War grave visit fulfils Lyn’s life goal
As she looked down on her grandfather’s final resting place, Lyn Vaughan was overcome with emotion.
But it was not only because she had fulfilled a life’s goal by visiting the war grave of Private John McCosh Stewart.
It was also because Private Stewart was buried side by side with Lance Corporal GMH Blakeley — the soldier killed with him when a German shell penetrated their trench shelter in France on July 24, 1917.
“It was a very emotional experience. What made me want to cry was that right next to him in the cemetery was the man who had died alongside him,” she said.
“The fact that the two men were side by side totally blew me away.
“One of the things I was also struck by was just how beautifully kept the graveyard was and that’s a credit to the War Graves Commission.”
Mrs Vaughan, 73, made the trip to France earlier this summer with her two sons, Robert and Graham.
They visited the Fins New British Cemetery, a few miles outside the town of Peronne, where Private Stewart was buried.
He was 30 when he signed up with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders to fight in the First World War.
The father of five died less than a year later, close to Picardy, only a week before the Battle of Passchendaele began.
The family also travelled to Scotland where they visited Stirling Castle, the former regimental headquarters of Private Stewart’s regiment, now part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Mrs Vaughan said: “I had always felt a strong connection with my grandfather since I was young.
“When I was 13, I read every letter that he had written from France back to his family and it gave me a real awareness of the kind of person he was.
“He was a caring person, who wrote individual letters to all of his children that described how terrible the trenches were and how awful it was for the horses.
“I realised by reading his letters how important he was, not just to my father, who was the oldest sibling, but to his family as a whole.”
Mrs Vaughan and her sons travelled from France to Germany to visit the area where her uncle, RAF Sergeant Alfred John Thomas, was shot down and killed in the Second World War. Although Sergeant Thomas’s name appears on the Air Force’s Runnymede Memorial in England because his body was never found, Mrs Vaughan was able to track down the graves of two of his crew who died in the crash.
She and her sons travelled to the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery near Kleve in Germany to pay their respects to Air Gunner JH O’Farrell and Flight Engineer JW Gale.
Mrs Vaughan said: “Visiting the spot where my grandfather was buried was something I had talked about for many years. This year is the 100th anniversary of his death and it seemed an appropriate time to make the trip.
“It was also amazing to see the graves of the two crewmen O’Farrell and Gale who died with my uncle when his plane crashed in Germany during the Second World War.
“I’m extremely pleased I achieved what I set out to — it’s likely to be one of those things I never get the chance to do again so it’s very important.”
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