British soldiers' graves honoured in Shanghai cemetery

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Media captionA visit from HMS Daring gave the British Armed Forces a chance to honour the rediscovered graves

Four British soldiers have been honoured more than 75 years after they were killed by Japanese troops.

The men were the first British troops to be killed during Japan's invasion of China in 1937.

A senior officer from HMS Daring laid a wreath at the soldiers' graves in Shanghai on Wednesday.

A search for the graves was prompted by a request from one of the men's relatives to Prime Minister David Cameron.

The men - Patrick McGowan, James Mellon, William Christopher Howard and Joseph O'Toole - were members of the Royal Ulster Rifles.

They had been sent to defend the international settlement in Shanghai when Japan invaded in 1937.

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Media captionSarah Moran's request to David Cameron prompted the search for the graves

It was thought that their graves had been destroyed by Chairman Mao during China's Cultural Revolution.

But gravestones for the men were found in the Song Qing Ling cemetery in Shanghai after a search by staff at the British consulate and Shanghai-based British historian, Mark Felton.

Political outcry

They were involved after Sarah Moran, a niece of Patrick McGowan, contacted the prime minister for help in tracking down her uncle's grave.

Mr McGowan, who was from Londonderry, was 25 when he was killed.

His death caused a political outcry and was raised in the House of Commons.

Ms Moran, who is also from Derry, had received a letter from the the Chinese government saying that a multi-storey car park had been built on the site of her uncle's grave.

"It was important to honour his memory," she said.

"I was very pleased to hear this news. There is a stone in place now with his name on it.

Image caption The four soldiers were buried in 1937 with full military honours

"I'm delighted to hear that they laid a wreath and held a gun salute at the site.

"I have two letters from the Chinese government and they said that his remains no longer exist and that was the end of the story.

"It would be lovely to travel out there and see the site and the stone."

HMS Daring was on a visit to Shanghai and Rear Adm Matthew Parr, accompanied by Capt Rupert Hollins, paid their respects by laying flowers at the gravestones.

They were accompanied by Consul General Brian Davidson, who said: "With the visit of HMS Daring we are moved to be able to come here today to pay our respects."

A fifth member of the Royal Ulster Rifles, Rifleman R Delaney, died of his wounds several days after the others.

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