Young Glasgow soldier who fell in First World War finally laid to rest
The remains of a young Glaswegian soldier believed to have fallen in battle during the First World War has finally been laid to rest with full military honours more than a century after his death.
Lance Serjeant Robert Brand, of the 9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, was buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Messines Ridge Cemetery in Belgium on Wednesday.
He was laid to rest alongside two unknown soldiers from the same regiment.
Lance Serjeant Brand was just 24 when it is believed he was killed during the Battle of the Lys, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres, which was fought between April 7 and 29 1918.
The remains of all three soldiers were recovered by archaeologists working in Neuve Eglise as part of a project to extend a potato farm.
Artefacts found nearby identified them as soldiers of the 9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, and other finds indicated they died after August 1916.
This information was used in combination with battalion war diaries and other records to narrow their dates of death to a period between April 13 and April 15 1918, during the Battle of the Lys.
A shortlist of potential candidates was drawn up using the finds, anthropological information and documentary evidence.
Efforts were then made to trace the descendants of eight of the regiment’s men listed as missing and who matched all the available evidence.
Lance Serjeant Brand was positively identified through the DNA testing of his descendants.
Born in Stirling to William McPhail Brand and Christina Johnston Arthur on September 13 1893, Robert Brand was the eldest of 12 children.
He first went to France with the Army in November 1914 and in 1916 he was admitted to hospital with a gunshot wound to the neck.
Following this, he was entitled to wear a wound stripe on his uniform. This wound stripe was one of the critical artefacts in helping to identify him as one of the three men found in Neuve Eglise.
This week’s service for Lance Serjeant Brand was organised by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the MoD War Detectives.
It was supported by members of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who provided the bearer party, piper and bugler.
Lance Serjeant Brand’s great-niece Caroline Smith said: “The Brand family is honoured and humbled to be able to attend the burial of our uncle, Lance Serjeant Robert Brand, and two of his fellow soldiers. It is amazing how remains have been found after all these decades.
“We would like to thank the JCCC whom have guided us through the process of DNA and organising the burial. Also thank you to the regiment for being here to support and honour. Last of all, thank you uncle Robert, who fought for our country and our family. We are very proud and grateful.”
The Rev David Jeal, who conducted the service, said: “It is a great honour and privilege to finally lay our soldiers from World War One to rest. We remember their sacrifice and have given them the full military burial they deserved, something I and all 2 SCOTS soldiers present will never forget.”
The graves of Lance Serjeant Brand and the two unknown soldiers will be cared for in perpetuity by the CWGC.
Geert Bekaert, CWGC area director, said: “It is a profound honour to now care for the graves of Lance Serjeant Robert Brand and his fellow soldiers from the 9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, at Messines Ridge Cemetery, Belgium.
“The CWGC reaffirms its commitment to preserving their memory in perpetuity and their burial today reminds us of the enduring legacy of all those who served during the First World War.”
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