The Scottish War Graves Project Forum Index The Scottish War Graves Project
Part of the Scottish Military Research Group (Registered Scottish Charity No. SC043826). Please visit our homepage at www.scottishmilitaryresearch.co.uk
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Seaman known unto God

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Scottish War Graves Project Forum Index -> Queries and Requests
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Norman Martin



Joined: 10 Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Oban

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2009 10:44 pm    Post subject: Seaman known unto God Reply with quote

Many unknown sailors lost during hostilities are beautifully interred in our cemeteries, under the above title "A seaman of the XXX war, known unto God" or similar, presumeably from many various nationalities and faiths.

Given the advances in DNA technology, is there not a case for a systematic effort to be made to recover sample material in an effort to create a database with a view to identifying each seaman, in order to give their families the comfort of closure, the knowledge of their discovery and resting place.

Our government assists and facilitates similar projects all over the modern war zones of Europe, why not on our own home ground.

Naturally this could include all Commonwealth War Graves, and all disciplines.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
David McNay
Site Admin


Joined: 21 Sep 2007
Posts: 1556
Location: Lanarkshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moving this to the Queries section.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
spoons



Joined: 02 Oct 2007
Posts: 1788
Location: St John's Town of Dalry

PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Norman, Welcome to the forum, your query reall set me thinking.

I know that they use DNA techniques to identify bodies before they are buried, for example if a WW2 aircraft crash site is excavated but I have never heard of an existing war grave being exhumed for the purpose of identification. There must be many thousands of unidentified graves, especially on the France and Flanders battlefields. Also of course in graveyards which are now lost or inaccessible, for example Baghdad.

I don't think your idea will happen because there are considerable costs involved, exhuming the body, the DNA process (if you can find relatives who will give DNA for comparison), reburial, new gravestone, amendments to official records etc.

How would you deal with mass or multiple graves? I think enough people would object to make it difficult to do and I don't think there is the money or the will to take on such a mammoth task.

DNA degrades over time so it may well be that many of the bodies would not produce DNA of sufficient quality to permit identification.

I think this will be done for new casualties, or bodies newly discovered but I cannot imagine exhumation of burials to provide identification.

\Paul
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Norman Martin



Joined: 10 Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Oban

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not an expert, but I envisaged some way of probing to recover material rather than wholesale exhumation.

Multiple burials - all the graves I'm thinking of have been single burials. They occur in relatively small numbers throughout the islands and coastal cemeteries, just wherever remains came ashore.

DNA degregation - maybe but why not try?

Norman
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
LST_164



Joined: 13 Feb 2009
Posts: 10
Location: Northeast Wales

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not absolutely convinced that DNA degradation in a 20th century body would be a conclusive single argument against the possibility of some sort of ID being obtained.

Scientists have retrieved valid DNA from prehistoric bodies (usually from the teeth), enabling them with some certainty to classify our own European strains from the Ice Age onwards. The populations of modern-day UK villages have even been tested (at some expense) by the media so as to "surprise" certain persons with the revelation that they are definitely related to the Bronze Age burial that was found locally. Makes for good TV.

I think that expense is the main factor in not doing this as a policy. When a mass grave of Grimsby Chums was located on the Western Front a few years ago, a TV programme on WW1 forensics showed relatives of a local man who had gone missing in that action requesting a DNA test. The MOD scientist being interviewed batted that one into the long grass on the grounds that such testing wasn't conclusive; that the DNA degraded; and so on.

Yet the current investigation of the Australian mass grave at Fromelles has elicited statements from their government that DNA tests will be carried out to try to determine if relatives can be found. So maybe not so questionable a procedure after all, scientifically speaking?

I have to add, such testing would indeed set precedents and could open a floodgate of enquiries, and would be massively expensive. There would have to be a good reason why a body should be exhumed in order to test it. The American Unknown Vietnam War Warrior was tested in this way and positively identified and reburied accordingly. They have in consequence decided not to replace his with another "unknown" body. Would we really want to know who is the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey?

Clive
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Norman Martin



Joined: 10 Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Oban

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that.

Science moves so quickly these days.
Since my original post there have been press reports of studies of Neanderthal Man DNA, while others suggest that medical treatment will be based on DNA analysis of the whole population in the not too distant future, as new fast and cheap methods are discovered.

Perhaps in ten years these things will be commonplace, and tracing family connections will be simple, rather than expensive.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Norman Martin



Joined: 10 Jan 2009
Posts: 4
Location: Oban

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 8:53 am    Post subject: DNA quest to identify First World War heroes buried without Reply with quote

See "Times" story at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article7061740.ece
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Scottish War Graves Project Forum Index -> Queries and Requests All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group. Hosted by phpBB.BizHat.com