Digging in the chalky soil of his garden in Hénin-sur-Cojeul, a village near the town of Arras in Northern France, in 2013, a farmer made a grisly discovery.

Just below the surface was the obvious form of a humanskeleton.

The farmer called the gendarmerie at once — but it was soon decided that a different kind of detective work would be needed. It was not murder, for the watch was over 100 years old and there was some uniform. This was the remains of a soldier who had died.

A British officer, he had been killed in combat nearly 100 years ago and was shot through his heart.

Lieutenant Osmund Bartle Wordsworth's body was found in a garden in Hénin-sur-Cojeul, a village near the town of Arras in Northern France, more than 100 years after he was killed in the First World War

Lieutenant Osmund Bartle Wordsworth’s body was found in a garden in Hénin-sur-Cojeul, a village near the town of Arras in Northern France, more than 100 years after he was killed in the First World War

The Arras region was devastated by the Great War’s bitterest fighting in 1917. Around 160,000 British soldiers were killed in combat.

While many efforts were made after the Armistice of 1918 to bury those who had fallen, the families of hundreds were denied the peace of mind of knowing their husbands or wives’ graves or comfort from the fact that they could visit them.

Many human remains were discovered in this area and nearby towns and villages over the years.

Extensive investigation is required to identify the remains if they are not immediately identifiable. The bodies will be buried in a fitting manner while they wait for identification.

The body in Hénin-sur-Cojeul was painstakingly disinterred by a forensic archaeologist, using small trowels and spoons so as not to damage the fragile bones.

A DNA sample was taken and the remains were reburied at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s cemetery at Écoust-Saint-Mein, near Arras, with ‘Known Unto God’ the only tribute.

The missing officer's reburial service in 2015 at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery near Arras in 2015

Reburial of the missing officer at 2015 Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery close to Arras

He was found with his watch, along with a sword clip and torch. A whistle, which officers use to signal their advance, and pieces of uniform.

These were the Buckinghamshire Light Infantry regimental crests. The artifacts were then sent over the Channel to Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum where volunteers started an investigation to find the missing soldier.

Two retired officers Lieutenant Colonel Ingram Murray (retired) and Major Tom Shannon (retired), were responsible for the research. They have previously conducted similar investigations.

Lt Col Murray — father of the comedian and historian Al Murray — told the Mail this week that his work has been motivated partly by his own experiences of war. He was a 19 year-old 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Engineers and took part in 1956’s unsuccessful Suez Campaign.

‘The action was intense,’ he recalled, describing how he saw an officer killed while defusing explosives. ‘Egypt is hot, so we had to bury him quickly, in a blanket, in a small cemetery.’

The memory of that hasty burial stayed with him, although that officer’s family at least had the comfort of knowing what had happened.

By contrast, his wife’s father was killed near Dunkirk in May 1940: it took her mother 18 agonising months to learn of his fate and battlefield burial.

So Lt Col Murray and his colleagues were determined to discover the officer’s identity.

The watch that was found with him, together with a sword clip, a torch, a whistle (used by officers as a signal to advance) and fragments of uniform, all suggested that the remains were those of an officer

He was found with his watch, along with a sword clip and torch. A whistle, which officers use to signal their advance, as well as fragments of uniform, suggested the body belonged to an officer.

His team have become skilled at deciphering ‘cold cases’, including some of the 250 bodies found in a mass grave at Fromelles, northern France, in 2008.

Once they establish a possible identity, they present their evidence to the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) in Gloucester, the ultimate authority responsible for naming a casualty.

JCCC ‘War Detectives’ then use DNA testing (if DNA is available) and genealogical research to conclusively identify bodies.

So what did they learn of the Hénin-sur-Cojeul officer?

Shannon and Murray were familiar with the 5th Battalion of Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, which fought in Battle of Arras.

Their attack on heavily-defended German trenches was made by them on May 3rd 1917. About 530 people were wounded, killed or missing. Five junior officers also died.

Trois were excluded: one died due to wounds. DNA testing revealed that a second victim had also been eliminated. A third person was killed, which suggests they had likely been buried together by their enemy.

Two people were left: John Legge Bulmer (an Oxford contemporan of T. S. Eliot) and Charles Croke Harper (son of Broughton’s vicar, Buckinghamshire).

Yet the Ox and Bucks’ action took place at least nine kilometres from where the body was found.

Tom Shannon with a photograph of Lieutenant Osmond Bartle Wordsworth. The research by retired army officers Lieutenant Colonel Ingram Murray and Major Tom Shannon took them to the US, Australia, Ireland, across the UK, and Canada where they were able to slowly rule out all of the missing officers as likely candidates

Tom Shannon and a photo of Lieutenant Osmond B. Bartle Wordsworth. After conducting research, Lieutenant Colonel Ingram Murray, a retired officer, and Major Tom Shannon, they traveled to Canada, Australia, Ireland and the UK to identify all missing candidates.

Could Bulmer, or Harper, have been wounded and taken to a medical aid station at Hénin, where they had subsequently died? It seemed unlikely — and was not enough to warrant DNA testing of possible descendants.

Murray and Shannon then returned to the archives. It was then they had what Murray calls ‘the Eureka moment’. One other missing officer had been transferred in April 1916 from Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, to the 21st Company Machine Gun Corps. His name was Osmond Bartle Wordsworth — a descendant of the great poet.

The War Diary of the 21st Company confirmed an attack on Hénin — and the report mentioned him.

They then found Wordsworth’s name in another document, the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, which recorded money owed to soldiers who died while serving. After his name was written ‘9th Battalion Ox and Bucks LI’. Would he have liked to be able exchange his uniform after the recent transfer?

Further investigation revealed Wordsworth was born 1887. He was one of nine children from the Salisbury Cathedral sub-dean. As a pupil at Winchester College, he’d won several academic prizes.

Wordsworth later read Classics at Trinity College Cambridge. He also published a novel.

He emigrated from England to Canada in 1914 to become a teacher in Toronto. Wordsworth, however, emigrated to Canada in 1914. He arrived in New York on a passenger vessel, RMS Lusitania. Wordsworth was going to Britain in order fight the war against Germany.

Ruth Osmond, his sister and missionary returnee from her work as a missionary was with him. Just off the coast of Ireland, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a U-boat — and with too few lifebelts to go around, Osmond gave his to another passenger.

Pictured: Lieutenant Osmond Bartle Wordsworth's pocket watch was found with his body more than 100 years after his death

Pictured: A pocket watch belonging to Lieutenant Osmond B. Bartle Wordsworth, found together with his body 100 years after his passing

He was the last one to abandon the ship that sank after 18 minutes. He and Ruth managed to survive miraculously by holding on to the wreckage. Although they were eventually saved, more than 1200 people perished.

Osmond received his commission as Second Lieutenant in 5th Ox and Bucks a month later. However, after spending a month in a depot, Osmond was transferred to the 21st Company Machine Gun Corps and embarked for France on August 31 1916.

Six weeks was the average life expectancy of a Western Front junior officer. However, he survived until April 2, 1917, when his company attacked the hamlet of Hénin- sur-Cojeul in advance of the main Arras offensive a few days later. Wordsworth noticed one of the gun crews had difficulty getting in position when the attack began at 5.

Instead of sending his men to the rescue, he offered his help. His heart was broken.

He was buried near the spot where he died after the battle.

The division he led later established a cemetery for the dead outside of the village. It also buried the bodies and reburied them. Lt Col Murray believes Wordsworth’s body must have been missed.

So the museum team advertised for Wordsworth’s descendants. A man came forward — but a female descendant is needed for the DNA sample. The JCCC decided to help and located a suitable descendant.

Now, we are approaching Remembrance Sunday and it has been confirmed: It is a match.

Osmond Bartle Wortsworth was the body. ‘It is a very satisfactory ending,’ says Murray.

With no known grave to visit, Osmond Wordsworth’s name had been inscribed on a memorial in Arras, as well as on war memorials at Winchester and Trinity College.

His grave will be rededicated at a ceremony to take place in January 2022. It will be attended by Wordsworth relatives. ‘The country lost a very fine teacher,’ says Lt Col Murray. ‘And a very brave man.’

However, his name will finally be engraved on a grave.