LIEUTENANT PAUL VICTOR DORNONVILLE DE LA COUR
ROYAL AIR FORCE
15TH MAY 1918 AGE 39
BURIED: ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL, FRANCE
How does Lieutenant Paul Dornonville de la Cour manage to have a personal inscription when he's commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial to the Missing, which means just that, that he was missing and doesn't have a body, let alone a grave with an inscription? The answer lies in the fact that Dornonville's body was misidentified and he was buried as another man; the mistake only being uncovered after several years of relentless research by that other man's mother.
On 15 May 1918, Captain FL Mond and Lieutenant EM Martyn were shot down in a dog fight over No Man's Land. Their burnt bodies were recovered and sent to the advanced dressing station at Smith's Farm to await burial; personal effects on Mond's body having first been removed and returned to his mother. On the same day, Captain JV Aspinall and Lieutenant PV Dornonville de la Cour were also shot down. Hearing of the two bodies at Smith's Farm, men from Aspinall and Dornonville de la Cour's squadron came to collect their bodies for burial. There was no one on duty who could correct them in their assumption that these were the bodies of 'their' men. It's worth remembering that the mix of fuel, wood and doped canvas meant that crashed aircraft burnt at a tremendous heat, often rendering bodies unrecognisable. So Mond and Martyn were buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery No. 2 as Aspinall and Dornonville de la Cour, and Mond and Martyn were registered as missing in action.
But Mrs Mond had received items from her son's body; she could not accept that it had never been recovered. She initiated a detailed search and eventually submitted a report to the War Graves Commission suggesting that her son and his co-pilot had been buried as Aspinall and Dornonville. Convinced by her argument, in March 1923 the War Graves Commission exhumed the two bodies - in the presence of Mrs Mond and Captain Aspinall's father. Their real identity was discovered and the headstone's replaced with the correct names - Mond and Martyn. Aspinall and Dornonville de la Cour were then registered as missing and their names added to the Arras Flying Memorial.
However, before all this happened Dornonville de la Cour's family had chosen a personal inscription for his grave and this still shows in the paper record for Doullens Communal Cemetery No. 2:
A former Danish officer
Who gave his life for humanity.