Forgotten WW1 hero who 'never existed' honoured in Leicester

Private Archibald William Toach
Image caption Pte Archibald William Toach saved the lives of two children 10 years after the end of World War One

A World War One veteran who took part in a daring attack to stop German vessels entering the English Channel has been honoured with a new headstone.

Pte Archibald William Toach, from Leicester, was badly injured during the Zeebrugge Raid, in April 1918, but lived for another 10 years.

He did not have a military burial and his grave remained unmarked.

David Humberston, from the Western Front Association, said there had been little record he had ever existed.

'Back to life'

Pte Toach, who lied about his age to fight in the war, received severe injuries to his right arm, from which he would never fully recover.

However, despite his disability he saved two children from drowning in Bournemouth, shortly before he died aged 28.

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption The Zeebrugge Mole two years after the battle

Mr Humberstone, who tracked down Pte Toach's unmarked grave, in Belgrave Cemetery, Leicester, said providing a headstone for the soldier would "bring him back to life".

"He should be better remembered," he said.

"A lot of men's [graves] were like this, unmarked. Only a few dusty records said he existed at all.

"The injured, those suffering from wounds, tended to get missed. They didn't have the support they would get now."

A new headstone was unveiled by representatives of the Friends of Belgrave Cemetery and the Leicestershire & Rutland branch of the Western Front Association, at Belgrave Cemerery on Sunday afternoon.

Zeebrugge Raid 1918

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption A battery gun at the entrance to the pier at Zeebrugge
  • Zeebrugge, a Belgian port, was an outlet for German U-boats and destroyers
  • The British plan involved sinking three old cruisers in the channel to block it
  • The three boats would have to pass the harbour mole (pier) with a battery at the end, before being scuttled
  • The mole was stormed but the battery remained in place
  • Two of the ships were sunk in place, but the Germans managed to make a new channel around them
  • Eleven men were awarded the Victoria Cross for their role in the raid

Source: BBC History

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