Robert Brand and 2 unknown Great War soldiers buried with full military honours in Belgium 105 years after their deaths

Robert Brand and 2 unknown Great War soldiers buried with full military honours in Belgium 105 years after their deaths

The burial service for Robert Brand, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’, was held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Messines Ridge Cemetery, Belgium on October 25th 2023.

The three soldiers were recovered by archaeologists working in Neuve Eglise, Belgium, as part of a potato farm expansion project. Artefacts found nearby identified them as soldiers from the 9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. Other finds indicated they died after August 1916; this information combined with that from battalion war diaries and other records, narrowed their dates of death to a period between 13-15th April 1918. This was during the Battle of the Lys.

A shortlist of potential candidates was drawn up using the finds, anthropological information and documentary evidence. Then efforts were made to trace the descendants of eight of the regiment’s men listed as missing and who matched all the available evidence. Lance Serjeant Robert Brand was positively identified through the DNA testing of his descendants.

Robert Brand was born on 13th September 1893 in Stirling, to William McPhail Brand and Christina Johnston Arthur. He was the eldest of 12 children. He had first gone to France with the army in November 1914, and in 1916 he was hospitalised with a gunshot wound to the neck. Following this, he was entitled to wear a wound stripe on his uniform.

This wound stripe was one of the critical artefacts in helping to identify him as one of these casualties.

The military party stands with Caroline, the niece of Lance Serjeant Brand, at his graveside following the funeral (Crown Copyright)

The service was supported by members of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland who provided the bearer party, Piper and Bugler.

The graves of Lance Serjeant Brand and the two unknown soldiers will be cared for in perpetuity by CWGC.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission reaffirms its commitment to preserving their memory in perpetuity and their burial today reminds us of the enduring legacy of all those who served during the First World War.

Among the soldiers who remain unidentified, one possible individual is Private Robert Campbell. The JCCC would like to appeal to any family members who believe they could be related to a Pte Robert Campbell who served with the 9th Glasgow Highland Light Infantry to get in touch.

Read also: Nine British soldiers of the First World War reburied with full military honours at Ypres

Story/Images: Ministry of Defence and Veterans UK


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