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

Leicester Mercury - - News - By AMY OR­TON Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter amy.or­ton@reach­plc.com @amy__or­ton

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

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