This online article was written by Ruth Lognonne on the 7th of October 2014 for The Chronicle Live.
County Durham teenager finds the grave of her great-great-grandfather who died in WW1
A teenager has discovered the long-lost grave of her great-great-grandfather who fell in the Battle of the Somme almost 100 years ago.
Bryany Maughan, was on a school trip from Ferryhill Business Enterprise College to see the battlefields of the Western Front in the Great War of 1914-18 when she found the grave of William Henry Maughan in the cemetery at Dernancourt in northern France.
The 13-year-old began her research after her grandfather, who is also called William Henry Maughan, told Bryany that the heroic family member had died in the First World War, but no one knew where his body was buried.
When Bryany was accepted by her school to cross the Channel with students from 29 other North East schools, she made it her mission to find her great-great-grandfather’s grave and pay her respects on behalf of the family from Ferryhill.“I promised my grandad before I left that I’d do everything I could to find his grandad’s grave,” she said.“We made a wooden cross together to lay on his grave if we found it and a message from the family.“On the first night of the school trip we were given access to research the graves of fallen soldiers and I couldn’t believe it when William Maughan’s name came up.
“But Dernancourt is a smaller cemetery and we weren’t due to visit it as part of the trip.
“I kept my fingers crossed that we’d pay a special trip, but I didn’t think they’d rearrange the trip for me.”
But to Bryany’s shock and amazement the tour bus made a one-off trip to Dernancourt so that the 13-year-old could finally see the resting place of her long-lost relative.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was overwhelmed when I spotted his name on the grave alongside hundreds of other graves exactly like his.
“It was a mixture of sadness and relief that I’d found him. I laid a poppy wreath and left a message saying I was proud of him for what he did for his country, his family and his friends.“It was so emotional for me but my grandad will be so happy when he knows I’ve found him.”
The First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme, funded by the government, is designed to help students across the country develop a greater understanding of the Great War.The four-day tour, run by the Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with Equity, is aimed at making it easier to visualise the scale of the war and the lives lost.
The pupils visited museums, battlefield sites, memorials and cemeteries including the Commonwealth War Graves sites of Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres, in Belgium, and Thiepval Memorial at The Somme, in France.
They also paid a visit to the Langemark German Cemetery.
William Henry Maughan was born at Brandon Colliery, County Durham, in 1888 and by the age of 13 was already working as a coal miner, alongside his father.
William was married to Hannah and by 1911 they had a daughter Lydia, who was born in 1910.
It would appear that soon after the outbreak of war, William enlisted into the Durham Light Infantry at Lower Spennymoor.
The 6th Battalion, with whom William would later serve was formed in August 1914 and went overseas to France and Flanders in April 1915 and was soon to suffer heavy casualties during the Second Battle of Ypres.
William went overseas on June 27 1915.By the summer of 1916, William and the 6th Battalion, DLI, were sent south to join the Battle of the Somme.
On September 27 1916, the battalion played its first part in the Battle of the Somme, when patrols were sent out to reconnoitre the ground for the forthcoming attack. By this time, William was a corporal.
On October 1 1916, the British Army launched a series of attacks which would become known as the Battle of Transloy Ridge.
It was a bright and sunny day and the bombardment began at 7am. The attacking battalions went ‘over the top’ at 3.15pm.
William was amongst those soldiers of the 6th Battalion who were involved in the attack, close to the village of Le Sars.
The 6th Battalion suffered heavily in the attack as the battalion on the right flank failed to advance.
Machine gun fire from this flank caused heavy casualties. Despite this, the battalion managed to gain a small hold on Flers Trench.
By 9.30pm the battalion had secured their position and begun to evacuate their wounded. Amongst the wounded was William Maughan.
He was evacuated through the medical evacuation chain to the casualty clearing station at Dernancourt. Sadly William died of his wounds there the following day.