Dewsbury war duo to be remembered at ceremony

Two Dewsbury soldiers who died in the First World War will be remembered at a special centenary celebration of the Battle of the Somme in France.

Saturday, 18th June 2016, 10:30 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:10 pm
One hundred years since The Battle of the Somme: The Thiepval Memorial reminds visitors of the sacrifice made with lists of troops in regiment order. The monument is undergoing maintenance work ahead of July's centenary service. picture mike cowling march 20 2016

Private Michael Flanagan and his half-brother Private Thomas Flanagan will be among those who are honoured by family representatives at the centenary commemoration of the first day of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval memorial in Picardy.

The names of 172,195 men who have no known grave are inscribed on the limestone panels of what is the biggest British war memorial in the world.

They include Michael, a 42-year-old builder from Westtown, who fell a few miles from where the monument stands today as he and his King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry comrades tried to wrest a fortified village from the Germans.

Michael was hit by shellfire on February 25, 1917 and was one of six men from his unit killed or mortally wounded that day as they struggled in the freezing mud of the worst winter of the war.

He had lived at the Golden Lion Hotel, Westtown, and was a bachelor.

Thomas, 31, died the following year in the Spring Offensive - the Germans’ last major bid to win the war.

Thomas was one of the Leinster Regiment’s many casualties who were overwhelmed by massive enemy forces near the Belgian border in April 1918.

He had been transferred to the Leinsters shortly before after his Connaught Rangers battalion was disbanded following severe maulings in previous battles.

Thomas, who was unmarried, succumbed to his wounds in a field hospital near Ebblinghem, where he is buried.

Ironically, the German high command called off the offensive on April 29, the day after he died.

Among the 8,000 Britons at the Thiepval ceremony will be a great-nephew of Michael and Thomas, Tony Flanagan and his wife Helen.

Tony, born in Dewsbury but now living near Ripon, said: “More than a thousand men from the borough lost their lives in the Great War and Michael and Thomas were two of the 107 parishioners of St Paulinus who died.

“Michael is one of 14 soldiers from the parish whose name is carved on the stones of Thiepval.

“We feel honoured to have been awarded tickets for the unique and historic gathering at Thiepval.

“We will be paying tribute to all the brave men of Dewsbury who fought in the horror of the First World War.”