Seek and you WILL find …

Just in time for Remembrance Sunday, I finished a wonderful book called “The Searchers”: The Quest for the Lost of the First World War.

By November 1918, the whereabouts of over half a million British soldiers remained unknown, and the book details some of the extraordinary searches for the missing which go on to this day.

This is one of those remarkable stories …

On a damp and misty morning in March 1918, Lieutenant Eric Hayter was killed.

Hayter’s father, a Colonel also serving on the Western Front, vowed to find his son and build a memorial to commemorate his life. 

Despite contacting soldiers on both sides who had fought during this action asking for help, Eric’s whereabouts remained elusive.

His search went on for more than a year with no progress…

Evidence as to his son’s whereabouts remained patchy and elusive.

But then Colonel Hayter received a letter from a German soldier who enclosed a rough hand-drawn map showing where he believed Eric had been buried.

But this yielded little, and yet more fruitless searches followed over several years.

Undeterred, Hayter continued to visit the battlefield in France, digging up land owned by a local farmer where he believed Eric had fallen.

By now more than six years had passed since his son’s death, and Hayter senior decided enough was enough…

Negotiating with the farmer, he tried to buy a small plot of land to erect his memorial to Eric, but the landowner’s demands were high and negotiations ground to a halt.

In desperation, Colonel Hayter contacted a local countess who owned land on the other side of a nearby road but still close to the area where Eric had lost his life.

Listening to the father’s plight, she quickly and willingly sold him the plot he so desired.

Digging of the foundations of Eric’s memorial swiftly followed and just three feet down in the Flanders earth they came across the remains of a British soldier.

The regimental buttons and five gold crowns on his teeth confirmed who it was.

Father and son were reunited.

Proof if it was ever needed that if we search long and hard enough, we will eventually find what we’re looking for.

Here’s to wishing you a long, restful, and reflective break over the festive period.

Stay safe.