Grandad experienced Ypres, the Somme and the arrival of tanks... I’m doing this for him
DAVE’S FRENCH TRIP FOLLOWS IN FOOTSTEPS OF PTE JAMES HIRST, 100 YEARS ON, AND WILL PAY TRIBUTE TO HIM, HIS SIBLINGS AND MEN FROM ‘A’ COMPANY, NAMED IN HIS DIARY
AS the two minute silence begins tomorrow to mark the end of the First World War, Dave Hirst will be in the same French village where his decorated soldier grandfather learned the conflict had ended.
Dave’s visit to Sains-du-Nord, near Bohain, will be one of many stops the Leicester 56-year-old makes as he follows in the footsteps of Private James Hirst.
Pte Hirst served in the 1st/4th Leicestershire Battalion, A Company, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery.
He lived in Argyle Street, Leicester, which was where the Sainsbury’s in Belgrave used to stand.
Using entries from pocket diaries kept by Pte Hirst, Dave has mapped a route through northern France which mirrors the one taken by his grandfather during the Great War.
During his journey, which he began yesterday, Dave will visit seven cemeteries where the graves are located of people named in the diaries, whom Dave believes were his grandfather’s friends.
Dad-of-five Dave, who lives in Blaby, said: “I don’t know why I’m doing it really. I just feel like I should.
“My grandfather was present at the time of many of the major battles during his service, experiencing Ypres, the Somme and the arrival of tanks to the battlefield.
“He survived gas attacks, the mud, shells and bullets.
“He kept a pocket diary throughout, recording the weather, his daily duty, his location, a brief description of the day’s events and, most importantly, he recorded the names of many men who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I’m making the trip to pay tribute to my grandfather, two of his brothers, William and Charles, and the men named in his diaries, because I assume they were his friends. A good many other men from A Company, who are not individually named, also perished.”
Using the information contained in the diary, Dave has researched the men and their fates, and has located their graves.
Information available on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website has enabled him to read the inscriptions on their headstones.
There was one that stood out. “Relatives were asked for wording they would like to feature on the headstones,” said Dave.
“When I found details about George Thomas Palmer, I knew I had to visit his grave.”
TREASURES: Replicas of James Hirst’s medals. Left, Pte Hirst’s diary