The grave of a British soldier killed in Italy in the Second World War will be rededicated by his twin sons, who were born just 22 days before his death.
Edward and Sydney Graham, 74, have spent a lifetime wondering what happened to their Royal Irish Fusilier father Edward, who died without knowing that he had two sons.
The regiment had been dispatched to North Africa and then on to Italy, but during the advance through Sicily, near the small town of Maletto, he was killed on 13th August 1943 fighting a German ambush.
His body was initially buried at the roadside but when it was later moved his identity was lost and he was given an unnamed gravestone.
But years of research and work by son Edward eventually paid off when he discovered his father, from Chopwell, County Durham, had been buried in Catania War Cemetery where his grave will be rededicated in a service on Tuesday. He said:
“It’s been decades of searching, researching records, battling bureaucracy, but it’ll give me a sense of closure and satisfaction that my father is there and resting in a beautiful place with his colleagues who also gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“That is comforting but my great sadness is my mother never knew where he was, that would have been nice but it wasn’t to be.
“He was on active service and communication being what it was he didn’t know he was the father of twin boys, my brother and I were born just 22 days before he was killed.
“And indeed my mother didn’t know what his fate was for almost two years. He was posted missing, which was changed to missing presumed killed, but his actual fate she didn’t know for definite for almost two years.
“It’s very sad he didn’t know he had two sons, but that was the time he was living in.”
Mr Graham had joined the Territorial Army as a private in the Durham Light Infantry before he became full-time following the outbreak of war.
He was then transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers and posted to Ballykinler in Northern Ireland, where he met and married the mother of his sons Eveline McBride.
The service, organised by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, will take place in Catania where Mr Graham will be given a new headstone.
Edwards Graham said:
“Up until the commemoration cards were released we didn’t have any documentary evidence to tell us what had happened.
“We knew from the war diaries the engagement on the advance from Maletto was where the fatalities had occurred.
“We had an idea who the fatalities were but until we got the evidence we didn’t know what happened.
“We then found out via the cards that the casualties had been taken from where they had fallen and taken to Catania War Cemetery.”
On 10th July 1943, a combined allied force of 160,000 Commonwealth and American troops invaded Sicily as a prelude to the assault on mainland Italy.
The campaign in Sicily came to an end on 17th August when the two allied forces came together at Messina, but failed to cut off the retreating Axis lines.
Catania War Cemetery contains 2,135 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 113 of them unidentified.