The two soldier’s bodies and personal possessions were recently discovered during an archaeological dig exploring the World War I battlefield at La Boiselle on the Somme. The remains of their uniforms identified them as belonging to the 10th Battalion the Essex Regiment, which lost eight men on 22 November 1915. Subsequent DNA analysis identified the remains as Privates Harry Carter and William Marmon - who were both only 21 when they died.
The archaeologists also recovered their personal possessions, and these were returned to the families of the soldiers by the Ministry of Defences’ Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, who subsequently led the work to identify them, trace their families and arranged their full service funeral in October 2016. The soldier’s relatives - Barry and Brian Churchyard, great nephews of Harry Carter and Trevor Newland, great nephew of William Marmon - generously passed the effects onto the Essex Regiment Museum. The possessions include a ring, pencils, coins, a slot machine token, a tobacco pipe mouthpiece, three tiny porcelain cherub-like figurines and a typical piece of trench art - a French brass bullet case with a heart carved out of its top.
Nick Wickenden, Museums Manager, Chelmsford City Council, accepted the possessions from the families, he said:
“Understanding and interpreting the conflicts of World War I is made easier by telling the personal stories of young men like Privates Carter and Marmon. We are very grateful for the soldier’s families for their generosity in donating such historic and significant items.”
The artefacts were donated to the Essex Regiment Museum at an event at Oaklands Park, which was attended by members of the 10th Essex Regiment Living History group, The Essex Branch of the Western Front Association, and the Trustees of the Essex Regiment Museum.
A display of some of the personal effects and letters home, made available by the families, will be mounted at the Essex Regiment Museum.
Both Private Carter and Marmon have been reburied with full military honours at the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in France on 19 October 2016.
To discover more about Chelmsford Museums and the Essex Regiment Museum, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/museums.