Help Identify a Missing Soldier, Sailor or Airman?

Who Are the MOD War Detectives?

The MOD War Detectives are a small group of dedicated Ministry of Defence personnel based at Imjin Barracks, Gloucester.  Their official name is the MOD Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) Commemorations Team and they are part of the wider Defence Business Services organisation.

They investigate the discovery of the remains of British Armed Forces personnel on historical battlefields worldwide, often relating to World War 1 and World War 2.  They use military history research to attempt to identify those found, use genealogy to trace their surviving relatives and arrange funeral services with full military honours for them. Their services are open to the public and are free to attend.

The MOD War Detectives will:

  • attempt to identify the remains of British armed forces personnel discovered in former battlefields across the world
  • identify and re-name the grave of those who were buried as “unknown
  • investigate military and personal items found with a casualty
  • genealogical research to find casualties’ families
  • organising DNA testing if necessary where casualties have recently been found
  • coordinate a military commemorative service for all cases they have fully investigated
  • arrange a military funeral/service of rededication
  • host a reception after a burial or rededication service
  • liaise with casualties’ families
  • issue licences for the excavation of military aircraft sites in the UK (under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986)

If no identification is possible from the artefacts found, the team works with the single Service Historical Branches, Regimental museums and others to research when a particular Regiment was in the area where the remains were found. Analysis of war diaries and other records can then allow a shortlist of missing personnel to be created.

Once a shortlist has been compiled, the War Detectives use genealogical research to create a family tree for each individual on the list. Official records, and where needed media appeals, are used to trace surviving family members, who may be asked to provide a DNA sample in the hope of a match being found to the remains, confirming an identity.

Appeal for relatives - Help Identify a Missing Soldier, Sailor or Airman?

The MOD War Detectives need your help to trace the families of British casualties found on historical battlefields. Their current appeals can be found below:

Please help the JCCC find relatives of Private Vickers Bell, 11th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, s/n 291189. Private Bell was killed on 15 October 1917 near Beselare, Belgium during Passchendaele. Due to the type of DNA they have, they are looking for relatives descended through the female line. They know that Private Bell had three sisters; Hannah, Mary Ann and Jane. The family lived in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea in Northumberland.

Case Details                                                                                               Who They Need To Trace                                     
During a planned archaeological dig in 2016 on the western side of the village of St Julien, archaeologists discovered several sets of human remains and artefacts. The War Detectives have drawn up a list of possible casualties and are looking for their families in the hope that they will be willing to provide DNA for comparison Private Fred Gilbert – Royal Fusiliers. Pte Gilbert died on 17 August 1917, aged 26. He was the son of Jane Gilbert (nee Franklin) of Cheshunt, Herts and the late Obed Gilbert. He had 3 brothers (Arthur, Joseph and Charles) and 3 sisters (Alice, Emily and Kate). It seems none of his sisters married or had children, but all his brothers died. Are you related to any of them?
  Private Harry Phelps Allen – Gloucestershire Regiment. Pte Allen died on 19 August 1917, aged 31. He was married to Ada (nee Shaw) and they lived with their son, Alfred Edward Allen, in King’s Norton, Worcestershire. Alfred, who was born in 1914, went on to marry Gertrude May Phillips and they lived in Worcester until his death in 1980. Do you know anybody who might be related to him?
  Private Edward G HughesGloucestershire Regiment. Pte Hughes was killed on 16 August 1917, aged 22. He was the son of Evan Hughes and Elizabeth J Price. The family was from the Newtown/Rhayader area in Wales. He had 2 sisters (neither of whom married or had children) and 5 brothers (Evan, Thomas, William, Jack and Richard). Evan married and had a son, Evan Jnr, who married Eleanor J Williams in 1955. We think they had a son, Edward C Hughes, born in 1960 in Newton. Could you be related to him?

Private Charles F TapleyRoyal Fusiliers. Pte Tapley was killed in action of 16 August 1917, aged 25. He was the son of Charles and Sarah Tapley (nee Bailey) of Rochester, Kent. He had 3 brothers (Ernest, Arthur and Frank), none of whom married or had children. He also had 4 sisters, Minnie, Lilian, Catherine and Florence. Minnie married George F Dray in 1923 and they had 3 children; George (born 1924), Margaret (born 1928) and Iris (born 1930). Iris went on to marry Alan.

Could you be one of his descendants?
  Private Alfred PrestonRoyal Fusiliers. Pte Preston died on 16 August 1917, aged 44. He was married to Mary Emma Williamson and together they had 2 children; James, who also died in the Great War and Lexcey. There are no descendants suitable for DNA from Alfred’s children. He did, however, have several siblings; Mary, Samuel, John, Elizabeth, Sarah, William, Joseph, Jabez, James and Annie. We know that at least Samuel married and had children. Could you be one of his descendants?
  Private Samuel HollandRoyal Fusiliers. Pte Holland was killed in action on 16 August 1917. Aside from knowing his service number (G/10053) and that he served with the 2nd battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, they have no further information about him. Do you?
The remains of 2 casualties were recovered in 2014 from a field near the village of Villesr-Guislain, France. The research leads the War Detectives to believe that the served with the Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own) and that they were killed in action on 29 September 1918. There are only 4 soldiers from that regiment killed on the same day whose whereabouts are unknown. They have found family for 3 of them; can you help them find the fourth? Private Sidney RobertsMiddlesex Regiment. Pte Roberts was the youngest child of William Roberts and Barbara Pugh. He was born in Kilburn, London in 1898 and was killed the day before his twentieth birthday. He had 2 sisters, Edith and Ellen, and a brother Norman. Could you be related to any of this family?

Please get in contact if you have any information


Telephone: 01452 712612 ext 5520/6303/6082/5465

Facebook: MOD War Detectives /@WarDetectives

Twitter: @WarDetectives

Address: JCCC, Room G35, Innsworth House, Imjin Barracks, Gloucester, GL3 1HW

Website details ‘HERE’

Discover interesting facts about your ancestors, become more knowledgeable about history, and reveal some of the fantastic characters involved in war…What are you waiting for?

SEARCH ‘Forces War Records’

Unknown Solider of the Great War


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