One hundred years ago John Waldie was killed during the battle of Passchendaele, but until now his family had no idea where his final resting place was.
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John was among 40,244 British soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War and whose graves are unknown. His death certificate simply states that he was killed in action somewhere in France or Belgium.
Upon his death, John’s son, William, received a generic letter informing him of his father’s death with “no record of having recovered the body” written in the margin. Along with the letter William and his family also received a sum of £105.8 shillings, his father’s cigarette case, cheque book and kilt.
However, 100 years on John’s family at last have discovered his final resting place. His niece recently went to Ypres where she was informed that he died at Pilckem Ridge.
The Battle of Pilckem Ridge was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres; a gruelling battle that lasted only a matter of days but in which over 30,000 British troops were killed.
John joined the 9th Argyll Sutherland Highlanders in Dunbartonshire on 23 March 1908 aged 27 where he remained until 13 March 1912 when he was discharged on terms of engagement as a Private into the Machine Gun Section.
On 12 November 1914, John became Sergeant and gained commission in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Highlander, which later became a Training Reserve Battalion for the 9th Reserve Brigade.
20 November 1916, John embarked on a ship from England to Etaples, France and upon his arrival; joined 25th Division who sent him to Machine Gun Training school in April 1917. It was after this that John entered his final battle at Ypres.
Almost a million British soldiers were killed in the First World War and many of them have no known grave. John’s niece Sue takes solace in the fact that she now knows more about what happened to her uncle, but wishes his family could have found out sooner.
“It was a great surprise when I visited The Passchendaele Memorial Museum to be told that they were able to earmark where my uncle had died, especially as his body was never recovered, and I found the whole experience very moving, and just wish that his father and sisters could have known this”.