Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Rediscovering one young man from the Great War

I think this will be the last of the stories about the young officer who died in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.

Unknown young soldier, date unknown
And it has brought together both the centenary of that battle which began in July and ended in October but is very close to that date which marks the end of the conflict in November 1918.

It began as a request from my friend Tricia to help put a name and a story to a picture of an unknown young soldier.

His photograph was on a picture post card which on the back carried the comment, "16th Manchester, (30th Division.) Missing Reported 'Wounded and Missing” from 26th July 1916, probably taking Deville Wood.' ”

It wasn’t much to go on but we agreed to run a story on the blog in the hope someone might be able to identify him.

And within a day Michael Gorman came back with a carefully researched set of comments and the suggestions that our young man might be George Horace Plested, who was a “Second Lieutenant Manchester Regiment 4th Bn. attd. 16th Bn” who died on July 30th 1916.  He was just 19 and came from Putney."

Michael with the help of another researcher followed this up with the discovery that he “he died of wounds in the casualty station at Corbie.”

Meanwhile both Michael and Tricia had made contact with relatives on ancestry and another photograph of the George Horace Plested seemed to confirm that this was our young man.

George Horace Plested
And today Michael added this, “the Plested family sent me a photograph of an unidentified young soldier (attached) who bears a remarkable resemblance to the subaltern of the Manchester Regiment in the original photograph. Comparing the photographs I feel that they are one and the same person.

Horace attended Wandsworth Grammar School, in London, and enlisted in the 28th Battalion of the London Regiment in 1915. 

This was the famous Artist Rifles battalion, a unit trained potential officers, at Hare Hall in Romford, who were then assigned to serving regiments. 

In Horace’s case this was the 4th Battalion (another training battalion) of the Manchester Regiment – which he joined in June 1915 at Larkhill.

He was then “attached" to the 16th (1st City) Battalion of the Manchester’s – a “pals” unit which was about to embark for France. – and took part in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Cap badge of the Manchester's
Taking an almost identical route was the famous war poet Wilfred Owen. 

He also enlisted in the Artists Rifles and was also sent to Hare Hall – assigned to the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment – being commissioned just a week later than Horace. Owen was to be killed in action in November 1918 – the last week of the War.”

I am pleased that through the efforts of Tricia and Michael we have that name and the story.

What I think is also important is the way the story has been uncovered, partly through the use of social media and online historical sources but more because Tricia and Michael and others were determined to honour the memory of this young man.

Leaving me only to than the Plested family for providing their photograph.

Pictures; Unknown Soldier, date unknown, from the collection of Tricia Leslie, and cap badge of the Manchester Regiment courtesy of Paul Wright, and photograph of George Horace Plested from the collection of the Plested family

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