A YOUNG soldier from Wrexham has been honoured by his family more than 90 years after he died in the First World War.
Mike Garnett, himself a serving British soldier, has spent the past four years painstakingly researching the story of his great-uncle, Pte Thomas Samuel Williams, of Summerhill, who died from his wounds in May 1918 at the age of just 20 and over the New Year holiday he and other members of his family unveiled a plaque in a Belgian church to his memory.
Mike, who is a warrant officer with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and currently based in Northern Ireland, carried out extensive research through the Imperial War Graves Commission and the National Archives in London.
He said: “My great-uncle joined up in 1915 and originally served with the Royal Welch Fusiliers before transferring to the 9th Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps.
“He had survived some of the bloodiest battles of the war, on the Somme and Paschendale, before he was taken prisoner during the Germans’ spring offensive on April 25, 1918.
“He must have been wounded before he was captured and was listed as missing in action.
“However, I discovered that he died of his wounds in a German prison camp a month later, on April 26 and was buried at Kortrijk military cemetery, near Ypres where he was captured.”
With the help of two local historians Mike arranged for a plaque to be erected in Pte Williams’ memory at St George’s Church in Ypres, scene of some of the bitterest fighting of the war.
He and family members, including his mother, Dorothy Garnett of Llay, who is Pte Williams’ niece, went to the church for the dedication service.
The historians who helped Mike, Jan Verdoodt and Jean Deconinck, are members of a First World War re-enactment group and both wore authentic period British Army uniform for the occasion.
Mike added: “I wanted the plaque to be a surprise for my mother, so I didn’t let her know until the last minute what was going to happen. She was delighted with what we had planned.”
During the ceremony Mike’s girlfriend, Jane Gibson, unveiled a plaque in memory of her great-grandfather.
Also present at the dedication was Mike’s brother Robert and his daughter Katie as well as Jane’s daughter, Sarah Collister.
Later this year, on October 9 and 10, Mike and Jane, accompanied by a number of friends, will do a charity walk in Normandy in aid of the Not Forgotten Association, a charity for disabled ex-service personnel.
They will dress in British Second World War uniform to march around the area close to the D-Day landing beaches.
Anybody who would like to support the group should go to www.justgiving.co.uk/pegasusmarch