Bid to get headstone erected on unmarked grave of Worksop solider - more than 100 years after his death

A cross has been erected over the unmarked grave of a Worksop soldier who fought in World War One – more than a century after his death.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 8:21 pm

The final resting place of Thomas Highton has been commemorated thanks to a project by the Worksop branch of the Royal British Legion.

The RBS decided to commemorate men from Worksop who fell in the Great War by attaching large plastic poppies on lampposts and street signs outside houses in the town where some of these men had lived prior to the war.

Gary Kyriacou,who lives on Park Street, was interested to find out through the project that his house had been occupied by Thomas Highton, whose name appears on the Worksop’s war memorial.

Robert Ilett standing behind the grave with the cross installed, flanked by the two men in authentic Notts and Derby Regiment uniforms of 1918.

Gary decided to find out more about the soldier, who died in 1919 due to illnesses contracted during his service in India.

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His investigation led him to discovering his unmarked grave.

Worksop branch secretary of the RBL, Grant Cullen, said: “Gary was, understandably surprised that Thomas’s grave in the local cemetery had never been marked with neither a family headstone nor a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave marker and raised this with Adie Platts, of the local RBL and the driver behind the project to put named poppies on local streets where fallen soldiers had lived.

“Both agreed that attempts should be made to put this omission right as from the records, there was evidence that Thomas’s death could be attributed to his military and war service.

"Adie proceeded to enter into correspondence with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to persuade them, by submission of evidence, that Thomas’s last resting place should be marked with one of their headstones.”

Whilst waiting on a decision Men in Sheds, an organisation run by Age UK, stepped in to have a temporary grave marker made from antique oak.

Representatives brought it along on May 1 – almost 102 years to the day when Thomas died, for installation on the spot where he is buried.

L/Sgt Highton enlisted at Worksop in 1909 in the Sherwood Foresters Special Reserve, age 17.

After his training, he went with his regiment to India in September 1911 and contracted paratyphoid fever, malaria and tuberculosis.

On September 7 1914, he was sent to France and as he was wounded by gunshot to his right elbow and was returned back home on October 22, 1914.

He spent the next few years in England and was promoted to Cpl in Sept 1916 and L/Sgt in March 1917.

Whilst in Sunderland, he married Winifred Patricia Buchanan on April 4, 1917. Eventually he appeared before a medical board on September 13, 1918 and was discharged on September 19 1918 as being permanently unfit for army service due to persistent illnesses contracted during his service in India.

As well as his 1915 star, British and victory medal, he was awarded the Silver War badge as a member of the 3rd North Staffordshire Regiment.

If the application to the CWGC to place one of their grave markers is unsuccessful, there are plans to raise funds locally for a permanent gravestone to be acquired and installed.

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