Private William McAleer among 20 British troops killed in action at Battle of Loos in 1915 whose bodies were found in 2010
Twenty British soldiers killed in action during the first world war have finally been laid to rest with full military honours, almost 100 years after they died.
The soldiers who perished in the Battle of Loos in 1915 were found in 2010 during clearance work for a new prison near Vendin-le-Vieil, north of Arras, in France.
Only one of the soldiers discovered has been identified – Private William McAleer of the 7th Battalion the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, part of the 45th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division.
Born in Leven, Fife, 22-year-old McAleer died shortly after the battle began and he was identified from a small homemade oval metal tag with his name on it.
It is understood the young soldier’s family emigrated to the US, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. Very little is known about McAleer but it is known that his father was a miner who died in a pit accident, and his mother later remarried.
Among the other soldiers who were found at the same time were a Northumberland Fusilier, another six Royal Scottish Fusiliers and a member of the York and Lancaster regiment. In addition, there were two Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and nine others whose regiment has not been identified.
The remains of 30 German soldiers were also found nearby, and they were handed over to the German authorities.
Representatives from all the regiments with links to the British troops attended a reinterment service on Friday at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Loos-en-Gohelle, near Lens.
Those who could not be identified were buried as soldiers “Known unto God” in front of more than 200 people, including McAleer’s great step-nephew, Stephen McLeod, 47, who travelled to France from Scotland.
All 20 soldiers were given full military honours. McAleer’s coffin was given his own burial plot, with his headstone reading “13766, Private W McAleer Royal Scots Fusiliers, 26th September 1915, age 22”. The remainder were buried in six other plots side by side.
In thick fog, a piper led six bearers as they carried the union-flag-draped coffin topped with a wreath, belt and cap past the crowds and the burial plots of hundreds of other fallen soldiers. A military firing party fired a salute during the service and the Last Post was played.