A soldier who was known only to God

In the August/September 2016 issue of The Wychwood, the finding of an unidentified body of an Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry Officer near Arras in Northern France was mentioned. There have since been further interesting developments, as reported by Tom Shannon of Shipton, culminating in the identification of the soldier.

The background is that, on the 3rd May 1917, the 5th Battalion of the regiment attacked the enemy who were holding a well-established and fortified trench. The survivors were forced to withdraw with over 300 officers and men listed as killed, wounded or missing that day, including two young Second Lieutenants who were never found.

Ninety-six years later, a local farmer discovered the remains of a body. It was established that the remains were from an officer of the 5th Battalion, based on the discovery of artefacts, including a button, whistle, pocket watch and fragments of uniform. At that time, the body could not be identified.

Tom Shannon and his colleague Ingram Murray have spent eight years researching the identity of Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry officers missing near Arras. In October 2021, after many false leads, they finally identified this young officer as Osmond Bartle Wordsworth, a great nephew of the poet Wordsworth.  His grave will now be marked with a named headstone by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Their success was reported in the national press and Tom and Ingram are now planning to write a book on their search. There is also a blog on the SOFO website. . Osmond Bartle Wordsworth – The Missing Great War Officer Finally Identified – Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum.

Tom is due to give a talk on his research to the Wychwoods Local History Society in November.

Christine Halliday

February – March 2022