Fighting for a peace they would never see...

Thousands attend the dedication of the war memorial on September 25, 1921.
Thousands attend the dedication of the war memorial on September 25, 1921.

THE WAR memorial in Harborough is exactly 90 years old today (Sunday, September 25). To mark the anniversary the Mail looks in a bit more depth at the stories behind some of soldiers whose names it bears.

Fighting for a peace which they would never live to see, they followed a call of duty for King and country, writes Elinor O’Neill.

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They left those they loved to make the ultimate sacrifice for those they would never meet and yet how much do we now know about those who gave their lives?

The memorial at the centre of town lists the names of the 248 men from the Harborough area who died during the war.

It does not however list the names of their wives, fathers, daughters and mothers who were left to bear the loss.

Mr and Mrs Palmer, of Harborough, were notified about the death of their eldest son soon after having been told of the death of his brother Percy.

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A letter sent to them by Capt R Tomlinson of Harborough which notified them of their son’s death said: “His death is a great loss to the company. He was deservedly popular with all. I have known him many years and shall miss him greatly. He was buried today in a military cemetery within a few yards of my brother.”

Two years after he was reported missing the widow of Pvt James West (first pictured) received a letter from a German soldier claiming to have buried his body.

In the letter sent in July 1920 two years after he was reported missing, Herr F Vogt, said: “I found the following postcard in the hand of a fallen English comrade. I hold it to be the last sign of love that the deceased intended to send to you.

“As we found ourselves in advance and had no spare time I took the card from his hands and send it to you with the expression of my deepest regrets.”

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In another letter Herr Vogt told Minnie West a grave was dug for her husband and at the time a prayer was said for him.

Before going to war Bernard Carroll (second picture) served at the Catholic Church in Harborough as an altar boy.

He died near Ypres in 1915 when he was just 18 while carrying rations when his guide became lost.

Another soldier named on the memorial cross is Capt Francis Durrad (third picture) who worked for the Harboro Rubber Co before going to war. He served in the Royal Flying Corps and his plane went missing while flying over enemy lines on November 8, 1917.

He was originally said to be missing and was reported dead on January 22, 1918, although his body was never found.

Much of this information is taken from the Book of Remembrance held at Harborough Museum and contains information about many of the 248 people named on the memorial.

Many thanks to museum staff who helped in the compilation of this feature.

At 2.30pm today a drumhead service will be held on The Square to mark the 90th anniversary of the war memorial dedication.

Members of the Royal British Legion and other uniformed services will pay tribute.

Chairman of the Harborough branch of the Legion, John Standish, said: “It is an opportunity to think about the broader aspects of the memorial in the context of what is happening in this day and age for troops and their families.”

The service will include hymns, Bible readings and extracts of speeches used in 1921. Harborough Band will play music and sound the Last Post and Reveille.