Earlsfield vicar searches for family of mystery soldier after 20 years of prayer
Respectful remembrance has been paid by a vicar and his congregation to a World War I soldier annually for 20 years at the behest of an anonymous note - now an appeal has been launched to find the author.
Reverend Dr Roger Ryan, vicar of St Mary's Summerstown, in Wimbledon Road, Earlsfield, discovered the A4 brown envelope and artificial posy on his doorstep in 1993 years ago.
A family tree made up of names and dates were included inside the envelope entitled descendants of William Clay II.
Photographs of Private Clay in uniform and another of him with his family are also provided.
A note on the envelope read: "I had hoped to be able to place the enclosed and posy at the war memorial in church this morning.
"Would you be so kind as to place these for me. Many thanks."
It is signed I Clay, with "In remembrance of a dear father and with love from all above" handwritten at the bottom.
Rev Ryan did as instructed and placed the letter on the war memorial alongside the poppy wreaths, noticing W Clay was written on the memorial wall.
He has continued to include the tribute every year during the Remembrance Sunday service, placing it in a wooden frame for added protection.
Rev Ryan said he has no idea who the family could be, but through research discovered Pt Clay died aged 31-years-old in 1917.
He said: "It seems to be particularly appropriate that Mr Clay and others listed on the war memorial are remembered, as we are approaching the 100th anniversary in 2014 of the beginning of WWI when so many young men were robbed of their lives.
"I don't know who I Clay is, whether it is a lady or a gentleman, an old person or a younger person, we have no information about the family at all."
The vicar said his family is invited to place the letter and posy on the war memorial themselves this year during the two minute silence at 11am.
MP for Tooting Sadiq Khan will be attending the service, alongside Balham and Tooting cadets, St John's Ambulance representatives and service personnel.
There will be hymns, the Last Post and Reveille by a trumpeter, followed by the placing of poppy wreaths.
The service is taking place on November 10 from 10.30am.
Visit summerstown.org.uk for more information.
Who is the mystery solider?
Soldier's name: Private William Clay
Died: August 8, 1917
Enlisted with Northamptonshire Regiment
No registered war grave, but is mentioned in a memorial in Ypres, Belgium alongside 54,000 other men's names who were missing in action
His name was also listed twice in a Summerstown church magazine for March and April 1918
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