Engraved Spoon Helps Identify Great War Soldier Finally Laid To Rest

Engraved Spoon Helps Identify Great War Soldier Finally Laid To Rest

Rachael Grealish May 6, 2022

An engraved spoon has helped identify one of two Great War soldiers as they are finally laid to rest in northern France.

Two British soldiers killed on September 26, 1915, (during the Battle of Loos) were laid to rest with full military honours on Thursday, May 5, almost century after their deaths, it was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.

A different indetification

One soldier’s set of remains was recovered in January 2018 during a WW1 ordnance search near Lens – along with him they found a pocket watch and a spoon with the number 13228 stamped on the back.

Artefacts found that led to the identification of Pte Johnston. Crown copyright.

MOD JCCC (Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre) and the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) confirmed it to be the regimental number of Private (Pte) William Johnston of 7th battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, having cross referenced it with war records that also confirmed he was the only casualty with this number who did not have a known burial place.

It would seem Pte Johnston was only 39-years-old when he was killed in battle.

The remains of another British soldier were found separately in the same area. Although it was not possible to identify him by name, MOD JCCC did confirm he served with the East Yorkshire Regiment due to two East Yorkshire shoulder titles being found with the remains.

Members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland carry Pte Johnston to his final resting place. Crown copyright.

A service for both men, organised by the MOD JCCC was held at Loos British Cemetery, Loos-en-Gohelle in northern France.

Family reunited

Pte Johnston’s living family were able to know the fate of their fallen loved one as the MOD JCCC traced a great-great-niece who provided a DNA sample to compare with DNA taken from the remains. The results were conclusive, however Pte Johnston’s service records no longer exist, so not much personal information is known about him.

Sharon Williamson, of Portadown, County Armagh, is Pte Johnston’s great-great-niece and DNA donor, she said: ‘I was sent an email by a relative in America who had been contacted by the MOD War Detectives to say that they had found remains from the Great War.

‘They asked for my DNA, that was the start of our journey. Later, once it was confirmed that William was our relative, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to be here and pay our respects to a family member that, though we didn’t know, we did not want him to be alone on his final journey.’

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Rachael is the Senior Content Editor at Freshered. She is NCTJ qualified with an MA in journalism. Rachael has almost ten years experience as a journalist in regional, national and international press and is passionate about creating engaging content.