A ‘GOOD soldier’ who was awarded the Military Medal the day before he died and a farmworker and father-of-four were among nine fallen British servicemen given full military honours at a poignant burial service in Belgium.

The soldiers, who lost their lives in the First World War were finally laid to rest yesterday – more than a century after their deaths.

Read more: Tributes as LNER train guard who worked between Newcastle and Darlington dies

The nine soldiers, seven of whom have been identified, now rest alongside the graves of thousands of their comrades who fell during heavy fighting around the town of Ypres.

The seven men served together in 11th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, and died within days of each other during the bloody Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917.

What started as a grey and rainy morning broke into sunshine as the coffins were carried into the at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, draped in Union flags.

The Northern Echo: The coffins of three of nine British soldiers who served and died in battle of Passchendaele during the First World War, arrive to be laid to rest with their comrades more than a century after their deaths with full military honours at the Commonwealth

Leading the service, reverend Gary Watt paid tribute to the nine men who gave their lives more than a century ago.

He said: “Today we remember with thanksgiving these brave men whom, alongside so many others, answered the call of their country, served with honour and gave their lives in the service of their nation.

“In so doing let us commit ourselves anew to remember their courage.

“For by so doing we honour their memory and we reflect upon that sacrifice.”

Among the nine were Private Arnold Sanderson.

The Northern Echo: How the death of Private William Sanderson, of Darlington, was reported in the Darlington Evening Despatch in 1917

Born in Darlington, he was the son of Thomas and Emily Sanderson, and had six sisters.

He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery during the fighting in October 1917 whilst working as runner for the officers.

A letter written to his mother stated that he was thought of a great deal by the officers and men. He was described as a good soldier who always did his duty. He died aged 26.

Also there were the remains of Private Harry Miller

Born in Cockerton, Darlington, he was the son of James and Anne Miller, and had three brothers and four sisters.

The Northern Echo: Private Harry Miller, born in Cockerton, one of nine British soldiers given full military honours as they were buried during a service at Tyne Cot Cemetery, in Belgium

Harry married Melita Florence Birkett on May 22, 1909 and had four children – Annie, James, Minnie and George.

His family later moved to Burton Leonard, North Yorkshire, where he worked as a farm labourer. He died age 28.

The other identified servicemen are:

  • Sergeant Thomas Feasby. Born in Eston in east Cleveland, he was the son of Joseph and Catherine Feasby. He and his brother George worked as tram conductors before he later moved on to work at a steelworks. He died age 32;
  • Lance Corporal Stanley Blakeborough. Born in Pateley Bridge in Yorkshire, he was the son of Harry and Mary Blakeborough, and had five brothers and two sisters. Two of his brothers, Charles and Donald, also fought during the First World War. Stanley died age 21 and his brother Donald was killed less than three months later;
  • Private Joseph Patrickson MM. Born in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, he was the son of Robert and Lucy Patrickson, and had two brothers and six sisters. Although his military records do not survive, it is known that he was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery during the fighting in October 1917. He died age 24.
  • 2nd Lieutenant Leslie Wallace Ablett. Born in Manchester, he was the son of Joseph and Caroline Ablett, and brother to Frederick. By 1911 his family had moved south and was living in Streatham, London. He was described as “bright, cheerful and of good tone”, and was also a keen poet and writer. He died age 20; 
  • 2nd Lieutenant Edward Douglas Bruty. Born in Dulwich in Surrey, now south London, he was the son of William and Edith Bruty, and had four brothers and four sisters. He worked as a railway clerk and enlisted in September 1914. He died age 21.

The eighth casualty – closely linked with the seven named servicemen – could not be identified by name but was honoured as an “Unknown Soldier of the Northumberland Fusiliers”.

The final servicemen was buried as an “Unknown Soldier of the Great War”.

Many of their surviving family members attended the touching ceremony, laying wreaths and flowers as they paid their respects.

The Northern Echo: Ministry of Defence handout photo of the coffins of nine British soldiers who served and died in battle of Passchendaele during the First World War, lay in wait in the chapel before they are laid to rest more than a century after their deaths with full

Steven Willis-Feasby, the great nephew of Sgt Feasby, said the whole experience had been “really emotional”.

He added: “I always had a feeling that maybe there was some family history on this side because my paternal grandfather from my mother’s side, he was in the First World War as well and survived, but obviously Thomas didn’t.

“I think that his mother wouldn’t have known where Thomas fell or what happened to him and I’m privileged that I’ve come here to represent our family. He’s back with us now.”

Rachel Fixsen attended the ceremony to pay her respects to 2nd Lt Ablett, her first cousin three times removed.

She said: “For me personally looking into his history… and also reading accounts about how these soldiers fought, what it was like for them on the front line and behind the front line, that’s really brought it home to me what happened and what they went through, and ultimately died.

“I thought the service was beautiful, it was meticulously organised and carried out and just the best way to honour these men.”

The Duke of Kent was also in attendance, alongside members of The 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who honoured the fallen soldiers with a gun salute.

The Northern Echo: The Duke of Kent lays a wreath during the funeral service of nine British soldiers who served and died in battle of Passchendaele during the First World War, as they are laid to rest more than a century after their deaths with full military honours at

The bodies of the nine men, like those of so many of their comrades who died on the battlefields of the First World War, had been missing for a century.

But thanks to extensive research combined with knowledge gleaned from a small number of personal belongings found with them, experts were able to identify seven of the nine servicemen.

The “War Detectives”, as the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) team are known, were able to track down surviving family members to complete the identification with DNA testing.

Claire Horton, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), said: “The CWGC is honoured to have worked alongside the JCCC in the recovery and identification of these men and to now be caring for them in perpetuity in Tyne Cot, CWGC’s largest cemetery.

“The fact that so many of them have been positively identified is testament to the collective dedication that continues to this day, to remember our fallen.”

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