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So, here we are again. Another investigation into another brave soul that we lost to The Great War.

Click on the highlighted text for the images and videos.

Again, I hope you find this interesting to read. I have certainly found it captivating investigating our dark past that is called World War One...

Once I heard that the Royal British Legion were releasing another commemorative Poppy I ordered one as soon as I could!
Just like my last Poppy, it is a stunning piece of craftsmanship. Thank you again to Chris Bennett of TMB Art Metal for making these amazing Poppy's.
Upon opening the package I was met with a beautiful light wooden box, inside was another piece of history; My Poppy.

A bit of background into Passchendale:
Passchendaele is one of the most notorious battles of the First World War and fighting happened here between July and November of 1917. In just over three months of fighting, our forces advanced less than five miles and saw an estimated 550,000 Allied and German troops killed, wounded or lost.
Around 90,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were missing, another 50,000 buried unidentified and 42,000 never recovered from the Belgian fields of Flanders that turned into an ocean of mud.

My Poppy is commemorated to a William Charles Brailsford, Private, 96009, 10th Battalion, Notts & Derby Regiment.
Only one thing to do, start my research and investigations into this young mans life.

William Brailsford, born in early summer of 1898. Son of William and Harriet Brailsford. The family was from Belper, a lovely small hamlet in Derbyshire.

William was the youngest of his siblings and had a brother and two sisters.
Looking at the 1911 census only William now 12 and Gladys aged 17 remained at the family home, Annie now 22 and Arthur, 26 had moved away I presume. (a side note, I am going to look into Arthur.. did he fight in the war too?).
Unfortunately I couldn't find any more information on William and what he did after this point. His father, William was Foreman for the Belper UDC (Derby Corporation Water Department as I understand), perhaps his son worked there with him after leaving school?

From what I have been able to find out from his military records, William was drafted into service on the 31st of January 1917, he was then deployed to Belgium on the 13th of September. He was part of the 10th Battalion, Notts & Derby Regiment, known as "Sherwood Foresters". Here is a photo of some of the brave men of the 10th Btn.

This was it, Williams last time on British soil, he entered Europe as the war prepared for yet another bloody chapter.

The last major conflict the Battalion fought in was the Battle Of Arras, the goal was the Capture And Defence Of Roeux.
After which they headed north, to a place we all know the name of.....Passchendaele. This is where William joined the conflict.

The First Battle of Passchendaele was another attempt to gain ground around Passchendaele. Ferocious rain and mud again made troop advancement difficult. Allied troops were exhausted and morale had fallen to an all time low. Here are some archive photos showing the conditions these brave men had to endure.

Sufficient artillery could not be brought to bear, neither could suitable ammunition and horses and men struggled in mud which could be more than knee deep in places. Troops coming up to the line in pouring rain were also subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of German shellfire.
At 0525hrs on the 12th of October as the troops started their attack, a weak artillery bombardment could do nothing but signal our advance. Exhausted by their long march, the attacking British infantry, slowed by glutinous mud halted in front of thick belts of barbed wire and were cut down by relentless heavy machine gun fire.

The attack was a complete success, the Germans however made several counter attacks throughout the day. Which were repulsed but resulted in 171 casualties for the Battalion.

William was one of these casualties, the first day of the First Battle of Passchendaele.

Now this part is what made me feel the most for the Brailsford family...
He was buried by his comrades but as so often happened his grave was obliterated by later shellfire and he has no known grave.
His soul wandering the fields of Passchendaele, without a true resting place.

So, again I had to pay my respects in person to William. Loading my Hayabusa up with luggage I set off for Europe myself.

With William not having a physical grave he is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Zonnebeke, a stunning monument to the brave men who were never found. Here is a video of myself riding up to and then walking around the cemetery.

I found William, surrounded by comrades and friends in a beautiful little annex. Here are the photos and videos from my visit.

I struggled to find out where he was killed, as you will have seen above there wasn't much left to help map out the areas. So somewhere out there William is watching us from the fields of Passchendaele.

Upon returning to the UK I had to continue paying my respects. So I visited his UK memorial in Alderwasley Park, Amber Valley.

Now the part that always gets to me emotionally, going to where William lived with his family in Belper. A lovely quiet lane with only a handful of houses there, I can imagine life here in the 1900's to be tranquil and quite homely. Belper Lane End

So, to the name of this project. It was took from the war poet Siegfried Sassoon's "Memorial Tablet 1918"

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby's scheme). I died in hell -

(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duckboards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light

It is quite a grim piece of poetry, but I felt it to be fitting. A young man, like many who left for war and never returned.

Again, a small brass Poppy has took me on a wonderful voyage to uncover a young mans life.

The only part of this project I am missing is a photo of William himself, if there is anyone or an organisation out there that has photos of the troops from the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. Please get in touch.
What I do have so far is This photo found on Ancestry. His Family.

Thank you for reading.
For William, Thank you for your bravery and sacrifice.

I Died In Hell...

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