Mystery red roses mark Minden deaths

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Yesterday morning six red roses arrived anonymously at the British consulate general in Chicago accompanied by an envelope marked "In Memoriam". It came as no surprise to the consulate staff for the ritual has been repeated every 1 August for the last 30 years. Yet the identity of the sender remains a mystery. Under the words "In Memoriam" yesterday's envelope read, as ever:

Minden Day

1 August 1759

The Suffolk Regiment

Lancashire Fusiliers

Royal Welch Fusiliers

King's Own Scottish Borderers

Royal Hampshire Regiment

Yorkshire Light Infantry

A card inside bore the customary message: "They advanced through rose gardens to the battleground and decorated their tricorn hats and grenadier caps with the emblem of England. These regiments celebrate Minden's Day still, and all wear roses in their caps on this anniversary in memory of their ancestors." It is true that soldiers of these regiments do wear roses on their caps every year on 1 August in commemoration of the Battle of Minden of 1759, where the heroism of the six above-mentioned British regiments contributed to the defeat of the French army during the Seven Years War.

As to the identity of the sender, not even the florists who deliver the roses know who it is. They have always received their payment in cash together with the enclosed card, which is always typed exactly the same way, always employing the same typewriter.

Twice in the past the envelope has included a fictitious address, 1759 Albion. Staff at the British consulate assume that he - or she - either served in one of the regiments or has an ancestor who fell at Minden.

They speculate that the sender might be dead, that the roses are sent by a lawyer in execution of a will. Barring a detective investigation, it seems unlikely that consulate staff will ever be able to acknowledge the donor's poignant gesture in person.