Bolton family's double World War One tragedy

Harold Digner

Harold Digner

First published in News This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by

WORLD War One would bring tragedy to so many Bolton families. Hardly a single one would remain untouched by death following the Great War.

But for some families the pain and suffering would not be confined to losing just one much loved member of the family.

Marjorie Digner’s was one such family. Marjorie lost her grandfathers on both sides of the family.

Her mother’s father, Ernest Whittle, was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. His death is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

He left behind a wife and three young children.

In a tragic mirror of what had happened to Ernest, Marjorie’s other grandfather, William Bannister, died in World War One and his death is recorded on the memorial at Loof en Fallone. He also left behind a young wife and three children.

Marjorie, aged 79 and 83-year-old husband Malcolm have visited the Thiepval Memorial and were able to see the inscription dedicated to Ernest.

“It was amazing as it was at eye-level. If it had been any higher I would probably not have been able to see it,” says Malcolm, whose father, Harold, also served in World War One but returned to his family.

He worked with the horses — following in the footsteps of his own father, who was a horse keeper for the London Midland and Scottish Railways at Trinity Street Station — leading the horses pulling the ammunition box and field gun.

Malcolm, who lives in Bradshaw, added: “He served in Egypt, then fought the Turks and then ended the war in Belgium.

“There were thousands of horses left behind and he said he was worried about all the horses and what would happen to them.”

He said his father remained a smart man up until his death in his late seventies.

He said: “If you look at his photograph taken in his uniform you can see what a smart man he was. He remained that way all his life.

“It must have been difficult for such a proud and smart man to deal with the horrors of war, including the inability to keep clean.

“He talked about having lice in his clothes and even if he washed them he had no chance of drying them. It must have been dreadful.”

  • The Bolton News is putting together a window display featuring material from our archives. Visit our offices at The Wellsprings.

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