Three WWI soldiers' graves found

  • 20/09/2015

By Lloyd Jones

Nearly a century after her great uncle was killed in World War I, Sandra Johnston is visiting his newly found grave in Belgium with the "death penny" sent to his mother.

The large bronze medallion, also known as a "dead man's penny", was issued to the next of kin of British and Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the war.

Ms Johnston, from the Gold Coast, and three other direct relatives of Charles Eacott are attending today's unveiling of a new headstone with the Victorian digger's name on it after volunteer researchers found where he lay buried.

The 24-year-old farmhand from Longwarry was killed by a shell blast from his own side's artillery on his first day on the front line during the Third Battle of Ypres on September 20, 1917.

Killed in the same blast was another Victorian, Henry Huntsman, and he too will have a new headstone unveiled today along with John "Jock" Neilson, of NSW, who was killed 20 days later.

The three soldiers' graves at Bir Cross Cemetery near Ieper were identified by researchers Andrew Pittaway and Dennis Frank of the volunteer group Fallen Diggers after combing through newly digitised war records.

Ms Johnston told AAP she feels for her great grandmother, Mary Eacott, who saw three of her sons go off to the war and never learned where Charles' remains lay.

She only received the medallion carrying his name and the words "He died for freedom and honour".

It must have felt "very little" in return for what she and her son had given, Ms Johnston said.

She said today's ceremony would be a form of closure.

Charles' name remains inscribed on the Menin Gate monument in Ieper among 56,000 other British and Commonwealth soldiers with no known graves.

On Saturday evening the Eacott relatives laid a wreath of white flowers for Charles at that monument and today will lay a red one at the cemetery where he is now known to lie.

"It's saying, 'Charles this is where you are now finally laid to rest and we're here, your family are here. We're grateful for everything you did and we're so sorry that we never got to meet you,'" Ms Johnston said.

She also brought to Belgium a postcard sent to Charles in 1917 by his younger sister Bridget, wishing him well for Christmas and the New Year and posted 20 days after he was killed.