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13 November 2014

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World War 1

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > World War 1 > Looking for Ashley

Poppy on a cross

A cross like the one Katy left behind

Looking for Ashley

Katy, from the Chase High School in Malvern, goes searching for a relative killed in the Great War.

A couple of days before I left for Belgium, my Gran told me of a relative who had fought in the First World War and was never found - his name was Ashley McGain. 

Katy

Katy

I searched for his name on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, which told me that his name was mentioned on the Thiepval Memorial, just one of 73,000 names. 

Luckily the search also brought up which panel his name was on, so I wouldn't have to spend ages looking, and was guaranteed that I would find it. 

As well as his name, my Gran gave me a letter that he wrote to his mother, the night before he went into battle, and four days before he died. 

This gave the situation a whole new meaning, also allowing me to understand more.

Once we had arrived at Authuille, a place where men gathered before battle, but is now a cemetery, Mr Renger read out the letter to everyone, while we were all sat down. 

It was really emotional, as you could imagine someone sitting where we were, writing a similar letter to their loved ones, making the whole experience more real. 

The reading was also very moving and gave a new aspect to the First World War.

Name on the Thiepval memorial

Katy's relative

We then made our way to Thiepval, where I was prepared to search for a while if need be. 

Ashley McGain’s name was on panel 1C, about four sections up from the bottom. 

I first found his regiment – 11th Suffolk Regiment - then his rank – Second Lieutenant - and finally his name, so it didn't take all that long to find. 

I was given a remembrance cross, that I laid down underneath his name with a short message from me on it. 

I was the first relative to visit that we know of, which was a nice thought, but also a sad one, as no one else had been to remember.

Remembrance cross

A cross like the one Katy left behind

The most amazing thing for me was that he was one of the 21,000 deaths of the first day of the Somme, and according to the memorial he was one of the ones who died, either at the Somme or at the Battle of High Wood. 

This makes the letter seem even more touching, as his mother could have received his recognition of his death before she received the letter, which is really depressing. 

The whole experience made me see another side of the War that the textbooks don't really touch on - the personal side, the side that makes it seem more real. 

I want to take other family to visit as it was a moving time for me.

If you have an interesting story about World War 1, involving a member of your family, we'd love to hear it.

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last updated: 12/06/2009 at 14:48
created: 11/09/2008

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