Driving to Blackpool for a bike ride on the promenade I went via Preston to look for the grave of William Young. Though this man was born in Glasgow his bones lie in a pretty cemetery in Lancashire.
When he was 39 years old he was a member of The East Lancashire Regiment and fighting in the First World War. On Wednesday 22nd December 1915 he was in fighting near Foncquevillers in France. There was no returning home just in time for Christmas for the battalion. Instead they were in a trench beneath a thick veil of gunfire. William could see that his sergeant was lying wounded in front of barbed wire. Acting without orders and without heed for his own safety he climbed over the parapet and went to rescue the man. Two bullets thudded into him - one in the chest and one in the face, the latter shattering his jaw. Undeterred he carried on and with the help of another soldier got the injured sergeant back to safety. Later that day William walked back to the village dressing station to have his injuries attended to. He was sent back to England to be hospitalised.
He returned home to a hero’s welcome in April 1916. To express the town’s admiration for Private Young a fund of £562 was raised to support his family. Footage of his homecoming was caught on film...
Though William was Scottish he’d settled in Preston in 1902 aged 26 having married a local girl. His untameable mamba brought nine children. Though physically able to walk he required lots of medical help. He underwent much reconstructive surgery on his jaw and spent months in hospital. He was in a military hospital in Aldershot undergoing surgery when his body reacted so badly to an anaesthetic that he died of heart failure. He was just 40 years old. Thousands of people lined the streets of Preston to see the coffin pass on its way to the cemetery. He was buried here where I’m stood with full military honours.
These photos are quite deceptive and don’t show the lines of cars parked in the cemetery. Nor do they show hundreds of Muslim men milling along the paths and congregating nearby. I had to keep waiting for people to pass the grave in order to get some decent shots. There was a funeral about to start near the main entrance of the cemetery. More cars arrived, more men arrived. I hadn’t seen anything like it – hundreds of men but not one woman.
He saved a man’s life…..but paid with his own life and was dead at 40 years old…