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‘I would hate to think my mates would not be remembered 100 years from now’ - young army veteran works to ensure war dead are never forgotten

PUBLISHED: 18:54 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:54 02 February 2017

Royal British Legion member and ex-soldier Liam Young is researching into the men behind the names on the war graves in Dereham cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

Royal British Legion member and ex-soldier Liam Young is researching into the men behind the names on the war graves in Dereham cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

A trip to the battlefields of the First World War has inspired a young army veteran to find out more about the men behind the names on the war graves in his home town.

Troops riding through Dereham, going through Church Street in 1914. Troops riding through Dereham, going through Church Street in 1914.

Liam Young, who served with the then Swanton Morley-based Light Dragoons on tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, was so moved by the sheer number of graves in the French cemeteries that he has set himself a task of finding all the war memorials and graves in the Dereham area and mark the 100th anniversary of the soldiers’ deaths for their country.

He also wants to make sure all the graves are maintained with the same respect as those in France by getting the headstones properly cleaned, as well as making contact with any living relatives.

Mr Young, 30, who was medically discharged from the army and is an active member of the Royal British Legion, said he wanted to visit the battlefields as his great grandad and great uncle fought at The Somme.

“I didn’t really know anything about them before I went there but to see all the graves was mind-boggling,” he said.

New recruits lined up in Dererham Market Place in 1914, New recruits lined up in Dererham Market Place in 1914,

“I have a connection with those who died because I was in the army but I thought of all the young lads who could have been my mates who were killed.

“I lost friends during tours with the Light Dragoons and I would hate to think that my mates would not be remembered in 100 years from now.”

Mr Young is in touch with the CWGC about cleaning the graves as they are technically the commission’s property.

“I have had an amazing response to my first appeal for information about Pte Back,” he said. “It is quite contagious once you start and it is quite exciting when you find out a bit more. I am making a connection with them.

“I am just trying my best to keep the memories of these great people and true heroes alive.”

* If you have any information about the First World War graves in the Dereham area contact Liam Young on 07713 903254.

* Read more about his trip to the battlefields at www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/stories.

The first grave in Dereham cemetery Mr Young is focussing on is of Pte A Back, Middlesex Regiment, killed on August 11, 1917.

Through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he discovered Pte Back was the son of Stephen and Hannah Back of St Nicholas Street in Dereham.

And now through an appeal on Facebook he is hoping to have found a great great granddaughter.

“I understand she lives in Hertfordshire but I don’t know yet if she even knows that his grave is in Dereham,” he said.

“I’ll try and do all the First World War graves as and when their 100 years come up. There are quite a lot from 1918 but I’d like to find relatives and get them down and have a small ceremony. I know there are also a few at Swanton Morley cemetery and I am going to try and find as much information as I can.”

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