St Werburgh's Roman Catholic Parish, Chester

Constant Wauters

Soldaat First Line Infantry, Belgian Army 2KLBV1906

Died: 11-03-1915 age 26

Constant was born in Gent, Belgium on 25 December 1888. His address on enlisting was Martelarenlaan 355, Gent. Constant and other injured Belgian soldiers had been treated together with British soldiers in a medical facility in France. They were then all sent on a hospital train to England. Constant arrived in England in October 1914, and was sent eventually to Richmond House, 123 Boughton, Chester, which was a private house turned into an auxiliary hospital for the duration of the war. It was the main centre for injured Belgian soldiers in Cheshire and also housed some British soldiers. Persons sent on the hospital trains were thought to have a good chance of survival. Nevertheless, his time here must have been difficult for Constant, as his wife and two small children remained in Belgium. Constant was originally suffering from a severe wound. Initially the wound appeared to be healing well and it was thought that he might eventually be discharged. However, meningitis later set in.

Constant was seriously ill for about six weeks and unconscious for about fourteen days. During this time, nuns from the Little Sisters of the Assumption Convent in Chester sat with him night and day, in order to take care of his needs and to release other nurses for duty on the rest of the ward. Constant died on the morning of Thursday 11 March 1915. His coffin was received into St Werburgh's Church on Friday evening and lay there overnight. His funeral was conducted on Saturday 13 March with full military honours. A Requiem Mass was sung at 10.00am, the coffin covered by the Belgian colours and resting before the high altar. The celebrant was Father Loos, a Belgian priest who was resident at St Werburgh's at this time and who served the Belgian refugee population of Chester and surrounding area. All Belgian refugees throughout the north-west appear to have made their way to St Werburgh's and after the mass Fr Loos addressed the congregation in Flemish and French. During the morning many Cestrians came to pay their respects at the coffin, which eventually became covered with wreaths. Lady Mackinnon brought a wreath from Government House and the local Red Cross sent a cross of red roses on a white blossom background. The Cheshire Regiment sent a laurel wreath tied with the Belgian colours. Alongside these was placed a wreath of violets from Constant's wife.

At 2.45pm the funeral procession left the church, accompanied by four priests, Canon Chambers (rector), Fr Hayes, Fr O'Hara and Fr Loos. The coffin was conveyed to Overleigh Cemetery on a transport wagon draped with the national flags. The local Artillery Corps provided four horses to pull the wagon. The Depot band played funeral marches and the Depot also provided a firing party. The military procession included detachments from the Depot, the 5th Cheshire, the Artillery and the Yeomanry. Crowds of respectful spectators lined the streets. Fr Loos officiated at the interment in Grave 11864.

This funeral was the first and only funeral of a Belgian combatant to take place in the Chester area and Constant's grave is the only grave of a Belgian combatant to be found in Overleigh Cemetery.