More than a century after his death, the grave of World War 1 soldier Lance Corporal (L/Cpl) Edward Smith has finally been marked.

Bugler Private Archie Keith at Courcelles-au-Bois cemetery, waiting to play at the service for L/Cpl Smith (Crown Copyright)

The rededication service, organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’, was held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Courcelles-au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension this afternoon.

Lance Corporal Smith died on 7 December 1916 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion (Bn) Northumberland Fusiliers. He is believed to have been killed when a shell hit his trench. His remains were recovered shortly afterwards, and he was buried in the Courcelles-au-Bois cemetery. Unfortunately issues with war-time record keeping meant his grave went unidentified until recent research revealed it.

JCCC Caseworker, Alexia Clark, said:

I am pleased to have been involved in identifying the final resting place of Lance Corporal Smith. In rededicating his grave today, we have reunited his mortal remains with his name, ensuring that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

The service was conducted by the Reverend Geoffery Berry CF, Chaplain to The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Reverend Berry said:

The ‘Young Dead Soldier’* remains an exhortation to his fellows down through the years, but more importantly is an enduring, ringing challenge to political leaders and diplomats to make the peace, won so dearly by Edward Smith and others, worthwhile.

The military party stand behind the headstone of L/Cpl Edward Smith (Crown Copyright).

The headstones over both graves were replaced by CWGC who will care for them in perpetuity.

Xavier Puppinck, France Area Director CWGC, said:

We stand humbled in the solemn privilege of rededicating the resting place of Lance Corporal Edward Smith. His noble sacrifice and unwavering service are forever immortalised in the annals of history and in the hallowed stones of the Courcelles-au-Bois Communal Cemetery Extension, looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The service for Edward Smith was supported by The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland who were in France supporting a burial of one of their own soldiers.

*The poem ‘The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak’ by Captain Archibald MacLeish was one of the readings given in the service for L/Cpl Edward Smith.

Published 15 May 2024