The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have announced on their website that the remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier are to be buried at Messines British Cemetery on 25th February 2013. The New Zealand embassy reported:
A reburial service for the soldier will be held on the morning of Monday 25 February 2013 at the Messines Ridge British Cemetery in Mesen. The service will commence at 9:30am. New Zealand will have a high-level delegation at the reburial led by New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force, Lt Gen R. R. (Rhys) Jones and New Zealand’s Ambassador to Belgium, Paula Wilson. The soldier will be reburied next to the grave of another unidentified New Zealand soldier whose remains were discovered in 2011 and for whom a similar reburial ceremony was held in February last year.
This soldier was actually found during the large-scale archaeology dig by Simon Verdegem and his team of professional archaeologists (seen in action above), a dig which later featured in Channel 5’s WW1 Tunnels of Death documentary last November.
I was present when the soldier was first discovered, just a few days prior to ANZAC Day last April. Just before lunch that day Simon and the team had found two army boots quite close together and when we returned a few hours later the complete remains had been uncovered. The soldier had been properly buried in a field grave and all his weaponry and equipment removed. Shoulder titles identified him as a New Zealander soldier and where he was found was on one of the first objectives of men from the New Zealand Division on 7th June 1917; the first day of the Battle of Messines. Although we had our filming kit with us, the CWGC request that the remains of British and Commonwealth soldiers should not be photographed or filmed, so this aspect of the dig did not feature in the final documentary and led to producer John Hayes-Fisher writing a thought-provoking article for the BBC News website.
A further report on the reburial will follow later this month.