World War I hero’s grave discovered
They remain heartbreaking stories even after more than a century.
On July 1, 1916 a young soldier from Banchory was killed at the Battle of the Somme and his devastated family were informed his body had not been recovered.
Sergeant Charles Leighton, 23, was among the troops, who stormed the French village of Mametz and was with the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders.
He was one of the many to perish and it was feared he was lost for ever. But now, 100 years later, his great nephew has made the startling discovery of finding his grave.
Aberdeen University graduate, Iain Leighton, 65, had been fascinated by the story of his great-uncle and feels as if the family finally has some closure. He said: “His mother and father received a telegram informing them that Charles was missing presumed killed – his mother in particular was devastated.”
Keen to delve into the story of his ancestor, Mr Leighton asked some friends, who were visiting France, to try and learn more about the Gordon Highlanders’ activity at the Somme.
To his amazement, they quickly found the Gordon cemetery at Mametz – and the headstone of his greatuncle. He said: “When I got the message from them, you could have knocked me over with a feather!”
Ruth Duncan, curator of the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, said: “It is my understanding that so many died in quick succession on that first day, they had nowhere to put the bodies, but return them to the trench they had come out of.”
The regiment suffered greatly, losing 135 men from the 2nd Battalion alone on that one day, and 3,937 casualties for the entire Battle of the Somme.
Mr Leighton, a retired solicitor, now plans to make the trip to France himself to pay his respects along with some other family members.
He said: “I don’t know why the true position was not communicated to his parents, but at least we now know the truth.”