Private McAleer Finally Laid to Rest, 98 Years after Death

A soldier of the Scottish Division Honor Guard, left, hands over the personal effects of British World War One soldier William McAleer to his grand-nephew Stephen McLeod, center, during a reburial service at the Loos British World War One cemetery in Loos-en-Gohelle
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

Private William McAleer passed away in the middle of a sea of choking poison gas, screams, and machine-gun during the Battle of Loos. The date, September 26, 1915.

It was only on March 15th, 2014 did the Private receive a proper burial fit for a war hero. He was laid to rest 98 years after his death with full military honors in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. Private McAleer was only 22 years old when he died. He was one of almost 60,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the battle in Northern France. The Royals Scottish Fusilier’s body was placed in a mass grave that was long forgotten. The war hero was later identified when the grave was uncovered in October 2010 during construction work. He was identified with thanks to a home-mad dog tag he wore. The tag was engraved with his surname and regimental number—13766.

Army pallbearers wore kilts while they carried McAleer’s coffin to his new grave during a ceremony covered in mist at the Loos-en-Gohelle, near Lens. The ceremony was accompanied by a solitary piper. The remains of 19 unidentified brothers-in0arms found at the same spot were buried in six neighboring plots. The Express reports that relatives of Private McAleer, from Leven, Fife, were among 200 people who were present to pay respects.

One of the mourners was an occupational therapist, Stephen McLeod, 47, father of two. He was the great nephew of McAleer. He said, “To pay respects to a fallen soldier is a great honor. To be able to come here to show respects for kith and kin is unique.

“It was a moving ceremony.”

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland carry an empty coffin at a WWI memorial during a rehearsal for a reburial ceremony at the Loos-en-Gohelle Commonwealth war cemetery near Lens
Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE