1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Lance Gilbert

Contributed by: Peter Gilbert, on 2008-11-04

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First Name Lance
Surname Gilbert
Year of Birth 1896
Year of Death 1914
Regiment 17th Lancers
Place of Wartime Residence Leicester, Leicestershire

Lance's Story

All three brothers were killed in one morning at The Somme - Alf, George and young Lance. When Lance came back on leave from the front he cried every night at the tea table and pleaded with his family not to make him go back. His dad called it hysteria. He was shaking so much his mum used to give him his drink of tea in a little bottle so he didn't throw it all over the place. One morning, Lance, who was only 18, was sitting in the garden trying to dredge up a laugh when he heard a voice telling him to climb the big apple tree and jump out of it to break his legs.

Lance climbed the tree and stood with his head poking out of the top. Then he allowed himself to fall out of the tree and lay crumpled in a twisted heap of human frailty. His mother rushed out to him. He was dazed and for a moment didn't know where he was. He opened his eyes. He moved his arms and then his legs. He hadn't broken a thing.

Lance believed that if you went over the top first you'd have the element of surprise. He was proved wrong the instant he went over the top. He caught three bullets in the face so soon that he slid straight back down into the watery trench. Alf was right underneath him and he held him in his arms like a baby before the sergeant turned up. Alf froze, cradling the quivering body of his little brother in his arms.

As it was the family never knew anything other than the three boys were killed in action. No one ever visited their graves. No one ever went to try and find them. Lance wouldn't have liked that.

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