Unknown soldier remembered at Sidmouth Cemetery

Neil Thomson, John Hayes, John McCarthy, Dave O'Connor and Ralph Hickman gathered to pay their respe

Neil Thomson, John Hayes, John McCarthy, Dave O'Connor and Ralph Hickman gathered to pay their respects at the grave of an unknown soldier in Sidmouth Cemetery on Wednesday. - Credit: Archant

An unknown seaman, who washed up on a Devon beach in 1918, was remembered at his final resting place in Sidmouth Cemetery this week.

Members of the Royal British Legion (RBL) and Merchant Navy Association (MNA) paid tribute to the merchantile marine on Armistice Day.

His headstone reads, simply: ‘Unknown Seaman. Mercantile Marine. Known unto God’.

Speaking on Wednesday, Sidmouth RBL branch chairman Dave O’Connor said: “This brave seaman’s family would have been told simply that he had been lost at sea.

“They would have had to bear the pain not just of losing him, but also of not being able to visit his grave.

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“He doesn’t deserve to be completely forgotten and he never will be. We are honouring him today and we always will.”

The seaman was one of 23 servicemen buried in Sidmouth by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is the only ‘unknown’ burial in the cemetery.

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He was buried in the same grave as another merchant seaman, initially also unknown, who was later identified as Ching Ling, Chief Steward on the SS Kendal Castle, which was sunk by a German submarine off Torbay in September 1918.

MNA member Neil Thomson said: “In both world wars our merchant seamen were in the front line every time they put out to sea. In the First World War alone, over 3,000 merchant ships were sunk.

“We don’t know which ship this sailor was on and in fact we only know one thing about him.

“That he died for our freedom. It is with gratitude and pride that we salute him today. ”

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