British soldier laid to rest in Ypres more than 100 years after death

A First World War soldier has finally been laid to rest more than 100 years after his death, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The body of Private Robert Kenneth Malcolm, a 23-year-old stretcher bearer from Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, was found when unidentified remains were recovered from a shell hole outside a German blockhouse in Fusilier Wood near Klein-Zillebeke, Belgium in 2019.

The Royal Army Medical Corps insignia and a medical orderly cloth patch were recovered with the body, which indicated the person found had been a stretcher bearer.

After research carried out by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) and DNA testing, the remains were identified as Pte Malcolm, who had first been reported missing on August 6 1917, and was believed to have been killed during shelling.

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A bearer party carries the coffin of Private Robert Kenneth Malcolm at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Pte Malcolm was buried on Wednesday at the Bedford House Cemetery in Ypres, located in Flanders Field.

Records recovered as part of the JCCC’s investigation found that his medals had been sent to his mother after the war but were not delivered so were returned to the Army and destroyed.

The honours have since been reissued and presented to his family, including his 1914 Star with Clasp – often referred to as the Mons Star – and the British War medal and Victory medal.

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Pvt Malcolm’s medals have been reissued and presented to his family (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Linda Jordan, Pte Malcolm’s great-great-niece, was one of two family members who provided positive DNA matches.

Speaking at the burial service she attended with her sister, Ms Jordan said: “Getting a letter five months ago from JCCC suggesting I could be related to a fallen First World War soldier whose body had been recently discovered was quite a shock.

“My family was unaware that our great-grandmother had eleven siblings, one of whom was Pte Malcolm. It is fascinating how we were traced and the link confirmed through DNA testing.

“As Pte Malcolm had been missing for so long it was amazing and quite emotional to see the care that all those in the wider Army family have taken to identify and honour him.

“We were privileged to represent his family at his funeral. It is our way of respecting him and acknowledging the sacrifice he, and so many others, made in service of our country.”

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The surviving members of the family were unaware of their links to Pte Malcolm (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Rosie Barron, JCCC case lead said: “The identification of Pte Malcolm was a long and at times complicated task, so it is very satisfying to have organised his burial service today and to have seen a positive conclusion to this case.

“Stretcher bearers such as Pte Malcolm were vital to the war effort. Without their dedication and bravery, many more men would have died on the battlefields.

“Pte Malcolm came from a large family. His mother and siblings died unaware of his fate and the memory of Pte Malcolm had been lost through the generations.

“It has been a privilege therefore to have his great-great-nieces here today to see him laid to rest and to know that he will be remembered by future generations of his family who will now be able to visit his grave.”