Letterkenny soldier’s grave found 100 years on

CQMS John Doherty MM deceased.

THE grave of a Letterkenny born soldier who fought in the first World War has been found and rededicated 100 years after his death.

The grave of Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) John Doherty MM (Military Medal), who went missing in France on 22 March 1918, has finally been identified following a search instigated by his great, great nephew.ier


A rededication service was held on Tuesday of this week at the graveside in Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Savy British Cemetery, near Saint Quentin in France.

The grave was discovered after Chris Doherty submitted evidence to CWGC hoping to have his great, great uncle’s final resting place identified. Further research by CWGC, the National Army Museum and Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) confirmed his findings.

The service, attended by members of the extended Doherty family who had travelled from the UK and Ireland to pay their respects, was organised by the MOD’s JCCC, also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’. It was also attended by serving soldiers of The Royal Irish Regiment.

Speaking after the service Chris Doherty said “My Grandfather William survived the war. He ensured his brother’s John, Daniel and James who all gave their lives so we could live ours free, that their names would never be forgotten. On behalf of the Doherty family, we wish to thank and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Rosie Barron and JCCC War Detectives and their colleagues at the CWGC that have given myself and my family the privilege of being present today for the rededication of the final resting place of our Grand Uncle, in this beautiful setting, in the company of his comrades, some of whom he may have lived, fought and died with.”

On the morning of March 21, 1918, the German Army launched Operation Michael, the first phase of its Spring Offensive. In 1917, Russia had surrendered in the east and the USA had joined the war on the side of the Allies. The aim of the spring offensive was to defeat Allies in the west before American troops could arrive in number. When the attack commenced First Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were located at Le Hamel, south west of Saint Quentin. They were ordered up to the battle area and remained in their positions under heavy shellfire that day.

On March 22, 1918, the battalion was attacked again and forced back with heavy casualties. Around 40 men, all that remained of the battalion, fought their way through the enemy. By the end of the day more than 500 men were missing. CQMS Doherty, aged 36, was amongst them and was commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

JCCC Caseworker, Rosie Barron, said: “It has been a privilege to work with The Royal Irish Regiment to organise the rededication service for CQMS Doherty. His family suffered heavily because of the World War 1 having had three sons go missing whilst serving with The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. For their widowed mother, this loss must have been profound. It has therefore been fitting to have so many of their family in attendance today to celebrate the life of CQMS Doherty and his brothers and to honour their sacrifice.”


The service was conducted by the Reverend Jason Clarke MBE CF, Chaplain to First Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment who said: “Today we rededicate this grave and in so doing acknowledge by name CQMS John Doherty. In so doing we honour his memory and give thanks for his example of courage to the end. In the horror of such terrible fighting, he was faithful and true, fighting alongside his men and giving his life in the defence of others.”

The headstone over the grave was replaced by CWGC.

In total four Doherty brothers served with The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the First World War, with three of them making the ultimate sacrifice. Lance Corporal Daniel Doherty was killed on July 1, 1916 whilst serving with 11th Battalion and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Corporal James Doherty was killed on August 16, 1917 whilst serving with 11th Battalion and attached 109th Trench Mortar Battery and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

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