Sunday 17 December 2017

Relatives sought after remains of Irish WWI soldier discovered

Brian Hutton, PA

DEFENCE chiefs in Britain are trying to track down the Irish relatives of a soldier killed in the First World War after the discovery of his remains.

Private James Rowan's family is believed to have moved from their native Co Longford to Lancashire in England, where he was born in the late 1800s.

As a young man he took a job as a miner at Park Lane Colliery near Wigan, before going on to enlist with the 1st Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers when the Great War broke out.

Just 30 years old, he was killed on a Belgian battlefield near the village of Comines-Warneton.

His suspected remains were found only four years ago by an amateur archaeologist and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) believes it could get conclusive proof through a DNA sample from his relatives.

It is also planning a re-internment and memorial service for the soldier.

It is believed the Rowan family moved back to Co Longford.

Lynne Gammond of British army headquarters at Andover, Wiltshire, said they have little to go on but are anxious for anyone who might know of or be linked to the family to contact them.

"Private James Rowan is among those remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Flanders which records the many missing in the First World War," she said.

"It would be good to hear from any relatives who could be involved now that we can arrange an interment and memorial."

Ms Gammond added: "Unfortunately, whilst we know his family roots were in Longford and there is speculation that the family later returned there we have little more to go on."

Pte Rowan's suspected remains were among six sets found close to a railway siding outside Comines-Warneton in 2010.

The MoD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre - which investigates the discovery of missing bodies killed in action - believe they have positively identified two of the six combatants found in the dig.

They are working to get DNA samples from the families to confirm the identities.

It is believed Pte Rowan is one of the other four bodies, through cross-referencing of military records, including war and regimental diaries kept from the time.

If confirmed, Pte Rowan will be buried in the Comines-Warneton cemetery along with his fallen comrades.

The MoD said his family would also be invited to a memorial service.

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