Graves of Isle of Wight soldiers caught in the crossfire in Gaza

By Ross Findon

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

 

Graves of Isle of Wight soldiers caught in the crossfire in Gaza

Channel 4 News reporter Paul Mason, with an unexploded tank shell, which hit the Commonwealth cemetery in Deir al-Balah, where members of the Isle of Wight Rifles are buried. Picture courtesy of Channel 4 News.

A CEMETERY in which many Isle of Wight soldiers are buried has been hit in the latest fighting in Gaza.

The Commonwealth cemetery at Deir al-Balah is the site of about 180 graves of men from the Isle of Wight Rifles, killed in the Second Battle of Gaza in 1917.

Channel 4 News reporter Paul Mason visited the cemetery for a report broadcast last night (Monday).

  Gaza cemetery
 The Cemetery at Deir al-Balah.

"It has taken a couple of Israeli shells in this war, one of which luckily did not go off," he reported.

The cemetery, which is in the centre of Gaza and has been maintained by the same Palestinian family for three generations, was badly damaged during fighting in 2009.
A spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said the family had been advised to stay at home during the recent fighting, for their own safety.
"Our understanding is that the cemetery is ok, but we will be keeping a close eye on it.

"We have an office in Israel and through the British Embassy we have been getting regular information.

"Our concern is not just for the cemetery, but for the safety of the team who has maintained it superbly under challenging circumstances."

A 72-hour ceasefire started this morning.

Click here to view Paul Mason's report for Channel 4 news, which starts around three minutes in.

Factfile – The Isle of Wight Rifles and the Second Battle of Gaza.

Almost 800 men from the Isle of Wight Rifles took part in the Second Battle of Gaza during the First World War.

They were part of an attack by around 30,000 British Troops on a well-defended position of 20,000 Turkish troops.

Of 769 Isle of Wight Rifles soldiers to take part in the failed attack, including 23 officers and 746 other ranks, 248 were listed as killed or missing in action after the battle with 298 wounded. Two officers and 28 other men were taken prisoner.

Casualty information supplied thanks to Gareth Sprack, of the Isle of Wight Rifles Living History Society.

Reporter: ross.findon@iwcp.co.uk

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