Widow's war grave flowers plea answered 100 years on

Image source, Broughton District History Group
Image caption,
Frank and Hannah Evans on their wedding day on 24 October 1917

"If only I could have raised his dying head and heard his last farewell".

This is the start of a poem written by a grieving widow as a birthday tribute to her husband, who died in France in 1918.

But Hannah Evans' poem was not just a memorial, it was a plea to others to lay flowers on Pte Frank Evans' grave.

Now 100 years after his death, a historical group from Wrexham, north Wales, has carried out her wishes during a visit to war graves.

Pte Frank Evans, from Moss, Wrexham, served in France with the Welsh Fusiliers.

He died from wounds at a military hospital in Camiers, Normandy on 28 October 1918, aged 23.

This was a year after he married Hannah, and following his death, she placed a birthday memorial notice in the Wrexham Advertiser on 8 February 1919.

Her poem concluded: "Dear Frank, you are sleeping your last long sleep;

"And your grave I may never see; May some loving hand in that distant land, gently place some flowers for me."

Mrs Evans' request may have only have been a poetic expression of her loss, but when a copy of her poem came to the attention of Broughton District History Group, members decided to take it literally.

The group had been in contact with the Imperial War Museum in London trying to find information about soldiers from their area in the run up to the centenary of the Armistice.

Image source, Broughton District History Group
Image caption,
Members of Broughton District History Group at Frank Evans' grave

"We made some requests to the Imperial War Museum about some of the soldiers," group member Jim Nuttall said.

"We had so little, we wondered if they had anything there and they come up with the poem."

Six of the group went to Etaples Military Cemetery, where Frank is buried.

Another member, Phil Coops, said : "It just touched me completely.

"We were organising a trip to France and Belgium, and I decided that we must pay tribute to Frank because of the poem.

"We took some flowers from Wales and made a point of going to that particular cemetery on the first day we were there."

Mr Coops laid the flowers on Frank's grave on behalf of Hannah, 100 years on.

He said: "It was very emotional. Very sad. But we felt that we had contributed to Hannah's wishes and the fact that she'd wanted someone to place those flowers on her husband's grave and we did it, coming from her home community."