Remembering Garstang’s World War One soldiers

PUBLISHED: 00:28 10 November 2013

Garstang postman and history lecturer Paul Smith

Garstang postman and history lecturer Paul Smith

not Archant

Local historians are delving in to the records to find out more about the lives of Garstang’s World War One soldiers

Hundreds of people pass it without a thought every day, and many people in Garstang may not even know of its existence but the town’s war memorial is an important link with a past generation of sons, brothers, husbands and boyfriends.

Each of the 19 names on the plaque represents a young man whose life was cut tragically short in what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. The plaque would have been erected among much grief but almost 100 years on, many of the men have been forgotten.

But two local historians are hoping to bring those 19 brief lives into sharper focus as part of next year’s events to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.

Garstang postman and history lecturer Paul Smith (pictured) and Anthony Coppin, vice-chairman of Garstang Historical Society also want to celebrate the lives of those men from the town who returned from the horrors of the trenches.

The two men are planning three lectures in the town during 2014 along with an exhibition of Great War memorabilia and they want anyone with information about men from Garstang who took part in the conflict.

They also hope to bring out a book focusing on both the 19 men whose names are listed on the war memorial from World War One and those who came back from the war, their lives never to be the same.

Building on earlier research by Garstang historian Duncan Mitchell, Paul and Anthony are already uncovering a fuller picture of the lives and tragic deaths of the fallen, and learning more about the men who returned.

The families of many of the dead and returned heroes still live in Garstang and surrounding villages.

One of the lectures will be held on August 4 2014 – 100 years to the day Britain declared war on Germany. That lecture will be specifically dedicated to

Garstang’s heroes of 1914 to 1918. The others will look at the build-up to the war and the war itself.

The Garstang branch of the Royal British Legion and Garstang Historical Society have given their backing to the project.

For further information visit www.garstanghistoricalsociety.org.uk.

Brothers in arms

Richard Hall Ward, who was born at The Shuttleworth Arms, Broughton in Amounderness in 1891, moved to Garstang in 1903 when his parents took over the Pack Horse pub in the town.

Richard became a member of Garstang Football Club and in 1910, aged 19, he enlisted at Preston in the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment eventually attaining the rank of sergeant.

His regiment became part of the 154th Brigade which in turn was a part of the 55th ‘West Lancs’ Division.

After landing a Boulogne in May 1915 he served on the Western Front where, at Ypres, the German army was making its first use of poison gas. In 1916 he served in the battle of the Somme, seeing action at Guillemont, Guincy and Flers-Courcelette.

In summer 1917, as part of an effort to capture the Belgian coastline, the British Army in Flanders went ‘over the top’. Their objective was Pilckem Ridge, a ridge with commanding views of the battlefield. As the 4th LNL went into no mans land, the Germans replied with heavy machine gun fire and a deluge of heavy artillery shells, many containing mustard gas.

Like many soldiers of the Great War, Sgt Ward led his men in to a terrifying ordeal - a storm of steel at the third battle of Ypres or Passchaendele. It lasted more than four months and claimed 280,000 British casualties, including Sgt Ward, who fell in action near the Flemish town of Ypres.

His body was never recovered from the battlefield but his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate outside the town, as well as on Garstang war memorial.

On a happier note, Richard’s elder brother James Ward, who had served in the Royal Garrison Artillery, returned home, later becoming secretary of Garstang British Legion for many years.

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