After 100 years, British WW1 sailor identified in Denmark

The Local Denmark
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After 100 years, British WW1 sailor identified in Denmark
'HMS Castor. Wounded Received After the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916' by Jan Gordon. Photo: Imperial War Museum"

A British sailor who died in a sea battle off the Danish coast in 1916 has been identified after a century in an anonymous grave.


Harry Gasson served as an able seaman on board HMS Castor and was killed during the Battle of Jutland on May 31st, 1916, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Gasson’s body was recovered on the Danish coast near Esbjerg in September that year and buried at Esbjerg New Cemetery with the grave inscription ‘A British Seaman of the Great War’.

The clash between the British and German navies off the coast of Jutland was the largest maritime battle of the First World War. After several running battles over two days, 25 ships and over 8,500 men were lost in total by both sides, including Able Seaman (AB) Gasson of the flagship HMS Castor, which itself survived the battle after engaging with German battleships on the evening of May 31st.

A century later, the sailor’s identity was finally uncovered when Bob Cobley, representative for the CWGC in Denmark, connected a comment in the burial records of Esbjerg’s Church of Zion (Zions Kirke) with those of a missing sailor from the Castor.

The name ‘H. Gossom’ was written in the lining of the trousers of the sailor later buried at Esbjerg, according to the church notes.

While no sailor of that name is listed as having served in the British navy during WW1, Cobley discovered a Harry Gasson on the list of missing servicemen from the Battle of Jutland and was able to conclude that Gasson and Gossom were one and the same - the misspelled recording likely to have been caused by damage to the trousers after months in the water.

“I was very moved. I have come very close to the man, and now we have finally been able to identify him,” Cobley, who first visited the cemetery in 1972, told DR.

Gasson will now be honoured with a new gravestone bearing his own name, with the rededication ceremony to take place in Esbjerg on May 31st, the 100th anniversary of his death.

“We will hold a ceremony where it will be possible to pay respect to this fallen sailor. Harry’s family will have a place to remember and honour their family member,” Nicola Nash of the British Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre told DR.



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