. Around 40 men, all that remained of the battalion, fought their way through the enemy. By the end of the day more than 500 men were missing. CQMS Doherty, aged 36, was amongst them and was commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

JCCC Caseworker, Rosie Barron, said: “It has been a privilege to work with The Royal Irish Regiment to organise the rededication service for CQMS Doherty. His family suffered heavily because of the World War 1 having had three sons go missing whilst serving with The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. For their widowed mother, this loss must have been profound. It has therefore been fitting to have so many of their family in attendance today to celebrate the life of CQMS Doherty and his brothers and to honour their sacrifice.”

The service was conducted by the Reverend Jason Clarke MBE CF, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment.

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