SOLVED: 100-year-old family war mystery ends

Steve Embelton and his mum Shirley Nivens are travelling to France to visit Mr Embleton's great grandfathers grave.
Steve Embelton and his mum Shirley Nivens are travelling to France to visit Mr Embleton's great grandfathers grave.

A ONE hundred year family mystery surrounding the burial place of Steve Embelton's great grandfather has been solved.

The Springfield Lakes resident said his mother, Shirley Nivens, had mentioned about how her grand father fought in World War I and his final resting place had never been found.

"Since 1918 the family including my mother, believed he was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in France," Mr Embleton said.

Ms Nivens came to Australia as a "ten pound immigrant" back in 1948, her whole family never knew where her grand father was buried, including her grand mother.

So Mr Embelton started looking into the mystery: "I'm interested in history."

He found a scroll from the Royal family and a newspaper article at his aunts house in an old bible with some information including his great grandfathers service number.

 

Private John William Cannon died in World War I aged 35 at the Battle of Havrincourt on September 12, 1918.
Private John William Cannon died in World War I aged 35 at the Battle of Havrincourt on September 12, 1918.

A simple google search was able to locate Private John William Cannon, who had died in World War I aged 35 at the Battle of Havrincourt on September 12, 1918, on a UK war graves site.

"With a little research, using Google, I discovered that he was in fact buried at the Grand Ravine British Cemetery, Havrincourt.

"It's just incredible, I couldn't believe I found him."

Now Mr Embleton and his mother are travelling to France to visit the grave.

"It's going to be emotional when we go. There's only about 150 people buried there and a monument.

"Mum's 81 this year, I thought it would be cool if I can get his grand daughter over there," he said.

They will have two weeks in France, one week in Paris before they make their way down to Havrincourt.

"From what I can gather they shouldn't have been there."

Mr Embelton's research found that his great grandfather had already fought at Havrincourt the year before and due to his battalion's gallantry they were sent back.

 

A newspaper article detailing how Private John William Cannon gave blood to try and save a fellow soldier in World War I.
A newspaper article detailing how Private John William Cannon gave blood to try and save a fellow soldier in World War I.

"He was there through all the major battle fields and two months before the war ended he got killed."

During the battle of Havrincourt Private Cannon fought against German forces alongside New Zealanders.

"Despite German numerical superiority and strong fortifications within the town, by day's end Havrincourt was captured by British forces.

"My great grandfather worked as a miner before the outbreak of the first World War living in a town named Blyth, Northumberland in the United Kingdom with his wife, Elizabeth and two children.

"His son, Sydney who was only 11 years of age at the time, when he died, was my mother's father."

The newspaper clipping that Mr Embelton found detailed how his father tried to help save another soldiers life.

"My great grandfather was responsible for donating 1000cc of blood to help save the life of a Canadian named Lance Corporal Jeffrey Herbert Palmer. 

"Palmer was seriously injured at the Battle of Passchendaele the third battle of Ypres. 

"Unfortunately Palmer died some days later on the operating table to remove shrapnel from his stomach on October 13, 1917 and was subsequently buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

"Our visit will mark a very special occasion for our family who have not had the opportunity to pay our respects to my mother's Grandfather at his final resting place for 100 years."

Mr Embelton said it was important "to remember heroes like my great grandfather who like so many other soldiers fought and sacrificed not only their lives but their own futures in the hope of peace and a better world for their children and their children's children".

"Lest we forget."

Private Cannon had served in the United Kingdom Durham Light Infantry in the first and ninth battalion.

A memorial to his division was unveiled in 1922 at Havrincourt to remember their actions in 1917 and 1918.