UCLan students are running six free guided tours of Preston’s Cemetery in May
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) have teamed up to unearth the stories of local war heroes.
Three second year BA (Hons) History students have worked with the national charity to discover information about some of the 506 veterans who died during the First and Second World Wars and are buried in Preston’s New Hall Lane Cemetery.
A selection of the men and women’s stories will be brought to life by students Kai Barclay, Erika Fogg and Adam Stewart in six free guided walking tours, taking place during War Graves Week on 22 and 23 May.
Erika, 25, from Accrington, said: “It has been an honour to be involved and trusted with this project. There have been many stories we have enjoyed researching and this made it difficult to narrow down those included in our tours – if it was possible to include them all we would!
“Throughout this process my respect and admiration for those who fought for our country has amplified dramatically and to give a voice to even a small selection is the least we can repay. I look forward to sharing the stories, who in a short time, we have become attached to.”
"There have been many stories we have enjoyed researching and this made it difficult to narrow down those included in our tours"— History student Erika Fogg
Among the tragic stories unearthed was that of Private William Young, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery. He received the special honour after saving a comrade’s life on the battlefield in Foncquevillers, in France.
Originally from Glasgow, William married a Prestonian and settled in the city before World War One broke out. In early action, he suffered a bullet wound but returned to fight and was subsequently gassed, leading to eyesight issues. After spending most of 1915 recuperating, he was fit to return to frontline action. Not long after, he rescued Sergeant Allan from no-man’s land. While dragging him under heavy enemy fire, William was shot in the jaw and chest. While undergoing his third operation to reconstruct his damaged jaw, he sadly died from heart failure.
Twenty-five-year-old Adam, from Croston, commented: “It has been such an amazing experience to work with the Commonwealth War Graves Committee on this project. The research on Preston Pals made the history of Preston come to life. It made me feel so grateful and honoured to bring these stories to the names of those who defended our country.”
War Graves Week is an initiative aimed at encouraging people from the local community to come together and discover the World War heritage on their doorstep – learning about the stories of those commemorated by the CWGC and the skills, dedication and expertise of those CWGC staff and volunteers who work to keep their memory alive.
The free guided tours by the UCLan students, which will take between 45 minutes to an hour, will take place at New Hall Lane Cemetery at 10am, 12noon, and 2pm on 22 and 23 May.
"The research on Preston Pals made the history of Preston come to life. It made me feel so grateful and honoured to bring these stories to the names of those who defended our country"— Adam Stewart, who was part of the Commonwealth War Graves project team
Kai, 24, from Wigan, added: “I've found the project to be a fantastic opportunity to expand my understanding of how to hold an event. The challenge for myself was the organisation and planning of two events that have given me an appreciation of the time taken to hold a good event.”
Claire Horton, Director General of the CWGC, said: “Behind every name on a war grave or memorial in Preston is a human story waiting to be discovered and War Graves Week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
“As world leaders in commemoration, our mission is to ensure those who died in service, or as a result of conflict, are commemorated so that they, and the human cost of war, are remembered forever.”
To book a free tour, visit the event page online.
In addition to the grave walks, the University is also running a Commonwealth War Graves Week Celebration event. Taking place at Lune Street’s Central Methodist Hall from 6.15pm on 24 May, the evening will consist of free talks and poetry readings.
UCLan’s Yvonne Reddick will read a new poem she has written inspired by the stories of New Hall Lane Cemetery and a selection of relevant poetry, while the University’s Professor Nick Mansfield will present ‘One Hundred Years of War Commemoration – A Historian’s Personal View’. Liz Marsland, from the CWGC, will take about the work the charity undertakes in the North West of England.
For more details and to book free tickets visit the webpage.