The young heroes from South Ribble who never returned from the battlefields of the First World War were remembered during an emotional walk.
Local historian Charlie O’Donnell has just covered 83 miles (134km) around the Ypres Salient in Belgium, an area that was the scene of some of the war’s biggest battles.
As well as laying a wreath on behalf of South Ribble Borough Council at the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, Charlie raised hundreds of pounds for St Catherine’s Hospice.
Charlie, from Lostock Hall, is well known for his key role in tracing the 682 men from South Ribble who were killed in the First World War. In total 68 men from South Ribble died during the battles known as Third Ypres, 17 of them on the first day. A further 38 are missing and are remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate and at Tyne Cot.
His research was an integral part of the project that culminated in 2015 with the unveiling of the war memorial at Lostock Hall, close to St Catherine’s Hospice, and the development of the adjacent peace garden.
Charlie said: “It is one thing to conduct research from afar but I felt that it was essential that I went to Flanders to learn more and to pay my respects to these men who gave so much and who never returned."
The solo walk, which took him six days, was split into sections designed to take in seven cemeteries and memorials where the men from South Ribble rest or are remembered.
Mayor of South Ribble Cllr Mick Titherington said: “We’re very grateful to Charlie for taking the wreath on our behalf and placing it in remembrance of all those from South Ribble who gave their lives. It’s important that we don’t forget the sacrifice they made.”
So far Charlie has raised £555 for St Catherine’s Hospice, surpassing his target of £500, but if you would like to support him you can do so via his Just Giving page on the following link: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/srgw-flanders
The Western Front Association was formed to maintain interest in the period 1914 - 1918, to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of those on all sides, who served their countries in France and Flanders and on home soil during the Great War. It does not seek to glorify war, and is non-political.
The Leyland and Central Lancashire branch of the association was formed in autumn 2016 and meets on the fourth Monday of each month to hear talks by acknowledged experts on many aspects of the war. The next meeting is at 7.30 pm on September 25 at Leyland and Farington Social Club. Non WFA members are also welcome at the meetings.