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Officer Of The Cheshire Regiment Killed In World War One Laid To Rest In France

A young soldier who worked as a schoolteacher and played for Bolton Wanderers Football Club has finally been laid to rest in France along with two unknown soldiers, nearly 110 years after his death.

Second Lieutenant (2ndLt) James Arthur Greenhalgh, of 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment, was buried with full military honours in a service organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’. The service was held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner near Neuve-Chapelle recently (22 May 2024). 

Rosie Barron, MOD War Detective yesterday said: 

It has been an honour to have worked with The Mercian Regiment, which today recruits from Cheshire, to organise the burial of 2ndLt Greenhalgh and these two unknown soldiers, and to have played a part in the identification of 2ndLt Greenhalgh. Although two of these men were sadly not identifiable, the Greenhalgh family now have answers as to what happened to their relative and he now rests in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner alongside his comrades.

2ndLt Greenhalgh, who came from Bolton, Lancashire, and had played for Bolton Wanderers Football Club, was killed on 22 October 1914 in the village of Violaines. 

At 5:30 hours the enemy attacked their positions on the outskirts of the village. The alarm was raised by a patrol from D Company, but their trenches were rushed before they could resist and bayonet fighting ensued. The entire battalion was forced to retire with six Officers and 209 other ranks missing, many of whom were taken prisoner. 

2ndLt Greenhalgh was reported later to have been in the trenches and to have been shot in the head. He was 25 years old. 

His men were unable to recover him and, after the enemy had captured the village, a serjeant of The Norfolk Regiment was taken by a German Officer to the location where 2ndLt Greenhalgh had fallen and allowed to bury his body. After the war no trace of 2ndLt Greenhalgh’s grave was found, and as he was listed as missing. He was commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.  

In 2020, the remains of three soldiers were found on the outskirts of Violaines during the construction of a new housing estate. Although two of the soldiers had no artefacts on them which would lead to their identification, one was believed to have been an Officer of The Cheshire Regiment. After DNA testing, this casualty was identified as 2ndLt Greenhalgh.  

The service was attended by members of 2ndLt Greenhalgh’s family. His great niece, Joanna Potts, was unable to attend the service, but placed a personal inscription on behalf of the family on his headstone. 

Joanna Potts, great niece of 2ndLt Greenhalgh yesterday said: 

Hearing my Great Uncle had finally been found after all this time, has been an unexpected and surprisingly emotional time. We are so grateful that he will now be laid to rest and commemorated for the sacrifice he gave for us all.

The coffin of Second Lieutenant Greenhalgh was carried to the graveside by serving soldiers of 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Crown Copyright)

The coffin of 2ndLt Greenhalgh was carried through the cemetery by serving soldiers of 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment and the service was conducted by the Rev Gary Birch CF, Chaplain to 19 Regiment Royal Artillery yesterday said: 

I have officiated at a number of WW1 burials of both known and unknown service personnel, and each one is special and important in their own right. Being able to honour them and finally show them the proper dignity and respect they deserve reminds us of the fragility of life and gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect and learn the lessons of past conflict.

The coffin of Second Lieutenant Greenhalgh is lowered onto the grave (Crown Copyright)

The graves will now be cared for in perpetuity by CWGC. Xavier Puppinck, Director for the France Area at the CWGC, yesterday said:  

We are honoured to have played our part in helping to lay these exceptionally brave men to rest, more than 110 years after they put their lives on the line in Violaines.


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