WWI

British WW1 soldier laid to rest – 106 years after his death

Lance Corporal Robert Cook received full military honours at a ceremony in Belgium after his identity was confirmed by experts.

A British soldier who died in the First World War has finally been laid to rest – more than 100 years after his death.

Lance Corporal Robert Cook received full military honours at a ceremony in Belgium after his identity was confirmed by experts.

He died, aged 38, on 2 May 1915, among tens of thousands of Britons who lost their lives during intensive fighting around the strategic town of Ypres.

Born in Bishop Wilton in the East Riding of Yorkshire, LCpl Cook was one of seven children and served with 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment.

He was buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's (CWGC) New Irish Farm Cemetery near Ypres on Wednesday afternoon.

LCpl Cook's great-nephew and great-niece attended the service on behalf of his surviving family.

Also present to honour the fallen soldier were members of C "Essex" Company of 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment – the modern equivalent of LCpl Cook's regiment.

His body, like that of so many of his fallen comrades, had been missing for a century and his name inscribed on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing.

Between 2014 and 2015, the remains of 24 soldiers were found during construction work on the outskirts of Ypres, near what is believed to have been a Regimental Aid Post during the war.

All but one of the soldiers have since been buried following investigations by the Ministry of Defence's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) – known as the War Detectives.

Coffin of Lance Corporal Robert Cook, who died in WW1, is carried in to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's (CWGC) New Irish Farm Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium 271021 CREDIT PA ALAMY
The New Irish Farm Cemetery was first used in 1917 (Picture: PA/Alamy).

The final set of remains was found with a medal ribbon bar, shoulder titles and a cap badge of The Essex Regiment.

Based on the location where they were found, they were thought likely to be LCpl Cook.

Following painstaking investigation, the War Detectives were able to identify his great-nephew, Arthur Cook, who agreed to a DNA test, and the results confirmed the remains belonged to LCpl Cook.

Born in 1876, LCpl Cook had also served in the Boer War and in South Africa.

The Ypres Salient was formed in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing German forces back.

To this day, tens of thousands of those who fell in Flanders fields, including during the five battles of Ypres, have never been found.

The names of more than 54,000 men are inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres, a monument to those fallen whose graves are not known.