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Saturday 16 December 2017

Recognition at last for the forgotten war heroes left in unmarked graves

Fergus Black

FOR years they lay in unmarked graves, forgotten heroes of a great war who survived only to die later, many from ailments made worse from their time in battle.

Yesterday, as Armistice Day marked the return of peace to Europe in 1918, ending the First World War, they received their long due recognition at an emotional and storm-lashed ceremony in the corner of a Dublin cemetery.

As a handful of relatives looked on, 43 headstones for servicemen and women who served the Commonwealth in the First and Second World Wars were dedicated at an ecumenical service in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Theirs are among more than 200 graves which have been identified following research by Glasnevin Trust historian Shane Mac Thomais.

Most of the 43 died from flu, pneumonia or other conditions after they returned home.

The youngest were two 19-year-old soldiers: Joseph Bannister from Dublin, who died of influenza in Dorsetshire in 1918; and Patrick Dunne, also from Dublin, who died at Cork Street Hospital from meningitis.

The oldest, Robert Glaister, a Royal Navy volunteer, was shot dead in Dublin after he became unwittingly caught up in the 1916 Rising while on leave.

Wreaths and red poppies were laid before the group of headstones during the ceremony, organised by the Glasnevin Trust and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The event was attended by European Affairs Minister Dick Roche, the British and German ambassadors to Ireland, Julian King and Busso von Alvens- leben, and by the Australian charge d'affairs Don Smith.

Also at the ceremony was Private Tommy McKenzie (85), from Ballymun, who served in the Australian army during the Korean War.


Sisters Aine and Emer Dougan, from Cabra, Dublin, came to remember their great uncle Thomas Rooney who was just 21 when he died in Flanders and their uncle Cpl Liam Dougan, who was killed in the infamous Niemba ambush in 1960.

For Margaret Betts of Dublin, yesterday's ceremony was an emotional one as she stood before the headstone to her uncle Patrick Duignan who served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and who died from TB at the age of 21.

"I was upset when I found out he was in an unmarked grave and I'm delighted now that he and the others should be recognised," she said.

Millions fall silent: P33

Irish Independent

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