British World War II soldiers receive military burial
ROME- Three British soldiers who lost their lives in the Second World War have been buried with full military honours at a British military cemetery near the port of Salerno.
The body of one of the soldiers has been identified as Lance Corporal Ronald Blackham, 74 years after he was killed in Capezzano on Sept.25, 1943. The 22 year-old lance corporal had enlisted into the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, along with the other two unidentified soldiers.
The battalion were trying to help the Allies gain control of Hill 270, a German strategic strongpoint, in order to secure their beachhead after landing on Italian soil. It has been revealed that Lance Corporal Blackham and his compatriots came extremely close to achieving their objective, as their remains were found in front of the German positions near the summit of the hill.
The remains were found by a group of Italian historians, who used metal detectors and old military maps to find the buried bones. After considerable DNA testing by the Ministry of Defence, Lance Corporal Blackham was able to be indentified through the DNA of his brother Douglas. His brother was unable to attend the service but stated, “Ron was my much loved and missed older brother. My parents never emotionally recovered from his loss. I am so pleased that my DNA was able to close this door, albeit 74 years after Ron’s death.”
Soldiers from the Coldstream Guards were among those in attendence at the ceremony, as well as 20 family members of Lance Corporal Blackham. His sister, Alma, said that she was “eternally grateful” for the findings and described the event as “overpowering”.
The Blackham family put out an official statement which read, “This is a remarkable story and really does remind us all of the bravery and sacrifice made by the officers and men of the 3rd Battalion. We are all honoured and proud to be invited to the service and so grateful for the efforts and time provided by the MoD Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the Salerno 1943 Association who discovered his remains.”
The MoD’s Casualty Centre is still working hard to indentify the other two soldiers who were buried at the ceremony.
It is hoped that successful identifications such as that of Lance Corporal Blackham will lead to more new discoveries in the future.