Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Thursday, 6 May 2010 11:23 UK

Plea to save World War I Lancashire Fusilier remains

Sir Gilbert's grave in San Sebastian, courtesy of Terry Dean
Sir Gilbert died in 1962 and did not leave any children

A historian is appealing to the relatives of a Lancashire World War I soldier after the Spanish authorities placed an eviction notice on his grave.

Sir Gilbert Mackereth, whose body is buried in a San Sebastian cemetery, will be exhumed and disposed of due to unpaid taxes on the plot.

Terry Dean, of the Western Front Association, wants to bring his ashes back to The Fusilier Museum in Bury.

Sir Gilbert commanded the 17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his outstanding bravery during WWI.

In April 1917 he crawled into no man's land in Saint Quentin in France to rescue a group of soldiers who were lost and in danger. He took control and saved them all.

Mr Dean is determined to make sure his remains are not just exhumed and scattered in Spain, but should be brought back to Lancashire.

By the sounds of it he was a great man who shot up the ranks in the British Army
Terry Dean, local historian

Sir Gilbert's wife died in 1979, 17 years after her husband passed away and they did not have any children. The council in San Sebastian have no other family contact, hence Mr Dean's plea to any relatives.

After reading and writing about Sir Gilbert's life, he visited the war hero's grave and laid a poppy tribute and a note last summer.

Just months after his visit, he received an e-mail from a local resident, Cristina Garcia, who had seen an eviction note on Sir Gilbert's grave and wanted to warn the historian.

Since, Mr Dean, has written to the Spanish authorities, his local MEPs and the Western Front Association and is desperate for any relatives to come forward.

Roll of honour

Mr Dean, of Preston, believes he may have family in Bolton, who have the surname of Hornby.

Sir Gilbert's father had four sisters and in the 1880s his paternal grandfather was Minister of the New Jerusalem Church in Bolton.

He said: "I really want to bring his remains back to this country and see his ashes scattered in the Gallipoli gardens at the Fusilier Museum.

"By the sounds of it he was a great man who shot up the ranks in the British Army.

"I want to establish a roll of honour, called Mackereth, so we can put the names of any other soldiers who have had their remains scattered here."

Mr Dean has received several e-mails from the Spanish authorities who said: "The owners of the grave of Sir Gilbert Mackereth owed the total of 330,22 euros, for maintenance of cemeteries.

"If someone wants to dispose of his remains they would pay 662,46 euros, and come here to take his remains.

"If there is not anybody to take care of this we are going to take his remains and give the grave to someone else."

The local funeral service in Spain have said his remains could be retrieved.

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