A 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) Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery in France yesterday (20 September).
Rosie Barron, JCCC case lead said:
The rededication service held for Tpr Robert John Cheshire today reminds us of just how young many of those who lost their lives during the World War Two were. The fighting in Normandy in 1944 which followed D Day is an often overlooked period of the war, but it saw fierce fighting as the Allies slowly pushed out from landing beaches and captured the major ports. The closing of the Falaise Gap was a key turning point in the Normandy campaign. Without men such as Tpr Cheshire, who paid the ultimate price for his country, the liberation of Europe would not have been achieved.
After the war, the remains of two soldiers were found buried alongside each other in Occagnes. They were reburied in Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery. One man was identified as Tpr Insley, but the other simply as a soldier of The Royal Armoured Corps killed in August 1944. As he was missing, Tpr Cheshire was commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial. The second soldier has now been shown to be him.
The grave of Tpr Cheshire was identified after a researcher submitted evidence to CWGC, hoping to have located his grave. Further research was carried out by the National Army Museum and JCCC and the identification of the grave was confirmed.
Tpr Cheshire’s niece, Gillian Dear, attended the rededication service along with other family members. Gillian Dear said:
We are pleased to be present today to represent Robert’s parents and siblings who have themselves passed away not knowing where their beloved Robert lies. So on behalf of his surviving sister, Josie, and his family that he didn’t get to meet, we say ‘Goodbye Rob and rest finally in peace’.
Shirley Steeples stands at the graveside of her brother Trooper Cheshire, with her nieces Gillian Dear and Bernadette Pash (Crown Copyright)
The service was also attended by serving soldiers of The Royal Armoured Corps and The Coldstream Guards.
Shirley Steeples, the sister of Trooper Cheshire, stands at her brother's graveside with the military party and local representatives (Crown Copyright)
The service was conducted by the Reverend Martin Robbins, Chaplain to 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards. The Reverend Robbins said:
It has been an honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to lay to rest Trooper Cheshire. To recognise and give thanks for his service and sacrifice in the presence of his sister and extended family. He now lies with his brothers in arms.
Xavier Puppinck, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Director of France said:
We are deeply honoured to rededicate Trooper Robert John Cheshire’s grave. The CWGC is committed to commemorating Commonwealth servicemen and women, ensuring their memory lives on. We thank the MOD’s JCCC and all involved for bringing closure to his family. His grave will be cared for by the CWGC in perpetuity, reaffirming our commitment to remember and honour those who gave their all for freedom.