Man finds grave of soldier grandfather, 102 years on

The previously "Unknown" grave was found in the Chattancourt cemetery

A man from Bourgogne-Franche-Comté has finally discovered his grandfather’s grave, 102 years after the latter was confirmed as having died in the First World War.

Jean-Pierre Wymann - who lives in Belfort (Territoire de Belfort) - this month discovered that his grandfather Aloïse Wyman is buried in tomb number 259 in the Chattancourt war cemetery in Meuse (Grand Est).

The discovery, made with the help of a local historian, comes after a century of research and mystery.

Aloïse Wymann’s family had been looking for his grave unsuccessfully since 1916, but, despite many visits to the area and much research, no resting place had ever been found.

The consensus was that “Aloïse Wymann has never been identified [but] must be buried somewhere nearby”.

Yet, in the course of his own research into unidentified French-Comté soldiers who were killed in combat, local historian Christophe Grudler called Aloïse’s grandson, Jean-Pierre Wymann, with more information.

The historian believed he had found Aloïse Wymann’s then-anonymous grave, thanks to the soldier’s old army matriculation number.

Upon further research, this was confirmed this month (July).

Now, the memorial cross bears the fallen soldier’s name: "WYMANN Aloïse Emile", instead of "Unknown soldier", and the entire family has travelled to the cemetery to honour their fallen ancestor.

The mystery began after a letter was sent to the family by the captain of Aloïse Wymann’s regiment in 1916.

The letter, which was sent with a package of the soldier’s last belongings, explained that Aloïse Wymann had died when a bomb had exploded near the Fort de Bois Bourrus, north-west of Verdun.

Several other soldiers were also killed in the incident, the letter explained, with their remains buried in “a little cemetery a few kilometres away”.

The letter added: “We will give you the name of the cemetery after the fighting has finished, if you wish.” But no more letters ever arrived.

Aloïse Wymann’s son - who was just three years old when his father died - then spent his life searching the area for his father’s grave; a mission that was later taken up by his own son, Jean-Pierre.

No clue to the identity of the grave had ever been confirmed, until now.

Jean-Pierre Wymann said: "One night at 21h, I received this phone call. I know exactly what it was about because I had also been searching, in vain. So had my own father. I am infinitely grateful because now the link has been closed. I know where he is, and that is very important."

Historian Mr Gudler said: “The past is still present. If, as a historian, I can bring some comfort, and allow families to grieve properly, then it’s significant. Especially on a national level, given the homage that must be paid to these missing soldiers.”

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

More articles from French news
More articles from Connexion France
Other articles that may interest you