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A pensioner has started caring for the dilapidated grave of a "forgotten" WWI soldier

Video Credit: SWNS STUDIO - Duration: 01:05s - Published
A pensioner has started caring for the dilapidated grave of a 'forgotten' WWI soldier

A pensioner has started caring for the dilapidated grave of a "forgotten" WWI soldier

A pensioner has started caring for the dilapidated grave of a "forgotten" WWI soldier - so people remember the "brave sacrifice" he made for his country.

Paul Harper, 66, said it "broke his heart" to see the tattered gravestone and overgrown plot when he cycled passed while exercising over lockdown.

The retired dad-of-two went home to get clippers, a brush and some water before returning to tidy the plot and reveal the name of the fallen veteran.

Paul has since discovered Private Byron Blackburn served during World War one before being shot in the leg and returning home, where he died from his injuries.

It's not known whether Pte Blackburn has any surviving family members but Paul is appealing for anyone who may be connected to the serviceman to step forward.

He said: "Men like Byron Blackburn bravely gave up their lives in order for us to be here today - I don't think they should ever be forgotten.

"I think people should go and see these graves and honour the people buried there - we must remember the sacrifice they made, it's important." Paul added: "Byron Blackburn's burial place was so lonely, it broke my heart to think hundreds of people pass every day yet no one really knows he's there.

"It was all mucky and filthy, it just wasn't right so I decided to do something." The gravestone is on an area of land in Heckmondwike, West Yorks., which, many years ago, housed a now demolished chapel.

Paul, who's from nearby Liversedge, said: "I had seen this column before but never properly looked.

"One day I decided to stop and read what it said, which is when I saw Byron Blackburn's name and that he had died aged 25.

"Something just drew me to the grave it so I decided to clean it up." According to Paul's research, Pte Blackburn joined the army in 1915 and served during the First World War with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment.

He's thought to have been fighting in Italy in 1917 when he was shot in the leg and returned to Warrington in Cheshire.

Pte Blackburn died from septicaemia, a result of the wound, on November 29 that year.

He wasn't married and, according to Paul's research, the soldier's last known family member was born in 1928, meaning they'd be in their 90s if still alive today.

Had Pte Blackburn died at war he would have been buried in a military cemetery.

His name is displayed on the cenotaph in Warrington, which is thought to have been his hometown.

History lover Paul says he feels like he has "opened Pandora's box" and that he plans to keep researching Pte Blackburn's life to paint a fuller picture.

His great uncle William died during the Second World War and is buried at a military cemetery in Thailand, where the War Graves Commission tend to the grave.

The former steel worker is urging others to do the same as him, and the War Graves Commission, by taking on the care and maintenance of a war veteran's grave.

He said: "I'm a firm believer that we need to learn from history.

"Honouring these men isn't about glorifying war, it's just about remembering them as individuals, as people who made a sacrifice.

"I'd like to see more of these forgotten graves brought back to the condition they deserve to be in - it's not a hard thing to do." Paul added: "It would be great to find some of Byron Blackburn's family

A pensioner has started caring for the dilapidated grave of a "forgotten" WWI soldier - so people remember the "brave sacrifice" he made for his country.

Paul Harper, 66, said it "broke his heart" to see the tattered gravestone and overgrown plot when he cycled passed while exercising over lockdown.

The retired dad-of-two went home to get clippers, a brush and some water before returning to tidy the plot and reveal the name of the fallen veteran.

Paul has since discovered Private Byron Blackburn served during World War one before being shot in the leg and returning home, where he died from his injuries.

It's not known whether Pte Blackburn has any surviving family members but Paul is appealing for anyone who may be connected to the serviceman to step forward.

He said: "Men like Byron Blackburn bravely gave up their lives in order for us to be here today - I don't think they should ever be forgotten.

"I think people should go and see these graves and honour the people buried there - we must remember the sacrifice they made, it's important." Paul added: "Byron Blackburn's burial place was so lonely, it broke my heart to think hundreds of people pass every day yet no one really knows he's there.

"It was all mucky and filthy, it just wasn't right so I decided to do something." The gravestone is on an area of land in Heckmondwike, West Yorks., which, many years ago, housed a now demolished chapel.

Paul, who's from nearby Liversedge, said: "I had seen this column before but never properly looked.

"One day I decided to stop and read what it said, which is when I saw Byron Blackburn's name and that he had died aged 25.

"Something just drew me to the grave it so I decided to clean it up." According to Paul's research, Pte Blackburn joined the army in 1915 and served during the First World War with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment.

He's thought to have been fighting in Italy in 1917 when he was shot in the leg and returned to Warrington in Cheshire.

Pte Blackburn died from septicaemia, a result of the wound, on November 29 that year.

He wasn't married and, according to Paul's research, the soldier's last known family member was born in 1928, meaning they'd be in their 90s if still alive today.

Had Pte Blackburn died at war he would have been buried in a military cemetery.

His name is displayed on the cenotaph in Warrington, which is thought to have been his hometown.

History lover Paul says he feels like he has "opened Pandora's box" and that he plans to keep researching Pte Blackburn's life to paint a fuller picture.

His great uncle William died during the Second World War and is buried at a military cemetery in Thailand, where the War Graves Commission tend to the grave.

The former steel worker is urging others to do the same as him, and the War Graves Commission, by taking on the care and maintenance of a war veteran's grave.

He said: "I'm a firm believer that we need to learn from history.

"Honouring these men isn't about glorifying war, it's just about remembering them as individuals, as people who made a sacrifice.

"I'd like to see more of these forgotten graves brought back to the condition they deserve to be in - it's not a hard thing to do." Paul added: "It would be great to find some of Byron Blackburn's family




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