Long lost relative turns up on war memorial

WAR TRAGEDIES George Henry Townend, left, and his brother Fred Blackburn Townend, who died during World War I.
WAR TRAGEDIES George Henry Townend, left, and his brother Fred Blackburn Townend, who died during World War I.

A woman who paraded past Heckmondwike war memorial as a child on Remembrance Sunday discovered one of the names inscribed there is a relative she never knew existed.

And after learning of her relative’s past, Margaret Knapton travelled to the Somme to see where he fell.

Margaret began tracing her family tree after the death of her father in 1999.

She discovered a distant relative called George Henry Townend, who fought at the Battle of the Somme and was killed in action in Belgium aged just 20.

Margaret said: “George Henry was born in 1897, the fifth child to Joss and Alice Townend of 4 Park Street, Heckmondwike. His mother was my grandmother’s cousin.

“When the 1911 census was taken, George Henry, aged 14, was working in a woodyard with his father and three of his siblings were at school.

“I discovered his record on the Commonwealth War Graves website, which stated he had died in Belgium on August 15, 1916 aged just 20, while he was serving as a volunteer in the 1st Wellington’s West Riding Regiment.

“I then looked at all the names on the memorial in Green Park Heckmondwike and was delighted to see his name there.

“After many years parading on Remembrance Sunday with Brownies, Guides and the Scouts, I never knew that I had a relative whose name was showing!”

Margaret managed to track down a map of the trenches, a copy of the war diary and George Henry’s medal record, where he discovered he was awarded the victory medal.

She said: “Many years passed and I always wished to visit the Somme.

“In 2012 I went on a trip called ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. A very informative tour guide carried out some research on the trench map and asked the coach driver to drive down a country lane so that he could point out the line of trees where George Henry fell.”

Margaret discovered his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, in remembrance of 72,191 missing British and South African men who died on the Somme, and have no known grave.

She said: “It was quite moving when I visited the memorial to see his name once again along with many, many others who are remembered there.”

Margaret discovered a copy of the Advertiser and Times which featured a report about George Henry and his older brother Fred Blackburn’s deaths and news on his brother Ernest, who had been imprisoned in Holland since the Antwerp disaster in October 10, 1914.