THE family of a First World War soldier killed underground during the Battle of the Somme have visited the tunnels where he died.
Sapper William Arthur Lloyd, of New Broughton, Wrexham, was killed, aged 37, by a German mine on December 19, 1915 after burrowing below the battlefield with the 179th Tunnelling Company.
His great grand-daughter, Lesley Woodbridge, 59, has spent the past seven years tracing the history of her ancestor, who never returned home.
This week she went down the same tunnels in northern France where Sapper Lloyd was almost 100 years ago to leave a moving tribute.
Mrs Woodbridge took an urn containing soil from Sapper Lloyd’s home town of Wrexham to France and laid it at the tunnel entrance, now blocked up, where her great-grandfather was killed. “For me this was the end of a journey”, she said. “My mum, Thelma Roberts, set the ball rolling trying to find out about him and we’ve just carried that on. The system of tunnels were amazing and it closes a chapter on years of research.
“I wasn’t expecting to feel emotional when we went down there but when we saw the blockage, knowing that is the last time he’d have gone into the tunnel, well it was quite sad.
“It was quite busy down there with the excavation and cameras but when I got a quiet moment to myself it felt nice and we could appreciate him.”
Mrs Woodbridge even phoned her 88-year-old mother Mrs Roberts, who lives in Wrexham, while down in the tunnel and said she sounded “emotional and proud” of the poignant moment.
“She still lives in Hightown so for a part of Wrexham to be out there, it means a lot to her,” added Mrs Woodbridge, of Telford. “We are hoping to take mum out next year to see the site, which would be great.”
Sapper Lloyd left behind a wife and six children and was able to write one letter back home from northern France, which read: “Just two or three lines to let you know that I am quite well.
“I wish the war was over. It’s a monstrous one. I’m still thinking of home. The weather here is awful and cold.
“Wishing you all a merry Christmas but I shall not be home for it.”
The Somme, in northern France, was one of the bloodiest battles in history.
More than 1.2 million men are believed to have died.