Revealed after 100 years Preston's street of war heroes

Commonwealth War Graves Commission's fascinating new website reveals tragic sacrifice of one Preston street

Pte William Young VC's funeral procession passes Preston Town Hall
Pte William Young VC's funeral procession passes Preston Town Hall

War hero William Young’s proud place in Lancashire’s history is assured for generations to come.

A veteran of the Boer War when, he returned to the frontline in the First World War and in 1916 was awarded Britain’s highest honour for bravery, the Victoria Cross,

Alas, Private Young succumbed to the injuries sustained in battle and he died while back in Preston on August 27, 1916, aged 40.

Pte William Young VC and his final resting place in Preston Cemetery

The story of the East Lancashire Regiment soldier this week returns to the street where his family lived as part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s inaugural War Graves Week.

Residents in the Lovat Road post code area will be receiving packages bringing to life Pte Young’s story and encouraging them to remember his sacrifice.

The package incudes a biography of Pte Young, tributes to him, an imagined postcard home from the Western Front penned by the war hero and a window display to honour his life.

Pte Young is believed to be the only person awarded the Victoria Cross who died back in Britain during the war years.

Pte William Young VC' coffin, covered with a Union Jack and borne on a gun carriage, leaves the family home

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Crowds packed the pavements along the way while blinds were drawn in homes along the route as a sign of respect. The official representatives of the borough, Mayor Alderman H Cartmell, accompanied by the Mayoress and Town Clerk, A Howarth, were followed by a military escort of 150 men from the East Lancashire and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments and Royal Field Artillery.

A contingent of 50 wounded men, including two from Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, where Pte Young had been evacuated to recuperate, also made the journey north to attended the funeral and pay their respects. The East Lancashires’ band accompanied the funeral procession playing the Dead March from Handel’s Saul, Chopin’s Funeral March and Beethoven’s Funeral March.

Several thousand people gathered at Preston Cemetery and, after the committal rites were read, three volleys were fired by the firing party and the Last Post was sounded. Pte Young’s grave is cared for to this day by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Private William Young VC's homecoming on the balcony at Preston Town Hall, April 19,1916

Inspectors from CWGC’s regional team make regular visits to Preston Cemetery to ensure the memorial is kept in good order and the details engraved on the 105 year old grave remain legible.

The Commission looks after 100,000s of graves right around the world and to tie in with War Graves Week has created a new website to help people find out more about the men and women who fought and died in the two world wars.

For the first time people can search online to find details of service personnel who lived in their area and are buried in a CWGC cemetery or grave cared for by the commission.

A search on Lovat Road not only reveals details of Pte Young’s final resting place but another seven soldiers killed in the First World War.

Among them are two brothers who lived next door to Pte Young. Sgt T A Stanton of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment who died on June 11, 1917, aged 28. While his brother Sapper J Stanton was 31 when he was killed on October 6, 1918 as he served with the Royal Engineers.

Two doors up from Pte Young in the other direction Pte William Salisbury was killed on May 16, 1915 while serving with the Scots Guards. He was aged 30.

And three doors from Pte Salisbury, Pte Alfred Mitchell, of the Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) died later the same year on December 23 aged 24.

The other three men from Lovat Road killed during the First World War were:

Pte T H Taylor, of Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, who died on June 27, 1916;

Pte Philip Walter Park, 26, of Loyal North Lancashire Regiment who died on November 25, 1916;

Pte Thomas Collum, 20, who served in the same 8th Battalion of East Lancashire Regiment as Pte Young and died nine days earlier than Pte Park on November 16, 1916.

Claire Horton CBE, director general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said: “Remembrance Day and anniversaries will always have a place in our work, but War Graves Week is an opportunity for communities to connect with their local heritage in a different way; when the days are longer, when the plants are in bloom, and our cemeteries can be seen in a completely different light. We want people to see that work in action and make a local discovery.

“Many people already know about their family’s links to the World Wars, but all of us have somewhere we call home today, and those places have their own stories too. By simply entering your postcode on our website you can take the first step towards making a new connection.

“We want people to share the stories they find and download a tribute for the men and women from their communities and display it in their window for War Graves Week. Behind every name on a war grave or memorial is a human story, just waiting to be discovered and War Graves Week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

To find a servicemen who live in your area visit CWGC's website here