Military burial for soldier

Loos Cemetery
Loos Cemetery

A soldier from Leven who was killed in the Battle of Loos during the Great War is to be re-interred with full military honours this month.

The remains of 22 year-old Private William McAleer were found in a grave containing 20 British soldiers during construction work in the northern French village of Verdin Le Veil.

His body was the only one identified by military archaeologists - because his identity disc survived almost a century underground.

Pte McAleer, a member of the 7th Battalion The Royal Scottish Fusiliers, died on September 26, 1915 shortly after the battle began.

It was hoped that his relatives could be traced and given the chance to take part in his re-interment and memorial service on March 14.

However, an appeal by the Ministry of Defence was unable to trace any living relatives - his family are believed to have emigrated to America after the First World War.

The soldiers’ remains were found in 2010 during clearance work for the construction of new buildings near Vendin-le-Vieil, north of Arras.

Pte McAleer’s body was found together with six other members of his regiment and two soldiers from the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Nine of the dead could not be matched to an army unit.

The remains of 30 German soldiers were also found nearby, and these were handed over to the German authorities.

Pte McAleer and the other 19 unidentified British soldiers will be buried at Loos Cemetery, which holds more than 3000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Great War.

The Battle of Loos saw the first British use of poison gas and took place between September and October 1915.

The major offensive was an attempt by the allies to break through German lines and end the stalemate of trench warfare.

But despite around 60,000 British casualties the Allies captured very little ground.