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Message #2823

Board Name: England
Aurel Sercu Ieper, Belgium Nov 24, 2000

I am spokesman of the Diggers, a team of amateur-archaeologists who have been active for the past years on a W.W. I battlefield at Boezinge, near Ieper (Ieper), Belgium.

The past 10 days have been hectic for us. Not so much because of the very successful exhibition we had, displaying our finds and informing a large audience about our activities (we had several hundred British visitors as well), but also because tabloids and a certain type of related TV-programme makers took advantage of Poppy Day and our exhibition to start a smear campaign with insinuations and allegations that we are 'ghouls' and 'grave robbers'. Disproving this is easy, though it takes a lot of our time. But it is made easier as we have the full support of the Ieper municipal authorities, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Belgian Ministry of Interior.

So this was quite an exciting time. But as things are calming down (which does not mean that the procedure to demand satisfaction from the accusers involved has not started), we have time to do what we consider our duty : being ahead of the excavators and bulldozers on the site, in order to make sure that the remains we find will get a proper burial in due time. (Last weekend we found the remains of 5 soldiers, and located several more, to be handed to the authorities with all items found with the remains.)

But let me get to the point : another moment of excitement. Some days ago we found shreds of a canvas (tent or raincoat). Yesterday night (it was after midnight) I finally found the time to examine it, a job which took a lot of patience and 2 hours. And to my amazement I found that the owner had written his name and service number in it. Twice even : once in capitals, once in normal handwriting.

His name : E. COLEMAN

His service number : 1142 (though a fragment of the canvas being lost, a figure may have preceded the first 1)

Elsewhere on the piece of canvas I read : C LF. C may stand for Company. The part before the C unfortunately was torn off ; the number of the Company?). LF probably stands for Lancashire Fusiliers. (Remains and insignia of Lancashire Fusiliers were found on the site in the past months, but also Rifle Brigade, Somerset Light Infantry, East Lancashire and York & Lancashire).

It has always been my sincere wish to hand found items to relatives of the soldier. Up to now I was successful only once (the relatives of George Herbert Parker, Barnsley, who even sent me (last September) his war medal for our exhibition).

Of course I will go to great lengths to try to contact the relatives of the owner of the canvas. My first preliminary research today taught me that, fortunately for him, the British Tommy survived the war. Unfortunately for us, if I may say so, this means that we cannot find his identity. I only have access to a list of soldiers who died or who were missing.

E. COLEMAN, number ...(?)1142 is not on the list.

Now my question : Who can tell me the way to find more about his identity (where and when he was born, the place where he lived, enlisted, his wife (?)). Does anybody have an address of an institution that can help me ? (Somebody told me of an institution in London, but they ask 20, I was told, even if their attempts are unsuccessful.)

And of course, if anybody remembers that his granddad or greatgranddad was an E. Coleman who fought near Ypres (Ieper) ... But that would be too wonderful.

Thanks to anybody who might answer.

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