Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ypres, or Ieper (WWI) - "In Flanders' Field;" and Arras, France: Finding War Dead

 Finding War Dead
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Edwin McConaghey

World War I. This "The Great War", "The War To End All Wars"

World War I is remote for many, visions of endless mud and treacherous trench warfare, agony for horses still ridden against the bullets.  It is current for us with an interest in history, and specific participants. See map at  Many if not most war records from the First World War were destroyed in the bombing of London in World War II, particularly the wounded.  Death records are available more reliably.

Finding people. We were looking for a relative who had served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Maurice Edwin McConaghy, and who fell near Ypres, now Ieper, during WWI.  He is buried near Arras, France, see

Finding World War I records:  How to do that

1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at .  This works if the spelling input is the same as the record.  If the soldier or officer changed the spelling of a surname without other relatives recording that, go deeper. We did not find Maurice McConaghy through the War Graves. 

2. We then went to the Documents Office at Ieper itself. This is a records library. The clerk went on the computer, found nothing (as we had found nothing) but thought to check the military logs and narratives written about events. 

He found the old cloth bound book, The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678-1918) by John Buchan, with a preface by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Colonel-In-Chief, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons.  The clerk photocopied pages that related to the 2d Division, with Maurice Edwin McConaghey, Lt. Col.  That is the one. "Maurice McConaghey."   But with an "e" in the McConaghey.

Also described -where and how he was first wounded, and then, near Arras, fell.

3. The Burial.

Burials are in pocket cemeteries, not big memorial parks.  In this area, they buried many soldiers where they fell in WWI, so there are literally hundreds of vest-pocket size cemeteries all around France and Belgium. Ours was among the 500 pocket cemesteries near Arras, France - so of course we went there. We finally found it. Immaculate caretaking.

Grave, Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey, Arras, France, WWI

Gravestone.  Lt. Col. Maurice McConaghey with the "e."  Killed in 1917. Hello, salute, and yes, we do remember. He had also served in South Africa. We even found the record of the hospital ship online that brought Maurice McConaghey back from South Africa, wounded. See Boer Wars, Studying Wars

The Canadian officer who wrote the famous WWI poem, "In Flanders Field," John McRae, and who died in 1915, had also served in South Africa.  For the poem, see

We left a pebble on the top of the headstone.

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