By Patrick Flynn
The body of a British soldier executed and buried in Co Clare almost 100 years ago has been exhumed and will be reburied in Dublin.
18-year-old Private George Duff Chalmers was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the British Army’s Royal Scots based in Clare during the during the War of Independence.
He died on June 10, 1921 at Drumbaun, Co Clare after, it’s believed, he was captured and executed by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Early today, representatives of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), working alongside the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Clare County Council, exhumed the remains of Pvt Chalmers from a site near Miltown Malbay. Gardaí also attended the exhumation.
Pvt Chamlers' remains were taken to Ennistymon Church where a brief prayer service was held outside. He will be reburied at Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin while a rededication ceremony will take place later this year.
A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) said: “In 2017 the CWGC was contacted by the family of Private Chalmers who enquired about the possible relocation of his remains to an alternative location. CWGC identified that as the current location was difficult to access and maintain, relocation of the remains would be possible.”
The CWGC is responsible for commemorating the men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars, including the building and maintenance of cemeteries and memorials across the world.
War graves from the First World War located in Ireland are managed on CWGC behalf by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Private Chalmers had been with soldiers travelling to Moughna in a convoy of four lorries and is thought to have jumped from one of the trucks in the area of Lavoureen. It is believed he was on his way to visit a girl he had been seeing. It is thought he was soon captured by two members of the IRA and brought before a group of local IRA officers.
During his interrogation, he refused to give his name or any other information. He was subsequently court-martialed by the IRA executed on suspicion of being a spy on an intelligence-gathering mission.
The story became a part of folklore in the area. Locals had been told not to cut turf in the bog as a British soldier had been buried there.
However, some turf cutters dismissed the story as an old wives’ tale until the 1950s when a group of young men accidentally stumbled across what were believed to be Private Chalmers’ remains.
It is understood that they quickly reburied the remains and went cutting turf elsewhere. The grave was later marked with a cross while, about 20 years ago, an inscribed ‘slab’ was also placed at the site.