David Shackleton, of Staveley, describes the tragic stories of some of the people whose names appear on war memorials at South Lakeland and Eden

IN BRITAIN, the permanent reminders of the war are the countless memorials and graves of some 170,000 who died on home soil and are buried here.

Since 2003, I have lived in France for five months each year and have visited almost all of the war cemeteries and memorials from Nieuport to Verdun. All the dead have a story to tell.

Thomas Elson came back to Kendal from New York to enlist, served as a gunner from spring 1915, and after almost four years, died a week before the armistice.

Two of his brothers, of Park Street, Kendal, also died.

Ernest McKnight, of Broad Street, Windermere, badly wounded on July 1, 1916, tended the wounds of his officer Lt Margerison, then crawled back into Authuille wood to die. He lies in the Lonsdale cemetery named after his battalion.

Nellie Taylor, of Helmside, Grasmere, was a Volunteer Aid Detachment nurse, who died in June 1918. Her parents dedicated the organ at Grasmere church to her memory.

The war memorial in Staveley where I live was conceived and paid for by the inhabitants.

Unveiled on July 2, 1921, by Colonel Weston, it bears the names of 36 men of Staveley and Ings. The first casualty was Private Andrew Hill, the rural postman for Kentmere.

Called up as a reservist on outbreak of the war, his battalion, the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment, landed at St Nazaire on September 10.

He was almost immediately in action on the Chemin des Dames and was among their 630 casualties on September 20.

He is buried in the French civilian cemetery at Villers en Prayers in the Aisne.

Fred Threlfall served with 1st Battalion King’s Own RL Regiment. He died of heart failure in May 1917, and is buried in a small, isolated cemetery, at Haute Avesnes.

The Westmorland Gazette of November 1914 printed a letter from Fred to his parents: “You will be wondering what became of me. I rejoined my old regiment as soon as the war broke out and have been under sealed orders since then. I was wounded at the Battle of Mons, and have just got back to England, and so can write to you. I was in hospital at Antwerp.”

Not all men died on the Western Front. Commemorated on the Memorial at Basra is a 4th Btn Border Regiment man, George Bowness, of School Lane.

He was taken prisoner by the Turks at the end of the 147-day-long Siege of Kut el Amara.

We know that the survivors were very harshly treated, and in April, 1918, George’s parents were informed that he had died ‘between Samarah and Baghdad on some date between the beginning of July 1916, and the end of August 1916’.

Recently, I gave a talk to Shap History Society about that village’s war memorial.

The first thing which struck me was the unusually large number of their 32 war dead who are buried in Shap.

Of the ten, Pte Thomas Crompton died when swimming off Miller Ground, Gunner Hulse died of injuries sustained after he was kicked by a horse, Pte George Douthwaite, of Lonsdale, was wounded at Authuille on July 1, 1916, and was brought back to Leeds, where he died in Beckett hospital.

The initial proposal was that the memorial would be a bronze plaque in the church, but it now takes the form of a cross, made, not surprisingly, of Shap Granite. Of the men named on the memorial, at least nine had worked at the quarry before the war.

In July, 1916, Shap received the devastating news that six of their men were among almost 20,000 killed during the battle of the Somme at Authuille, and a further six wounded.

Two days later Lieut Arthur H. Crompton, son of the vicar, and brother of Thomas, was killed at Fricourt, no more than three miles from Authuille.

Of these, 220 local men are buried or commemorated within five miles of the village, 12 of these Shap men.