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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Reburial for Nelson's comrades
The burial of 30 British sailors
The sailors have been laid to rest 200 years after the battle
The bodies of 30 British soldiers and sailors and their families, who died during Nelson's Nile campaign more than 200 years ago, have been reburied.

The remains - including three children and two women - were found during an archaeological dig on Nelson Island in Abu-Qir Bay near Alexandria, Egypt.

They were reinterred in a British military cemetery in Alexandria.

Only one of the dead - Master and Commander James Russell - has been formally identified.

Two-minute silence

The bodies were discovered on the small island by an Italian archaeologist looking for Greek and Roman artefacts. The old graves were in danger of being washed away as the sea eroded the island.

Chief petty officers were allowed to bring their wives on hazardous voyages and so children were often born at sea, said the BBC's Malcolm Brabant.

Of all those being buried, only one shows signs of being killed in action.

Lord Nelson
Our first objective was to make sure all these people got a proper burial, which we have achieved, and the second objective was to see what we could learn about Nelson's navy and that period
Nick Slope
Chairman, Nelson Society

The remains were reburied at the Military and War Memorial Cemetery at Al-Shatby with full military honours during Monday's ceremony.

The Britons were laid to rest in new graves 25 km (15 miles) from the island where they were hastily buried around 1800.

The ceremony was held to the sounds of a Egyptian Navy band and British buglers playing the last post. It was attended by military and diplomatic dignitaries, including the British Ambassador to Egypt, Sir Derek Plumbly.

Although possible names for some of the dead have been obtained by trawling naval records, only James Russell has been formally identified.

His descendent Gordon Watson, 87, from Hampshire, and his 83-year-old wife, Joan, travelled to Egypt for the ceremony.

'Real triumph'

After the ceremony, Mr Watson said: "It's marvellous to be related to this man ... It makes you proud to be English."

The service was the culmination of three years' excavation by a team led by Nick Slope, an archaeologist and naval historian who chairs the Nelson Society.

He said: "Our first objective was to make sure all these people got a proper burial, which we have achieved, and the second objective was to see what we could learn about Nelson's navy and that period.

"Over these three years we have learned tons about the Royal Navy - it has been a real triumph."

Pallbearer Dale Anderson, 24, a Royal Marine who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said: "Hopefully someone would do this for me if it happened to me."


SEE ALSO:
Handshake ends the Battle of the Nile
28 Jun 99 |  Middle East


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