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Soldiers grave finally recognised officially

Soldiers grave finally recognised officially

Thursday 08 November 2018

Soldiers grave finally recognised officially

A Guernseyman's grave is finally going to be looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, more than 100 years after he passed away, in recognition of his active service during World War One.

Private Ira Le Messurier had died while back at home, in December 1917, aged just 20.

While his death was recorded as being as a result of TB the young man had served in the Guernsey contingent of the Royal British Irish Regiment, and his name is listed on local war memorials. 

War Memorial

Pictured: Guernsey's main war memorial at the top of Smith Street, which was built in the years immediately after the end of the First World War. 

Mr Le Messurier's name is recorded in the column to the immediate right of the central feature of Guernsey's main war memorial at the top of Smith Street. His name is also listed on the St Peter's war memorial - but despite that his grave which is also in the parish was not registered on the official Commonwealth War Graves list. 

Other Le Messuriers, including those from Canada, are listed on the website, and his details will be soon too - thanks to the work of Guernsey historian Liz Walton and others.


Pictured: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website lists fallen servicemen who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars. 

Mrs Walton was told about Mr Le Messurier "several years ago" by one of his distant cousins, who said that although he was named on both the St Pierre du Bois and Smith Street memorials, as a casualty of WWI, he wasn't on the official Commonwealth War Graves list.

As part of her extensive research into Guernsey's involvement with the Great War, Mrs Walton decided to find out why Mr Le Messurier's name wasn't on the official register of casualties. 

Having died at home of TB, it wasn't immediately clear what had happened to him - and there was a chance he hadn't seen any active service because of his illness. However, Mrs Walton's research led her to newspaper reports of the time, which showed that he had been buried in the de Beauvoir cemetery in St Peter's, "with full military honours".

Although his death certificate showed that he definitely had died of TB, further research found he had indeed seen active service and was among Guernsey's many war heroes who gave their lives during the largest conflict the world had ever seen until that time.


Pictured: Liz Walton. 

Mrs Walton said about the same time she started her research into Mr Le Messurier that more World War One service records started to be put on line.

"I was lucky enough to find his in the so-called 'burnt papers', damaged in the blitz of WW2. The key was there. Ira had served previously in the Guernsey contingent of the Royal Irish Regiment and had developed TB while on active service and the Army medical officer attributed the illness to conditions encountered whilst on service. So that meant that his death could be attributed to conditions of war.

"I sent all this to the CWGC along with copies of records. They sent it to the relevant Military departments who have just this week said that he was a casualty of war and as such will be recognised by the CWGC."

Mrs Walton said this means that Mr Le Messurier's grave in his home parish of Guernsey will now be looked after with the due reverence it deserves.

"He currently has no headstone so they (the CWGC) will erect one in due course and maintain it in perpetuity," she said. 

war memorial poppy poppies

Pictured: The poppy fields of remembrance have been positioned at the island's main war memorial ahead of this week's Remembrance commemorations in Guernsey. 

Mrs Walton said that Private Le Messurier's is the most recent of several cases that were overlooked by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, "probably because they died at home in Guernsey and the relevant paperwork wasn't completed at the time. I still have at least one outstanding case and will be reviewing my lists to make sure nobody else has been missed as we approach the centenary of the Armistice."


Pictured: The local research website, holds a wealth of information on local men who perished as a result of the Great War. 

Mrs Walton and others have worked together for many years to create a local database of information relating to the First World War and the local men who died as a result.

The lists Private Le Messurier as the son of William and Eliza, of Rue de Coudre, St Peters. He had enlisted in the Royal Irish Regiment in 1916 and died of TB the following year, shortly after discharge.

No photograph of Mr Le Messurier is available at this time.

Pictured above: Private Ira Le Messurier's name is listed on the island's main war memorial. His grave will now be under the responsibility of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission after it recognised the death of the young Guernseyman who died of TB after being discharged from active service during WWI.


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