Skip to comments.Samples taken from 90-year-old body of Spanish flu victim Sir Mark Sykes
Posted on 04/25/2009 6:58:25 PM PDT by antivenom
The body of Sir Mark Sykes - who died nearly 90 years ago from Spanish Flu - has been exhumed from his grave in the church of St Mary's, Sledmere, in a bid to help prevent a modern flu pandemic.
The exhumation, on the morning of September 8, was carried out by a team led by one of the world's top virologists Prof John Oxford - Professor of Virology at Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Prof Oxford previously told the Driffield Times: "If we can get samples, that will be wonderful for my team and science in general.
"It could help us answer some very important questions."
Several tissue samples were taken and Sir Mark was re-interred immediately in a short ceremony conducted by the Rev Mike Smith, Rural Dean.
The operation, which started before dawn, was the climax of a three year project which needed the approval of Sir Mark's surviving relatives, the Church of England, the Ministry of Justice and the Health and Safety Executive.
The team which carried out the exhumation was filmed by a crew from BBC Yorkshire's Inside Out. Their report will be broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday, September 17 at 7.30pm.
A BBC Four documentary will follow on October 6.
It was information provided by BBC Yorkshire that first pointed towards Sir Mark's grave as a likely source of much-needed material to track down the exact DNA profile of the Spanish Flu, which is one of the most deadly viruses known to medicine.
Editor Ian Cundall told the Driffield Times: "Sir Mark was buried in a lead coffin and his remains may help them find out more about the final stages of the pandemic flu, adding to major breakthroughs by American scientists in 2006. This knowledge could help prevent a modern pandemic."
Historical researchers tracked down contemporary records of Sir Mark's funeral at Sledmere Church and other archive documents to aid the medical team from St Barts and the Royal London Hospitals.
Ian said: "We were glad to put our researchers' skills to such a useful purpose. We often investigate incidents that occurred a long time ago, but they rarely represent such an immediate potential benefit."
The Vicar of Driffield, the Rev Mike Smith, was present. The War Graves Commission had also given its consent for the work.
Mr Smith, who is the Rural Dean for an area which includes Sledmere, said the procedure has been carried out with great dignity and began early in the morning with a prayer at the site of the grave.
A tent had been erected around the site so that the work could take place in safe, strictly controlled conditions.
The remains of Lady Edith were removed first. "They were extremely careful to remove her remains with dignity," said Mr Smith. She was later re-buried in a new coffin.
For health and safety reasons, Mr Smith and others not directly involved in the exhumation of Sir Mark were not present in the tented area once the lead lined coffin was exposed.
"When they reached the point where they uncovered the lead coffin everyone went from that area and the medical team took over. They were in protective clothing under the guidance of health officers. During the actual scientific part, the minimum number of people were at the grave side."
Once the samples had been taken, the lead coffin was resealed and the coffin of Lady Edith was placed back into the grave and a short service was held by Mr Smith at the graveside before the grave was filled in and the stone replaced on top.
Sir Tatton Sykes was present to see the remains of his grandmother and grandfather returned to the earth.
Sir Mark was working for the Government in the Middle East in the weeks before his death. He sailed back to the UK from Syria via London, where it was thought that he contracted the virus. He died in a Parisian hotel a few days later.
He had been tipped as a future Prime Minister and helped draw up the national boundaries of the Middle East that still exist today.
NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INFLUENZA!
It was done in 1999 as I noted in another thread, so I do not see the point of duplicating the research.
EEEW! The grave was IN the church?
What else might be in there???
It’s not the first time spanish flu victims have been dug up. From what I’ve read, siberian victims are at a premium due to the fact that many are buried in permafrost.
I am aware of the eskimos that were exhumed as well...however this was the latest exhumation...September 2008...
ohhh so research in 1999 was enough??? I see....
One of my relatives was an Army Nurse in 1914, just out of college and stationed at an Army base in Texas. Her comment on the Spanish Flu epidemic was that all they could do was try to keep victims temeratures down — and that most patients quickly died.
This knowledge could help prevent a modern pandemic."
Or recreate one.
I just finished the book "The Great Influenza" by John Barry...I highly recommend it, great history on the pandemic.
Glad you see the timeliness as well....Septemeber 2008...
Strange, indeed, about those dates, and the opening of the grave.
I have kept an eye on dates, ever since the Bali bombing.
The Bali Bombing took place in 12 Oct 2002, and is often referred to as Australian’s Sept 11 (Australian tourists were targetted although it took place in Indonesia.)
Look at the dates:
Someone is into numerology.
About the swineflu - who knows if it is engineered or naturally occuring. I await more information. But I have always been uneasy about the epidemic of accidents and murders which cleared away so many bio-weapons scientists after Sept 11. And the anthrax attacks remain unsolved, whatever the FBI may choose to tell you about some conveniently dead guy.
Is it me or does that make no sense?
>He sailed back to the UK from Syria via London
Wasn’t London part of the UK??
"Bring out yer dead!"
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.