Fusilier Edward Graham – From County Durham to Maletto in Sicily.

We are absolutely honoured to confirm that a re-dedication ceremony for Fusilier Edward Graham will take place at Catania CWGC cemetery on Wednesday 4th October 2017.

After years of exhaustive research undertaken by Fusilier Graham’s twin sons, Edward and Sydney, they recently learnt that the CWGC and the MoD have confirmed that the “Known Unto God Royal Irish Fusilier” buried at Catania (in Plot IV, F25) marks the final resting place of their father, who was killed in the early morning of 13th August 1943 during the advance of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (the Faughs) from Maletto to Randazzo on the north western slopes of Mount Etna.

The re-dedication ceremony in October will be a particularly poignant occasion for Edward and Sydney Graham, who were 22 days old when their father was killed – the family’s search to identify a resting place for their father has taken 74 years. Our thoughts will also be directed towards the memory of Mrs Eveline Graham, who is not able to witness these most fitting commemorations of her husband’s life.

You can watch a short interview with Edward Graham here.

An excerpt of the the war diaries of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers for 13th August 1943, which covers the period of Fusilier Graham’s death, reads:

0130 Remainder of Bttn, with A Coy leading, followed by Bttn HQ. C Coy moved off down the road. When about 3 miles from the final objective, the leading platoons of B Coy under Lieut Bolton ran into an ambush, three were killed and four seriously wounded by about 4 MG 34s. The reason why this platoon had got so far ahead was because the main body of the coy had encountered a number of S mines. ..

During the Faughs’ fighting advance from Centuripe to Maletto in the early part of August 1943, they suffered over 100 casualties, with 37 men being killed. Three of these men, including Fusilier Graham, were not found and identified at the time and their names are currently commemorated on Panel 11 of the Cassino Memorial. During the forthcoming commemorations in Sicily, we shall also be paying appropriate respects to the more than 2,000 men who are buried at Catania, and particularly remembering the two other unidentified Faughs: Fusilier Thomas Davies from Droylesden and Fusilier John Steel from Warwick.

The full narrative of the Irish Brigade’s campaign in Sicily, written by Brigadier Nelson Russell, can be found here.

A photo of Catania CWGC Cemetery taken after the end of the war.

The detail below had been kindly sent to us in 2014 by Fusilier Graham’s son, Edward:

“Edward Graham was born on 18th July 1912 in the mining village of Chopwell, County Durham, England and was the only son of Sarah Ann Graham. He came from a mining family with his grandfather, uncles and cousins all being engaged in the mining industry.

Edward had enlisted in the Territorial Army on 2nd May 1935, joining up with the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Private Graham would answer the call to arms on the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939, although, he was soon transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers and this led to him being posted in 1940 to Ballykinler, County Down. The Faughs were regrouping after their withdrawal from Dunkirk and were re-training in preparation for further military action.

Whilst stationed at Ballykinler, he met Eveline McBride of Portaferry, County Down, and they were married in Ballyphilip (C of Ireland) Church on 25th January 1941. They set up home in Portaferry and their first son, John Joseph Graham, was born later in the year but sadly died soon after his birth.

Panel 11 at Cassino CWGC cemetery.

In November 1942, the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers embarked for North Africa with the rest of the Irish Brigade and would be involved in bitter fighting over the next six months in the advance towards Tunis. After two months of rest and then further intensive training, the Irish Brigade joined the Allied campaign in Sicily, arriving at Casibile, south of Syracuse, in late July 1943. The brigade become involved in a very tough and bloody campaign, fighting their way up the western side of Mt Etna. Along with the rest of the 78th Infantry Division, they faced some extremely fierce resistance from the German defensive forces on the island. The Irish Brigade would fight four battles from 2nd August 1943 onwards – a 11 day period that included the final assault on the hill top town of Centuripe, the crossings of both the Salso and Simeto rivers and the final advance from Maletto towards Randazzo.

On August 13th, after they had cleared the village of Maletto and were preparing to press forwards towards Randazzo on the foothills of Mount Etna, Fusilier Graham was part of a small party sent out to reconnoitre the forward area. At this point, the recce group would come under machine gun fire and several men were lost, amongst them was Edward Graham, who at the time was posted “Missing, Presumed Killed”-  although his body was not ever recovered.

On 22nd July 1943, three weeks before Fusilier Graham’s death, Eveline had given birth to twin boys, Edward and Sydney Graham, but it is unlikely that Edward ever received news of this happy event.

Edward Graham is commemorated on the memorial plaque in Ballyphilip Parish Church, Portaferry, on the rood screen in St John’s Church, Chopwell, County Durham and also on Panel 11 of the CWGC War Memorial in Cassino, Italy.

Faugh a Ballagh.


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