PICTURES: Doncaster WW1 finally laid to rest 100 years after his death

The coffin of Albert Venus is carried to its last resting place. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

The coffin of Albert Venus is carried to its last resting place. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

0
Have your say

This is the moving moment a Doncaster World War One hero was finally laid to rest - 100 years after dying in battle.

Gunner Albert William Venus from Thorne was killed near Ypres in 1915 – but his contribution and sacrifice had never been properly commemorated.

The headstone for Gunner Venus. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

The headstone for Gunner Venus. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

But this week, that was finally put right as Gunner Venus was finally laid to rest with full military honours not far from the Belgian battlefield where he died.

His coffin, draped in the Union flag, was carried by soldiers to its last resting place and a headstone has now been erected above his grave.

On Wednesday, the Doncaster soldier and a fellow Yorkshire serviceman, who died in the same firefight, were laid to rest 101 years on.

Gunner Venus and Corporal Joseph Rowbottom were killed in action in May 1915 and were buried at a cemetery in the famed Belgian town which was at the centre of one of World War One's most bloody campaigns.

Gunner Albert Venus. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

Gunner Albert Venus. (Photo: Tony Brookes).

The ceremony was the culmination of years of detective work by amateur historian Tony Brookes who campaigned for Gunner Venus to be properly remembered after discovering his tale, almost by accident.

The former Thorne Grammar School headteacher said: "I did not expect this outcome when I started researching Albert Venus; it is wonderful that he and Gunner Rowbottom have finally been buried in marked graves – a rightful tribute to two brave men who gave their lives for their country."

The burial came exactly 101 years to the day the soldiers, part of the North Riding Batteries of the Royal Field Artillery, travelled by train from Newcastle to Southampton as part of the 2nd Northumbrian Brigade and crossing to Le Havre on 20 April 1915.

By 13 May 1915, the gun batteries were positioned at Potizje, outside Ypres.

The coffins of the six fallen soldiers. (photo: Tony Brookes).

The coffins of the six fallen soldiers. (photo: Tony Brookes).

In late May the men were caught up in a fierce battle, known as the Battle of Bellwaarde Ridge. At 7am on Whit Monday - 24 May 1915 - a shell hit one of the guns killing Corporal T. A. Carr and Gunners J. Clarke, G. Robinson, J. Rowbottom (all from Scarborough) and A. W. Venus.

Only two of the soldiers (Carr and Robinson) were commemorated by Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and had their names inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

Another two (Clarke and Rowbottom) were accepted for commemoration in 2012, but their names were not immediately inscribed on the Menin Gate.

Details of the fifth gunner, Albert William Venus, from Finkle Street, Thorne, came to light when the retired head was researching names on Thorne War Memorial.

On realising that Gunner Venus was not known to CWGC, he amassed evidence of his death on active service and submitted a request that he be commemorated and in August 2014 the Commission agreed.

Then the remains of six soldiers were found buried side-by-side in a field on the outskirts of Ypres.

The Ministry of Defence conducted extensive DNA testing on the remains and was able to identify Gunners Rowbottom and Venus. The remains of the six soldiers were buried at Ypres Town Cemetery; the four who have not been identified will have headstones marked ‘Known unto God’.

Mr Brookes attended the burial along with relatives of Albert Venus, some of whom gave DNA samples for matching.