Poignant wills of soldiers from East Lancashire published
6:00pm Sunday 15th September 2013 in News
THE poignant last wishes of East Lancashire’s fallen soldiers have been made available on the internet for the first time.
The handwritten wills of soldiers slain in battle are a stark reminder of the ultimate sacrifice our servicemen made in conflicts since 1914.
Around 230,000 files, some of which have been buried in government archives for almost 100 years, have been scanned and uploaded in time for next year’s centenary commemoration of the First World War, by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.
For £3, descendents of soldiers slain on the battlefield can read their last wishes and personal letters.
One such soldier was Ernest William Ibbotson, from the 2/4th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. In barely leigible writing, the 25-year-old said he was leaving his belongings to his mother, Sarah Ann, who lived in Walter Street, Brierfield with her husband Albert.
Pte Ibbotson wrote his will on February 28, 1917, a month before being sent to the Western Front. He was killed in the June and buried in France.
Colne Lance Corporal John Whalley, died in Belgium in July 1917. In a heart-wrenching note written while he was still a private, he left everything to his mother, who lived in Crabtree Street.
His younger brother Fred survived the war thanks to a pocket watch, which stopped a piece of shrapnel from hitting him after an explosion.
And 27-year-old William Preston, from Little Harwood, Blackburn, signed his possessions over to his parents Margaret and James, who lived in Rydal Road. His undated will was partly torn but still clearly outlined his final wishes.
Pte Preston was killed in action on February 5, 1915. As part of the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, he died in France, fighting on the Western Front.
Courts minister, Helen Grant, said: “This fascinating project has opened the door to a whole new insight on our war heroes – it has given us the opportunity for the first time to hear the thoughts and emotions of the brave soldiers who died for this country in their own words.”
But Accrington historian, Walter Holmes, said: “Why should we pay money for them to somebody who is just trying to make a quick buck? They are in the national archives for free. We should not have to pay to see a scanned piece of paper on the computer.”
Access the service by visiting www.gov.uk/probate-search.
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