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Grave of WWI Belfast soldier found after 100 years

By David Dawson

A Belfast-born First World War soldier buried under a headstone with no name has been honoured after he was identified as being interred there.

At a moving service at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France, a new headstone was dedicated to Lieutenant William Frederick MacHutchison.

He died in 1918, having survived being shot earlier in the war.

His final resting place was a mystery until the grave of an unknown lieutenant in Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Defence.

After extensive historical research into the grave and the circumstances surrounding the Belfast officer's death, it was confirmed by the MoD's Joint Casualty & Compassionate Centre (JCCC) that it was William's.

The service this week was arranged by the JCCC and led by the Rev Justin Bradbury, regimental chaplain with The Queen's Royal Hussars.

Sandra Harper, the great-niece of Lieutenant MacHutchison, travelled from Belfast to attend the service with her son Colin.

She said: "It was a very monumental occasion and something I never envisaged would happen.

"I feel privileged and honoured to have attended something I felt I had to do for generations gone."

Rev Bradbury said: "To make this pilgrimage in Holy Week to enable others to honour the memory of Lieutenant MacHutchison has been a singular privilege."

William was born in Belfast on October 16, 1893, the son of John and Jane MacHutchison. He had two brothers, George and John, and a sister, Mary. He was educated at St Andrew's College, Dublin, and worked for the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).

He saw extensive service during the First World War after enlisting in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1915 and travelling to Egypt.

He ended up spending two months at the Red Cross hospital in Giza after contracting a severe stomach infection.

William rejoined his battalion in Mudros, where it moved on to Salonika.

At this point he was appointed Acting Quartermaster Sergeant to 30th Battalion Infantry Brigade HQ.

After spending time in Malta, William received a gunshot wound at Struma Valley in the Balkans in late 1916, which meant he was transferred back to the UK.

It wasn't until November 1917 that he was declared well enough to return to action, where he joined the 8/9th Battalion in France.

When the 8/9th Battalion was disbanded in February 1918, he became part of the newly formed 1st battalion.

On March 27, 1918, William was injured during fighting at Morcourt.

He was taken to the nearest dressing station at Lamotte, where he tragically passed away a few days later.

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