Anyone who thinks the soldiers of World War One were all forced to fight should pay attention to the stories of Stewart Horne’s great uncles, the Naylor brothers.
All three brothers volunteered, one, Arthur, travelling to war from Australia and the other, Leonard, changing regiments to get to the front sooner. Only one, Charlie, survived the war, the other two killed 1,700 miles apart but within six weeks of each other.
Stewart, from Fornham St Martin, heard of them from his grandmother Dorcas Naylor, whose brothers they were, and from Charlie, who returned from the Western Front with the Croix-de-Guerre, the French and Belgian gallantry medal.
Stewart said: “Leonard was a volunteer. He felt he should get over there and do his bit.
“It was even more relevant with Arthur because he was in Australia. He had been there a couple of years and could’ve been happy to stay out there and carry on with whatever he was doing.”
Stewart’s research uncovered a report of the brothers’ deaths in the Halifax Courier, their home town newspaper.
It says Arthur died, aged 22, in the Canadian General Hospital at Etaples, France, from a shell wound to the head on September 14, 1915, having been wounded at Ypres in Belgium.
It adds: “He had only been in six weeks and it was on his first day in the trenches when he received his fatal wound.
“He was a young man of a bright and happy disposition and news of his death came as a shock to his family and many friends.”
The report also says he joined a reserve battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment ‘but was soeager to go to the front’ he transferred to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. He was with the regiment’s 9th Battalion when he died.
Surprisingly, Charlie was also with the Duke of Wellington’s but did not serve with his brother. Stewart believes he was awarded the Crois de Guerre for recovering a wounded man from no man’s land, but has not been able to trace details.
Arthur had emigrated in 1912 but joined the Australian army. He was killed at Gallipoli with the 25th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force on October 27, 1915.
Stewart said: “I went over to Etaples and found the grave [Leonard’s]. It’s one of the biggest cemeteries.
“I found it quite emotional. He’s somebody I never met, but he served his country.
“I want to see Arthur’s grave. It’s on the books but it’s difficult to get to. It’s about 1,000 miles from Istambul.”
Arthur is in the Embarkation Pier Cemetery at the mouth of Chailak Dere near what the Commonwealth troops called Ocean Beach.
The pier was built to evacuate wounded and there was a casualty clearing station there, though it came under artillery fire within weeks of being opened. Now 944 Commonwealth soldiers are buried there though 662 are unidentified.
Stewart has also researched the war record of the father of his wife Jenny’s second cousin, John Letts, who won the Military Medal and bar in the Tank Regiment. When the driver of his tank was hit, he took the controls and got the tank back to our lines.
Do you have a relative who served, at home or abroad, during World War One? Tell John Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01284 757821.