Canadians help honour Simonstone WWI soldier

Simonstone soldier L/Cpl Robert James Breckell, killed serving for the Canadian Saskatchewan Regiment in 1916

Simonstone soldier L/Cpl Robert James Breckell, killed serving for the Canadian Saskatchewan Regiment in 1916

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Canadian troops have rallied to honour a Simonstone soldier who fought and died for the country’s army during the First World War.

L/Cpl James Breckell, who was a weaver in the village, was killed fighting in the trenches of the Somme serving in the Canadian Saskatchewan Regiment.

The villager, who had emigrated from Simonstone to Canada in search of a better life, died from his wounds in 1916, barely a year after enrolling in the nation’s Army to fight against the Germans.

He is one of three Simon-stone soldiers whose names were found to be missing from the village’s war memorial at St Peter’s Church by local historians.

Troops from L/Cpl Breckell’s former regiment, now named the Royal Regina Rifles, heard about the story and wanted to help fundraise to honour their fallen comrade who has no known grave.

Simonstone Parish Council is hoping to erected a bronze plaque to finally remember the missing men 100 years 
after the outbreak of the Great War.

Parish council chairman David Peat MBE said: “The Royal Regina Regiment, which succeeded the Saskatchewan Regiment, decided it wanted to do some fundraising.

“They had a mess night in blues and twos and wore lapel badges from the 1914 war. Then the following night they had a ‘keggy’, in which they drank beer called ‘Scurvy Dog’ in the mess.”

The charity night raised nearly £400 towards the plaque, which will commemorate L/Cpl Breckell who was killed at start of the Somme
campaign at Vimy Ridge where his name is etched on a Canadian memorial.

East Lancs Regiment Pt Gilbert Yates, who died from wounds in 1915, and cotton mill owner Ernest Thistlethwaite, of the Household Cavalry, who died of wounds in 1917 at
Etaples, will also be remembered on the plaque when it installed at St Peter’s Church before Armistice Day in November.

Mr Peat said: “The fund-raising is going well. We have pledges that put us two-thirds of the way there.

“We now have a design for the plaque and we are looking at various organisations to take part in the dedication service.”