A Doncaster World War One hero is to be finally laid to rest today - more than 100 years after dying in battle.
Gunner Albert William Venus from Thorne was killed near Ypres in 1915 – but his contribution and sacrifice have never been properly commemorated. But this morning, the Doncaster soldier and a fellow Yorkshire serviceman, who died in the same firefight, will be laid to rest in Belgium with full military honours. Gunner Venus and Corporal Joseph Rowbottom were killed in action in May 1915 and will finally be buried at a cemetery in the famed Belgian town which was at the centre of one of World War One’s most bloody campaigns. The ceremony is the culmination of years of detective work by amateur historian Tony Brookes who campaigned for Gunner Venus to be properly remembered after discovering his tale, almost by accident. The former Thorne Grammar School headteacher said: “I did not expect this outcome when I started researching Albert Venus; it is wonderful that he and Gunner Rowbottom will finally buried in marked graves – a rightful tribute to two brave men who gave their lives for their country.” The burial comes exactly 101 years to the day the soldiers, part of the North Riding Batteries of the Royal Field Artillery, travelled by train from Newcastle to Southampton as part of the 2nd Northumbrian Brigade and crossing to Le Havre on 20 April 1915. By 13 May 1915, the gun batteries were positioned at Potizje, outside Ypres. In late May the men were caught up in a fierce battle, known as the Battle of Bellwaarde Ridge. At 7am on Whit Monday - 24 May 1915 - a shell hit one of the guns killing Corporal T. A. Carr and Gunners J. Clarke, G. Robinson, J. Rowbottom (all from Scarborough) and A. W. Venus. Only two of the soldiers (Carr and Robinson) were commemorated by Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and had their names inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. Another two (Clarke and Rowbottom) were accepted for commemoration in 2012, but their names were not immediately inscribed on the Menin Gate. Details of the fifth gunner, Albert William Venus, from Finkle Street, Thorne, came to light when the retired head was researching names on Thorne War Memorial. On realising that Gunner Venus was not known to CWGC, he amassed evidence of his death on active service and submitted a request that he be commemorated and in August 2014 the Commission agreed. Then the remains of six soldiers were found buried side-by-side in a field on the outskirts of Ypres. The Ministry of Defence conducted extensive DNA testing on the remains and was able to identify Gunners Rowbottom and Venus. The remains of the six soldiers will be buried at Ypres Town Cemetery; the four who have not been identified will have headstones marked ‘Known unto God’. Mr Brookes will be attending the burial along with relatives of Albert Venus, some of whom gave DNA samples for matching. The ceremony will take place at 11am.