James Rowan: Bid to trace WW1 County Longford soldier's family fails

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Pte James Rowan will be buried as a designated unknown soldier on 16 April at the Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Belgium

A man believed to be from County Longford, who died during World War One, will be buried as an unknown soldier after attempts to trace his Irish relatives failed.

Investigators said they had carried out an "exhaustive search" to trace living links to Pte James Rowan.

However, their results proved inconclusive.

It is understood a number of people from Longford came forward following an appeal last year.

A Manchester-based priest, Fr Rowan, contacted investigators and Longford's county archivist was also enlisted into the search.

Lynne Gammond of the Army's headquarters at Andover, Wiltshire, said no family connections could be proven, despite an extensive trawl through family trees and other historical documents.

'Positive link'

"It is very sad actually," she said.

"There was a huge response but we just couldn't make the link.

"We have DNA from the remains, so if anyone can prove a positive link in future then we can still carry out the tests."

Pte Rowan's suspected remains were among six sets found close to a railway siding close to the Belgian village of Comines-Warneton five years ago.

The 30-year-old soldier was killed on a battlefield at the site on 20 October 1914.

The remains were discovered by an amateur archaeologist during a dig.

'Memorial service'

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) joint casualty and compassionate centre, which investigates the discovery of missing bodies killed in action, cross-referenced military records and diaries kept from the time.

It said it believes the remains are those of Pte Rowan.

However, in order to conclusively prove the identity, investigators need to establish a firm family link and confirm through DNA testing.

The MoD has said it is now planning a re-interment and a memorial service for the designated unknown soldier.

The ceremony will take place on 16 April at the Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Belgium, close to where the remains were found.

He will be buried along with his five other fallen comrades, who were also designated unknown soldiers, after failed attempts to positively identify them.

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