Saturday, 29 April 2017

William Eric Lunt ........ a Chorlton soldier from the Great War

I am looking at a picture of William Eric Lunt which I never expected to see.

William Eric Lunt, circa 1914
He was born here in 1895, and died of wounds in the 36th Casualty Clearing Station at the Somme on October 14th 1916.

The Lunt family lived in Chorlton and made their living from farming for all of the 19th century.

In 1845 they rented two acres of land off Moss Lane from the Egerton estate and were market gardeners growing a variety of food for the Manchester markets.

His smallholding was mostly orchard, stretching back from Moss Lane to Rough Leach Gutter and was a smallish amount of land, and like many of our market gardeners Mr Lunt may also have had other jobs as well.

And we know that he paid 4s. 7d a week in rent and in that cottage he and his wife brought up six children.

William and family circa 1905
Which brings me back William who was just 19 when he joined up on September 5th 1914; just one month after the war had broken out.

He was a fit young man weighing 129 lbs and was 5’ 11 inches.

His army records describe his complexion as sallow, his eyes brown and his hair dark, and that at present is all we know of his physical appearance.

In fact that is about all we have, for though there are eighteen military documents, as well his birth certificate and two census returns, none of them shed any light on who he really was, his likes and dislikes, or whether he was serious, humorous or like most of us a bit of both.

But up until yesterday I only had the one picture of him outside the family shop on Sandy Lane when he was about ten years old.

That in itself was one of those rare accidents where a photograph in the collection can contribute to a story of someone you have been researching.

The scroll, 1917
And now we have a second photograph which I think must be very close to the time he enlisted.

It was sent over by Julie Bryce who wrote, “I came across your blog post on William Eric Lunt. 

I'm one of his his great nieces and I have a few photos of him and some documentation commemorating his death which was sent to his parents home at 60 Sandy Lane. 

My daughter sent me a photo of the sign for the William Lunt Gardens in Chorlton and asked me if I thought it might be a relative. I was amazed to find the new estate was named in honour of Uncle Willie as representative of all those of Chorlton who lost their lives in the First World War. 

His sister Gladys May (my grandmother) would have been very proud.”

And it is fitting that the photograph should arrive in the week that my book Manchester Remembering 1914-18 is published, because not only does William Eric Lunt feature in the book but so does the story of the naming of the road here in Chorlton.

I had been asked to suggest names to be considered for the honour and Mr Lunt’s seemed most appropriate.

An embroiderd silk postcard,  1914-18
But this isn’t quite the end of the story because just a month before the photograph arrived another relative made contact.

This was Margret Irvine who came across the story and commented

Councillor Newman has kindly forwarded to me your information about William Lunt. 

Thank you so much for this. I knew some of it from family talk, my own research and recently from your own web pages, but the mystery remained as to why William should have been selected rather than any of the other WW1 casualties, so thank you for an explanation of that.”

I am pleased that William has come back out of the shadows and has gained wider recogntion.

The memorial, 2014
He was to become part of that new Kitchener’s army of young idealistic volunteers many of who were to die at the battle of the Somme.

I wish there was more.

I know he had joined up at Ardwick, was assigned to the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and remained in Britain until the summer of 1916 when he embarked at Folkestone landing on July 27 at Boulogne.

He is commemorated on the memorial in the gardens of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; William Eric Lunt, circa 1914 and the scroll, 1917 from  the collection of Julie Bryce, William circs 1905, from the Lloyd Collection, embroidered silk postcard, circa 1914-18 courtesy  of David Harrop, and the memorial in the Methodist Church, Manchester Road, 2014, from Tony Goulding

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War

Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson was published by the History Press on February 2 2017

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