Belfast Telegraph

Soldier's Italian grave rededicated by sons born days before his 1943 death

The grave of a British soldier killed in Italy in the Second World War has been rededicated by his twin sons who, unknown to him, were born just 22 days before his death.

Having spent a lifetime wondering what happened to their Royal Irish Fusilier father Edward, brothers Edward and Sydney Graham, 74, have at last been able to pay their respects at his final resting place.

Mr Graham's regiment had been sent to North Africa and then on to Italy, but during the advance through Sicily, near the small town of Maletto, he was killed on August 13 1943, fighting a German ambush.

His body was initially buried at the roadside but when it was later moved his identity was lost and he was given an unnamed gravestone.

But years of research and work by his son Edward eventually paid off when he discovered his father, from Chopwell in Tyne and Wear, had been buried in Catania War Cemetery.

The ceremony, led by the Regimental Chaplain of the Royal Irish Regiment, saw a new headstone installed.

Edward said: "It was a very emotional service and the culmination of years of hard work and research.

"We are very grateful to everyone involved who made today so special."

Mr Graham had joined the Territorial Army as a private in the Durham Light Infantry before he became full-time following the outbreak of war.

He was then transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers and posted to Ballykinler in Northern Ireland, where he met and married the mother of his sons, Eveline McBride.

Nicola Nash, from the Ministry of Defence's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, who organised the service, said: "We feel privileged to bring some closure to Edward and Sydney after 74 years."

Edward, from Prudhoe, Northumberland, said the service would give him a sense of "closure and satisfaction", that his father would finally be resting with his colleagues who also made the ultimate sacrifice.

He said: "That is comforting but my great sadness is my mother never knew where he was, that would have been nice but it wasn't to be.

"He was on active service and communication being what it was he didn't know he was the father of twin boys, my brother and I were born just 22 days before he was killed.

"And indeed my mother didn't know what his fate was for almost two years.

"He was posted missing, which was changed to missing presumed killed, but his actual fate she didn't know for definite for almost two years.

"It's very sad he didn't know he had two sons, but that was the time he was living in."

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