A north-east man has been tasked with writing a message on a First World War gravestone – for an uncle he never knew existed.
Frank Treasurer, 81, discovered his long-lost relative, Able Seaman James Cameron Robertson, in an email sent by an amateur genealogist.
James’ remains were found in a field in France at the site of 1917’s Battle of Arras, however, his identity was shrouded in mystery.
The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) at the Minstry of Defence was responsible for finding out who the remains belonged to and launched a public appeal earlier this year.
Experts narrowed down the options to Aberdonian James and another sailor, Andrew Turner Irvine, of Glasgow, but that’s where the trail went cold.
Peterhead genealogist Kath Macdonald spotted an appeal to locate family of the two possible soldiers and took up the case.
Kath knew from census records that James was from a big family, and so tracked death records of his siblings, hoping that their passing was registered by their children.
James’ sister Jessie Anne Robertson’s death was registered by a Francis Treasurer.
At a loss, Kath entered that name into a search engine, which led her to the Facebook page of St Mary’s Cathedral on Huntly Street and Frank Treasurer.
Frank, who lives in Bridge of Don and is the former principal teacher of Modern Studies at Hazlehead Academy, was then asked to provide a DNA sample to confirm he is a relative of Able Seaman Robertson.
Frank says the results, which confirmed the link, gave him an insight into a side of his family that was never spoken about.
He said: “I was quite shocked, especially since I had never heard anything about him.
“My mum, funnily enough, never mentioned anything about her family, I don’t know if he was her only brother.
“And when we went to go and see Granny Robertson, as we called her, it was more about getting sweets.”
The Battle of Arras lasted from April 9 to May 16 1917 and was a British offensive on the Western Front. Although Britain made the longest advance since trench warfare began, the battle ended up as a costly stalemate for both sides.
Although the battle was considered a victory for the British, they lost more than 150,000 casualties and little gain was made.
A rededication ceremony for James will be held at the Arras war memorial in France on July 11.
Along with the rededication, a message was needed for the grave, which Frank was happy to write.
It reads: “HEREIN lies Able Seaman James Cameron Robertson, lost in Gavrelle, France about 28th April 1917, but now reunited with the gallant forces who fought and died in World War One.”
James was part of the Anson Batallion of the 63rd Royal Naval Division, a unit that was called up to fight as part of the infantry forces during the war by future Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The circumstances of James’ death remain a mystery, and no pictures have yet been found of him, but the area that his remains were found in all but ensure that he died at the Battle of Arras in which 160,000 British soldiers lost their lives.
Frank says he is planning a trip to Arras with his wife Lorna to pay his respects to his long-lost relative.