News story: Grave of World War 1 sailor rededicated 100 years after his death

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  1. The grave of Able Seaman (AB) Haco Dobson, who was killed on 23 December 1917 during the First World War while serving on HMS Tornado, has been rededicated after an administrative mistake in 1920 was finally corrected.

    At a service on 5 July in Noordwijk Cemetery, The Netherlands, the grave of AB Dobson was rededicated in his name during a moving service attended by surviving members of his family. The service, led by Royal Navy Chaplain The Reverend Stuart Hallam, was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, part of Defence Business Services.

    On 23 December 1917, 4 British destroyers; Torrent, Tornado, Surprise and Radiant were travelling in convoy along the coastline of Holland when they sailed into a German minefield. Torrent was hit first and started to sink. Surprise went to her rescue and suffered the same fate. Tornado tried to get free of the minefield but detonated 2 mines and was sunk with only 1 survivor. Only the fourth destroyer, Radiant, managed to escape unharmed to return home safely.

    An article dated 25 March 1918, from a local newspaper called “Haarlems Dagblad”, detailed the discovery of a British sailor found washed ashore on the beach at Zandvoort. The sailor was wearing a belt with the details “H Dobson 3161” written on it. During the First World War, it was not uncommon for those lost at sea during battles to later be found on Dutch beaches. They were usually buried at local cemeteries. After the war, in 1920, it was decided that all graves should be exhumed and reburied at four locations including Noordwijk. However, during this process, an administrative error on the funeral return incorrectly listed H Dobson as W E Dobson. Because no record of a ‘W E Dobson 3161’ could be found by the then Imperial War Graves Commission, his grave was marked as a ‘British Seaman of the Great War Known Unto God’. Recent research has now uncovered the error, leading to the service in AB Dobson’s honour

    Attending the service were relatives of Haco Dobson, who was born in Penrith, Cumbria, including his niece Joan Loftus, great nephew Kieran Loftus, great niece Deidre Loftus and great great nephew, Ronan.

    AB Dobson’s niece Joan Loftus receiving the Union Flag - Crown Copyright

    89 year old Joan Loftus said:

    It was a very special day and we just weren’t expecting such a wonderful service. We are all so proud of Haco.

    Also present were representatives from the Ship’s Company of HMS Hurworth representing the Royal Navy, local historian Mark Siljmans who provided key assistance and research in the case of AB Dobson, the Mayor and alderman of Noordwijk and British Embassy representative Lt Nicola Lauder.

    Family members and representatives from Ship's Company attend the service of AB Dobson - Crown Copyright

    Nicola Nash from MOD’s JCCC, said:

    I am honoured to be in Noordwijk to commemorate Haco. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his county and this service was a fitting tribute to his courage and bravery.

    A new headstone bearing AB Dobson’s name has been provided by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who will now care for his final resting place in perpetuity.

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