Graves of two soldiers of the Great War rededicated in France
Pte McCaffrey's great nephews touch his new headstone. Crown copyright.
The final resting places of Private (Pte) James McCaffrey of the 5th Battalion, Tank Corps and Corporal (Cpl) Thomas Stannage of the 10th (Prince of Wales Own Royal) Hussars have been rededicated more than a century after they were killed in the Great War.
The service for Pte McCaffrey took place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Busigny Communal Cemetery Extension in France. The service for Cpl Stannage took place in the Highland Cemetery, Le Cateau, France.
The ceremonies were, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘War Detectives.’
Louise Dorr, JCCC said:
"It has been a pleasure to have both men’s families with us today as we rededicate their graves with named headstones. It is a great comfort to know that their bravery and sacrifice will always be remembered."
Details of the soldiers identified are as follows:
Pte James McCaffrey (served as McCafferty)
James McCaffrey was born in Tullylish County Down, Northern Ireland. His date of birth is unknown but according to the official record: Soldiers Died in the Great War, he previously served in the 5th Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
At the time of his death, he was serving with the 5th Battalion of the Tank Corps. James was found buried – as an unknown British Soldier of the Tank Corps – near Retheuil Farm – northeast of the village of Sebancourt.
This area only saw tank action very briefly on 11 October 1918 (his date of death), when two tanks and crews from 5th Battalion Tank Corps were sent to assist a French unit in clearing the area round Retheuil Farm. Both tanks were hit, and three men were killed. James was one of them.
Two had known graves, leaving Pte McCaffrey as the only possible casualty to be buried in this grave in Busigny Communal Cemetery.
Pte James McCaffrey's named grave. Crown copyright.
The Byrne family said:
"The relatives of James McCaffrey would like to express their gratitude to the MOD and the CWGC for their work in rededicating our Great Uncle’s grave in Busigny Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
"We have grown up knowing that our Great Uncle died in WW1. We attempted to find out what had happened in 1998 and we were told he had more than likely been killed and his body unaccounted for.
"It was heartwarming for us all to see the work the MOD and the CWGC completed in identifying where his remains lay. We now have somewhere our future generations can go to remember James. We’re grateful for everybody’s hard work in bringing the story of James McCaffrey back to his family."
The great nephews of Pte James McCaffrey stand at his grave with representatives from the military and the Royal British Legion. Crown copyright.
Cpl Thomas Stannage
Thomas Stannage was born in 1892 in Rathdowney, County Laois, Ireland, to Thomas and Mary Jane Stannage. He had four sisters (Annie, Susan, Pollie and Mary Jane) and three brothers (James, George and William).
James became a vicar and he and his wife, Helen, had two children, Miriam, and Charles Thomas (known as Tom) after his uncle Thomas. Tom’s son Chris, (Cpl Stannage’s great nephew) and his family, attended today’s service after travelling from their home in New South Wales, Australia.
Cpl Thomas Stannage (left), pictured with his brothers, Jim (centre) and George (right). Courtesy of the Stannage family.
A set of remains of an unknown corporal of the 10th Hussars was found originally buried to the east of the village of Honnechy. The battalion’s war diary places the 10th in the area of Honnechy on the date of Cpl Stannage’s death (9 October 1918). There are only nine corporals of the 10th Hussars without a known grave and eight of them can be excluded by virtue of the battalion’s distance from Honnechy on the date of each of their deaths. This leaves Thomas Stannage as the only possible casualty buried in this grave in Highland Cemetery.
Great nephew, Chris Stannage, together with representative from the King's Royal Hussars, stand at Cpl Thomas Stannage's grave. Crown copyright.
Chris Stannage, Cpl Stannage’s great nephew said:
On behalf of the Stannage Family, I would like to say how delighted we are that this day has finally come, and how grateful we are for those quietly determined researchers and historians who ‘found’ Thomas after all those years.
"Thomas’ service and sacrifice was never forgotten, and his name lived on through his brother The Reverend James Stannage’s son, the late Professor CT (Tom) Stannage, my father. We would have all liked to have met Thomas, but now we at least have a beautiful place for our family to come and spend time with him, and to pay our respects.
"We are deeply moved by the professionalism and dedication shown by the MoD and Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and thank them for their endless and tireless work. Rest easy Tommy … we know where you are, and will never lose you again."
Chris Stannage lays a wreath at his great uncle's grave. Crown copyright.
The Revd Kevin Jones Chaplain to 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search (EOD&S) Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) conducted the two ceremonies. He said:
"It is of great importance that we continue to remember the fallen from the World Wars. To now give each of these previously unknown soldiers an individual graveside service is a real sign of dignity and our respect for them."
Xavier Puppinck, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) France Area Director said
"The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is honoured to be able to rededicate the graves of Private James McCaffrey and Corporal Thomas Stannage.
"We hope their new headstones engraved by the CWGC in France, bearing their names and regimental insignia, offer peace and comfort for both the families who attended the special services.
"The CWGC will continue to care for their graves in perpetuity, ensuring their sacrifices are never forgotten."