Headstone unveiled for Belgian refugee who helped Britain's war effort

Vesale Van Ruymbeke was buried at Rigg Cemetery near Gretna Credit: ITV Border

A headstone has been unveiled to a refugee from Belgium who was buried in an unmarked grave in Dumfries and Galloway from more than 100 years

Vesale Van Ruymbeke was just 28 when he died from Spanish flu in 1918, shortly after the end of the First World War. He'd fled Belgium after the German occupation and worked in the Gretna Munitions Factory where, as a chemical engineer, he helped develop weapons that aided Britain's victory in the war. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Rigg Cemetery near Gretna

Vesale Van Ruymbeke died on 22nd November 1918 Credit: Devil's Porridge Museum

It was never his family or friends intention, it was believed it would be a temporary measure and that he would be reburied in Belgium or France where his family also had associations but for one reason or another that never happen so he's lain here unknown ever since.

– Judith Hewitt, Devil's Porridge Museum
A service was held and the headstone unveiled at Rigg Cemetery Credit: ITV Border

After his story was featured as part of ITV Border's World War centenary coverage last year, local stonemason Peter Rae came forward and offered to make a headstone for free. A service was carried out, organised by the Devil's Porridge Museum at Eastriggs which brought his story to light. A wreath was laid by Dorothy Seaton and Gordon Routledge who carried out much of the research

I just felt slightly saddened that this young man was lying in a foreign country for 100 years and I think everyone should be remembered so I thought I would make him a small headstone"

– Peter Rae, Stonemason

Watch Hannah McNulty's report below