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Gone but not forgotten: Final resting place of Great Ryburgh soldier killed during First World War in Palestine is discovered 100 years on

PUBLISHED: 11:43 19 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:32 19 April 2017

Stanley Curson was appointed to the Norfolk Regiment in January 25, 1916 and died in Palestine on April 19, 1917. Picture: Ryburgh Remembers

Stanley Curson was appointed to the Norfolk Regiment in January 25, 1916 and died in Palestine on April 19, 1917. Picture: Ryburgh Remembers

Archant

The final resting place of a serviceman who died in conflict in Palestine 100 years ago has, at long last, been located thanks to a community project that looks back at the lives of soldiers from a small Norfolk village who fought in the First World War.

Stanley Curson's grave in the Commonwealth cemetery in Gaza. Picture: Ryburgh Remembers Stanley Curson's grave in the Commonwealth cemetery in Gaza. Picture: Ryburgh Remembers

Stanley Curson from Great Ryburgh enlisted with the Norfolk Regiment in Norwich just 12 days after his 18th birthday. And, after seven months of training, he was sent to Palestine as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, where the British were fighting their way into Palestine against the Ottoman Turks, who controlled much of the Middle East.

The young soldier took part in one of the war’s fiercest battles, known as the Second Battle of Gaza, which saw the British suffer 6,000 casualties in just three days between April 17 and 19, 1917. Mr Curson and 158 others of the Norfolk Regiment were among them.

Mr Curson’s great niece, Dawn Goodings, has been working closely with researchers from the Ryburgh Remembers project since it launched in 2014 in an effort put together a biography of his life and locate his final resting place.

Today the Gaza Strip is populated by Palestinians but surrounded and blockaded by Israel. The two sides have been fighting over the land periodically for many years as part of the ongoing Arab/Israeli conflict and this made finding Mr Curson’s grave a huge challenge for the project.

Dawn Goodings has planted an apple tree at Ryburghs new community woodland in memory of her great uncle. Picture: Ian Burt Dawn Goodings has planted an apple tree at Ryburghs new community woodland in memory of her great uncle. Picture: Ian Burt

But researchers discovered that a small group of Palestinian gardeners had been keeping Commonwealth graveyards up to immaculate standards, despite the humanitarian situation. And, within 24 hours of contacting them, a gardener sent back a photograph of Mr Curson’s grave that was quickly forwarded to the family.

Ms Goodings said: “What can I say, but a huge thank you to them, I always thought that there might not be a grave so I can’t tell you how delighted I am.”

Mr Curson’s life is being celebrated at St Andrew’s Church where the bells are being rung at 2pm today to mark the occasion .

Ms Goodings has also planted an apple tree at Ryburgh’s new community woodland in memory of her great uncle. She said: “When the special peal of bells were first mentioned for Uncle Stan it must be three years ago and it seemed an age away, but now, we will be thinking of him.”

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