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British soldier killed in southern Italy during Second World War laid to rest

A young British soldier who was killed as he stormed a German-held hill in southern Italy during the Second World War has finally been laid to rest, almost 75 years after his death.

Lance Corporal Ronald George Blackham, of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed during a fierce battle on September 25, 1943, as he fought to take Hill 270 near Salerno.

Just 22 when he died, his remains were found in February 2014 in a shallow grave near the village of Capezzano by Associazione Salerno 1943, a group of voluntary military historians.

Ammunition from an Enfield rifle and the Coldstream Guards cap badge indicated the remains were of a British soldier, and, after the Ministry of Defence tracked down his brother Douglas, a DNA test confirmed his identity.

On Thursday, 73 years on from his death, 19 members of his family - including his younger sister Alma Williams, 80, and two-year-old great-grand-nephew Conan - attended his burial at the Salerno War Cemetery, which was arranged by the MoD.

For Mrs Williams, from Weaverham in Cheshire - L/Cpl Blackham's only living sibling well enough to attend the service - the long-awaited funeral brought a euphoria, along with mixed feelings

She said: "I don't know how to put it in words because I know it's finalising it. All these years it's been part of my life and now it's being laid to rest, thank God.

"He gave his life, he gave his ultimate for it - you can't give more than he gave."

The service was led by the Coldstream Guards' padre Reverend Jacob Caldwell, who said it would "retell Lance Corporal Blackham's story for the final time, to give to him the honour and ascribe to him that which he deserves, a full military funeral".

Two unknown soldiers, both members of the Coldstream Guards, were also laid to rest alongside L/Cpl Blackham, taking the number of Second World War burials at the cemetery to 1,849.

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