HISTORY: Forgotten soldier remembered at last
NINETY-FIVE years after he was cut down on the killing fields of Ypres in Belgium, a Jewish soldier received a visit from his great, great niece.
Thirteen-year-old Sarah Wortman, who attends King Solomon High School in Barkingside, was on a school trip to the town and paid a special visit to the grave of Rifleman Wolf Green.
Wolf was just 19 when he was killed fighting the Germans in August 1917, but no-one from his family even knew of his last resting place until a few years ago when they began researching their family tree.
Sarah’s mother, Janet, 45, said: “My father knew that his uncle was killed in the First World War, but that was all my grandfather Manassah was ever prepared to reveal about his brother.
“It was only when my mum Ruth started compiling a family tree that we began to find out about Wolf.”
When they looked further, the family discovered that Wolf’s short life had been a tragic one.
He was orphaned at the age of just six and placed in Norwood orphanage with two-year-old Manassah.
The boys’ parents, Lewis and Leah, died of TB in the poverty stricken east end within a month of each other in 1904, just a year after losing their daughter, Sarah.
Janet said: “There are no detailed records of him in the orphanage, and my grandfather refused to discuss his death.
“But my mum contacted the War Graves Commission and they found the records and established he was buried in Ypres.
“So when we found out the school was visiting the town, I thought ‘ooh!’ and my daughter asked if they could pay a special visit to Wolf.”
The school helped track down Wolf’s grave among the hundreds of thousands in Ypres.
Sarah said: “When we arrived at the cemetery I was allowed to pay my respects, on my own, to my great, great uncle and it was a really special and emotional moment.”
Teachers and students said a Kaddish, a special Jewish memorial prayer for dead relatives, as Sarah stood in the cemetery.
Looking at the photo of her daughter by Wolf’s grave, Janet added: “I know my father would have been pleased that Sarah visited Ypres.
“He was in poor health when we found out where Wolf was buried and, as much as he would have liked to, he never got the chance to visit.
“Wolf lived such a short sad life and I like to think that maybe he is resting in peace now that his family are remembering him.”