19 April 2024

Headstone for soldier 102 years after his death

A First World War soldier’s final resting place in Withernsea has been honoured next to his son’s grave.

On Saturday, November 12, a commemoration service for Colour Sergeant 6019 Alexander John Cornish Fraser of the 3rd Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment took place in St Nicholas churchyard. The service, organised by Withernsea Royal British Legion member Darren England, gave the soldier his first headstone since his death 102 years ago.

Fraser was born in 1882 in Bosmore, Ipswich. On January 3, 1899, he joined the East Yorkshire Regiment at Beverley. His medical record shows he was 18 years old and 5ft 53⁄4in, with a 32in chest, fallow complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He married his wife Emily on November 20, 1910, in Hull. In the 1911 census, records show that he was appointed under the rank of sergeant at the 3rd Army school of cooks before being posted to the British Expeditionary Force. He was promoted to Colour Sergeant on July 27, 1917.

During his military career he served in many countries including South Africa, Algeria, India, France, Belgium and Germany. During the war he gained four medals including long service and good conduct, South Africa, the British war medal, and the Victory medal.

Although he survived the war, he had contracted tuberculosis and was discharged on April 17, 1920, to 82 Southcliffe Road in Withernsea.

On October 1, 1920, he died and was buried in a family grave at St Nicholas cemetery. His grave was not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the time of his burial and was thought lost before a Grave Found case established that he was buried in the same grave as his son.

His son, Lance Corporal Afflick Alexander Pooley Fraser, died on April 27, 1944, while serving in the Second World War.

As part of the marking of his grave, the CWGC has moved the existing headstone to his son slightly over to the right and has installed a commission headstone to commemorate Colour Sergeant Fraser on the left.

The personal inscription chosen by his widow in 1945, which features on his son’s headstone reads: “Also, his father Alexander who died on October 1, 1920. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. RIP.”

Mr England, who also volunteers for the CWGC’s Eyes On, Hands On volunteer project, which helps to care for graves all over the UK, said: “I’ve always been interested in local military history and those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice. That’s why I became a volunteer for the Eyes On, Hands On project.

“While researching those on my local war memorial I noticed that one gentleman, C/Sgt Fraser, was not commemorated by CWGC.”

After months of painstaking research, Darren discovered that C/Sgt Fraser had died during the war years because of his service and been buried in Withernsea St Nicholas Cemetery.

Darren submitted all his research to the CWGC Commemorations team, which verified the details. C/Sgt Fraser was awarded war grave status in June 2020.

At the event on November 12, Deacon Diane Berry conducted a small service with prayers, and Mr England gave a speech about the history of C/Sgt Fraser and unveiled
the headstone. Emma Collinson also played the Last Post and the Reveille while Darren Johnson carried the standard. Wreaths were also laid during the event.

Mr England added: “All the information was put forward to the CWGC team and after conducting their own research it was agreed he was a war casualty whose grave should be marked.

“The best part for me was seeing C/Sgt Fraser’s headstone placed next to his son’s headstone.”