The engraved spoon and pocket watch found with Pte Johnston's remains (Picture: MOD/A Eden).
WWI

WWI soldier who was identified by engraved spoon finally laid to rest

Private William Johnston was one of two British soldiers laid to rest with full military honours, more than a century after their deaths.

The engraved spoon and pocket watch found with Pte Johnston's remains (Picture: MOD/A Eden).

An engraved spoon has helped to identify a British soldier who died in the First World War.

Now he's finally been laid to rest – more than a century after his death.

Private William Johnston served with 7th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers in WWI, and was killed in the Battle of Loos on 26 September 1915, aged 39.

His remains were found during a First World War ordnance search near Lens in France, in January 2018, and the identification was made using the number 13228 stamped on the back of the spoon, discovered alongside a pocket watch.

The Ministry of Defence Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (MOD JCCC) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cross-referenced the digits with war records.

These showed he was the only casualty with this regimental number who had no known burial place, the MOD said.

Using DNA, they tracked down Pte Johnston's great-great-niece, despite having very little personal information about him.

Sharon Williamson from Portadown in Northern Ireland said: "I was sent an email by a relative in America who had been contacted by the MOD War Detectives to say that they had found remains from the Great War.

Pte Johnston's great-great nephew Phil Aldridge lays a wreath during the service (Picture: MOD/A Eden).

"They asked for my DNA, that was the start of our journey.

"Later, once it was confirmed that William was our relative, we couldn't miss the opportunity to be here and pay our respects to a family member that, though we didn't know, we did not want him to be alone on his final journey."

Another British soldier who died in the Battle of Loos was found separately in the same place. It has not been possible to identify him, but MOD JCCC confirmed he served with the East Yorkshire Regiment as two East Yorkshire shoulder titles were found along with his remains.

MOD JCCC caseworker Louise Dorr said: "I'm both pleased and saddened that although I have been able to identify one of these soldiers by name, there are just too many casualties missing from the 8th East Yorkshire Regiment for us to be able to name their casualty.

"I'm delighted to see them both laid to rest in front of their military family and, in Pte Johnston's case, his biological family. May they both rest in peace."

The two men were laid to rest with full military honours in a service at the CWGC's Loos British Cemetery, at Loos-en-Gohelle in northern France. Two bearer parties were provided by the Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Regiment of Scotland respectively, the MOD said.

The graves will now be marked by headstones provided by the CWGC, who will care for their final resting place, the MOD added.