Councillor shares emotional tale of discovering grandfather’s grave 90 years after his death in First World War
- Credit: Archant
Councillor Ken Mayor still cannot tell the tale without breaking down. So at Friday’s service it fell to the Rev Nigel Whitehouse to read his moving account of the moment he finally set eyes on the grave of his grandfather.
George Mayor had been killed in action during the First World War and 90 long years had gone by since.
Cllr Mayor, of Whittlesey, the chairman of Fenland District Council, said: “I stood by the grave and was overcome with emotion, imagining my grandfather looking down and saying ‘At last, after 90 years my family know where I am and have come to see me’.
“I am not ashamed to admit that I sobbed and I still feel emotional when I think about it. I had achieved something that I had wanted to do for a very long time – and I did it for my grandmother and father.
“I only regret that I did not have the information while they were still alive.”
Cllr Mayor described how his grandfather had gone to France in March 1917 with the 6th Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers.
He died on April 1, 1918, during the massive German offensive known as the Kaisersdchlact, when his division sustained more than 7,000 casualties over a few days. He was 39.
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Cllr Mayor said: “My father was born on March 31, 1911, so had his seventh birthday the day before his father was killed - an awful birthday present for a little boy who would never see his father again.
“My grandmother, who was also 39, was left with two young children - my father aged seven and my Auntie Alice, aged five.
“My father and grandmother both died aged 74, still not knowing whether my grandfather had a grave.”
Determined to find it, in 2008 Cllr Mayor set off on a family pilgrimage with his youngest son, John. They joined a coach tour to visit First World War battlefields organised by the Cambridgeshire Regiment Old Comrades Association.
Through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, they had discovered that the grave was in Avesnes-Sur-Helpe in northern France.
So they broke off from the tour to make a special trip there on their own – a long journey that involved three train journeys each way.
Eventually they found their forebear’s grave, which bore the simple inscription “243125 Private G Mayor, Lancashire Fusiliers, 1st April 1918” and an engraving of the Lancashire Fusiliers cap badge.
Cllr Mayor said they had also visited several other war cemeteries.
He said: “In the one at Passchendaele there are 50,000 graves and it is sad to see so many of them have the inscription ‘A soldier of the Great War 1914-18, known only to God’. Their families would never know where they were.”