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HMS Albion honour WW1 British soldiers in Lithuania

HMS Albion and patrol boats honour WW1 British soldiers in Lithuania
1 July 2019
Sailors from Britain’s flagship and patrol boats paid their respects to British prisoners-of-war in one of the more remote cemeteries where the nation’s fallen are buried.

In a quiet, wooded park on the edge of Lithuania’s main port of Klaipeda, and next to a Russian war memorial, lie two British soldiers – Private J William Crockson of 1st Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, from Bermondsey in London; and Private Arthur Bunting of 22nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, aged 33, from Manchester.

Representatives of the Lithuanian Navy, plus sailors from HMS Albion and patrol boats Archer, Exploit and Charger visited Vittener Cemetery where the graves of Pte Crockson and his comrade are now adorned with poppy wreaths, featuring the crests of their respective regiments, laid by Lieutenants Josh Wilkinson and Ryan Grieg, and flowers placed by the host nation.

So why are two Britons buried in a cemetery in a country which did not exist in World War 1 and where there was no fighting involving British forces? Because at the time Klaipeda was part of the German Empire and known as Memel and the two soldiers were held in prisoners of war camps. 

It is an enormous privilege to come here and demonstrate that these two men who died lonely deaths far away from friends and family, are not forgotten, we do remember them.

HMS Albion’s Reverend Eddie Wills

Pte Crockson is believed to have died on June 27 1917 as a result of malnutrition and overwork – there was no Geneva Convention on the treatment of Prisoners of War at the time. He had been captured at Le Cateau in August 1914, only the second battle fought by British troops in France during the war.

Pte Bunting died of influenza one month after the armistice on December 13 1918 as the ‘Spanish flu’ swept around the world killing between 50 and 100 million people (the death toll for the Great War was ‘only’ 17 military and civilian dead).

Local resident Victor Pheasy represented the British community in Klaipeda and presented a selection of books and magazines to the ship’s company attending the service as well as a framed photograph of his grandfather, a Royal Marine himself, with his unit aboard battleship HMS Malaya in 1925; it is now on display on the assault ship, which is leading Britain’s key deployment to the region this year: Baltic Protector.

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