Belgian Earl wants to trace descendants of fallen Burnley soldier

Bossuit Chateau in Belgium
Bossuit Chateau in Belgium

The tragic tale of a young Burnley soldier killed in the final days of the First World War could be told for the first time in a century, thanks to a member of the Belgian nobility.


The soldier, Pte Cryil West Richmond, was killed in October, 1918, weeks before the end of the war, and his body buried with comrades at the Bossuit Chateau in Flanders, Belgium.

Now, the present day Earl, Charles de Talhouët, wants to trace the descendants of those soldiers and invite them to a special event at his chateau.

Pte Richmond, who lived at 18 Lansdown Road in Burnley, was just 19 when he lost his life serving with the 20th Durham Light Infantry.

His body and those of his comrades were later reinterred at the nearby Tournai Communal Cemetery nearby.

Fascinated by the story of the burials, Earl Charles enlisted the help of Belgian war researcher and battlefield guide Gil Bossuyt who has uncovered new information of the soldiers’ sacrifice, played out in the final days of that terrible war.

Mr Bossuyt said: “The Earl heard a story from his mother that British soldiers were buried within the Chateau Park at the end of the First World War for some time, and if there was any possibility of retrieving the names of these soldiers.

“My friend Michel Decru and I then set about our research. A first point of entry were the British units involved in the Liberation Offensive at the end of October 1918. I am actually writing a book on this offensive, which will be published next year.

“Based on previous search, battalion diaries and military maps from that period, a good overview of the situation could be made.

“A number of battalions of the Cheshires and Durham Light Infantry were involved in the events around Bossuit.

“This information allowed us do a very focused search on the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

“In the early 1920s, many field graves were brought together in larger military cemeteries.”

Studying Concentration Reports, which mention the original coordinates of the field graves, Gil and Michel achieved what they called “some nice results”.

Gil added: “For six soldiers, including Pte Richmond, a clear match with the castle domain was found. Today, these men rest at Tournai Communal Cemetery in Tournai.

“If we were able to find descendants of these British and German soldiers, the Earl would like to get them together in 2018 for a special event at the castle, which we think is a nice idea.”

Born in Accrington, Pte Richmond was the son of Florence Maria Richmond and brother to Norton Watson. His uncle was a Mr F. Rawson, of the Manchester and County Bank Ltd in Burnley.

Cyril was working as a wine merchant’s assistant at Wesleyan when he enlisted for service on March 2nd, 1917. After basic training he was transferred to France on April 4th, 1918, with the 4th Reserve Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

He was transferred to the Durhams a day later, and made the ultimate sacrifice just six months later.

If anyone thinks they may be related to Pte Richmond or knows more about his story they can email the Burnley Express at dominic.collis@jpress.co.uk, call 01282 478157 or email gil.bossuyt@skynet.be.