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Graveyard ceremony.

Byline: SHARON LIPTROTT

For more than 100 years Belgian soldier Vesale van Ruymbeke has lain in an unmarked"temporary" grave in a Dumfriesshire cemetery.

Tomorrow he will be given a headstone generously made and paid for by Annan stonemason Peter Rae at a ceremony in Rigg Cemetery.

And an appeal has been made for members of the public to attend at 11am for the service and to bring flowers with them to lay in tribute.

Afterwards, refreshments, sandwiches and cakes will be served at the Devil's Porridge Museum in Eastriggs from noon along with a talk on Vesale by museum manager, Judith Hewitt, who has been researching his tragic story which was picked up by Mr Rae.

Judith said: "Peter heard me talking about Vesale not having a headstone when I was being interviewed on TV about the Great War last year. He asked if he could help and not only got the necessary permissions but also paid for and created the headstone.

"His generosity has touched everyone, including Vesale's remaining few family members who cannot be here tomorrow. We have put the word out in local churches and are asking the public to come along and pay tribute."

Record show that Vesale was a Lieutenant in the Belgium Army and served two years on the Western Front in the First World War.

His dad, Joseph, was a chemist and engineer who was personally selected from all over the Commonwealth to create the secret munitions factory, HM Factory Gretna, between Annan and Longtown.

Vesale came to join him working at HM Factory Gretna from 1916 and it is thought he was one of the many wounded Allied soldiers brought to the factory as part of the war effort.

He died of the Spanish Flu on November 22, 1918, after the fighting had ended - an epidemic which killed more people than the Great War.

A funeral notice in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard on November 30, 1918 - uncovered by the Eastriggs' researchers - shows he had a full military funeral and was buried in Rigg Cemetery in a lead casket within a pine shell and enclosed in a heavy coffin in a shallow temporary grave with no marker.

Judith said: "His father hoped to repatriate his body to Belgium but this never happened. At this time many people were trying to get their loved one's bodies returned home and it proved very difficult. Apparently he tried many times.

"Eventually, because of the health hazard he was buried deeper in the ground in 1924 and his dad died two years later. Tomorrow he'll finally get the headstone he deserves. Peter has been in touch with what few family members remain and they are delighted. They never expected this."

CAPTION(S):

Belgian soldier Vesale van Ruymbeke

Memorial tribute Dorothy Creeton and Richard Brodie from the Devil's Porridge Museum beside the new headstone in Rigg Cemetery.

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Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Date:May 3, 2019
Words:481
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