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Battle of the Somme: Families remember loved ones who fought

Callan Chevin on his way to the Somme with a photo of his great-great-grandfather's cousin Sergeant Alfred Sanders Image copyright Callan Chevin
Image caption Callan Chevin on his way to the Somme with a photo of his great-great-grandfather's cousin

A hundred years ago today, July 1 2016, the Battle of the Somme began. Relatives of those who fought in the battle, one of the bloodiest of the First World War, share their family history.

Callan Chevin, 24, from Stoke-on-Trent is one of many thousands travelling to France on the anniversary. He is going to honour his great-granddad John Chevin and his great-great-granddad's cousin Alfred Sanders on his mother's side of the family.

"It's important for me to remember the men in my family who fought so bravely.

Image copyright PA
Image caption WW1 Allied troops leave a trench before the Battle of Morval, which took place as part of the Battle of the Somme in 1916

"I wanted to be in the same place as my relatives, I wanted to be where they were 100 years ago.

"I know it's been said so many times but men like them are the reason we are here today.

"They were about the same age as me when they went to fight - they were all exceptionally brave.

"I know if it was me I would have been very scared."

Taken prisoner

Mr Chevin has set up a Facebook page to document the contributions of soldiers during the First World War and has used the material to retrace their steps in his own journey to the Somme.

"My great-granddad John Chevin went over the top on July 1 1916, at Gommecourt. He survived.

"He was wounded in 1917, and eventually discharged from service in 1918.

Image copyright Geoff Mayer
Image caption Alfred Saunders became a prisoner of war

"Alfred was also involved in the battle and survived as well.

"On November 18 1916, he (Alfred Sanders) took part in an attack at Grandcourt, one of the final attacks in the Battle of the Somme.

"Troops were fighting in a blizzard and fighting was fierce.

"A hundred and eighty seven men from Stoke were killed, and eighty taken prisoner. Alfred was one of the prisoners.

"His relatives back home were told he was dead, presumed missing. Then in March 1917, he appeared in the Sentinel listed as a prisoner of war in German hands.

"I have found the German records listing which camps he was at and oddly he had changed his date of birth from 1895 to 1892 halfway through his internment, I don't know why - maybe he thought he would be treated better.

"He eventually came home in 1919."

History hidden in a wardrobe

Image copyright Karen Smith
Image caption Karen Smith holds up a framed picture of her great-uncle, who fought in the Battle of the Somme.

Karen Smith from Kingston-upon-Thames stumbled across old photos and letters, wrapped in a kitchen roll holder in the back of her mother's wardrobe, about three years ago.

"We found all sorts of documents and pictures and realised they must have been there from about 1967.

"My great-uncle was Private John Jones. He was my grandmother's brother.

"After doing some research and going through old family pictures we established he served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers 16th Battalion, and was from Penyfford, Ffynnongroyw, North Wales.

"He was sadly killed in action with the date given as the 10th July 1916, but his body was never found.

Image copyright Karen Smith

"We are so very proud of a gentleman we never knew until we found those papers.

"We also found some letters he wrote to his mum, a couple in English and Welsh.

"He was 22 when he went to war.

"It is so sad what happened to him and so many like him.

Image copyright Karen Smith

"We have given all the original papers to the Flintshire Archives.

"This is a very special weekend. I am going to remember him and all the others who died 100 years ago."

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