THE body of a war hero is to be exhumed from his grave in Spain and repatriated to the UK – following a row over the cost of tending to his burial plot.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Gilbert Mackereth MC – whose only remaining relative is retired Knowle bank manager, John Sloan – commanded the 17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers towards the end of the 1914-18 conflict, and won the coveted Military Cross in April 1917.
He survived the war and retired to San Sebastian in Spain, where he was buried in a municipal grave.
But an on-going dispute over the cost of tending the grave has led to a decision to move his remains.
He will be the first British First World War veteran to be exhumed, since the burial of the historic Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey in 1920.
His remains will then be cremated, and his ashes placed in the Gallipoli Garden adjacent to Lancashire Fusiliers Museum, in Bury.
Mr Sloan had never met his illustrious relative, and he was shocked when he learned that authorities in the northern Spanish city had threatened to evict the soldier’s remains from the grave – in a dispute over unpaid local fees and taxes.
Mr Sloan said: “Retaining my cousin’s grave in Spain would pass the problem onwards a maximum of two generations. Repatriation of his remains will ensure he is not forgotten, and create the opportunity for his and other soldier’s deeds to be better remembered.”
Sir Gilbert died in 1962 after service in the diplomatic corps, which took him to Asia, Africa, and South America.
Mr Sloan added: “The family was very proud of Gilbert and talked of him a great deal, although I never actually met him.
“It will be a very poignant moment when Gilbert’s remains are returned to the UK. Hopefully this can coincide with the Armistice commemorations, on November 11.”