To commemorate the Battle of Messines, we are sharing the stories of two soldiers as reported in the Leigh Journal in 1917.

The Battle was a precursor to the Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele). 21 mines were laid under the German lines of which 19 exploded. General Plumer remarked, “Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography.”

This first article concerns Private Peter Evans.


‘Father of Seven Killed’


Mrs Evans, Plank Lane, Leigh received news last weekend of the death of the husband, Private Peter Evans, South Lancashire Regiment, during the recent advance in France on June 7th.
A friend in the same company writing to Mrs Evans says, ‘I am very sorry to have to inform you of your husband’s death. He was killed by shell fire on June 7th. He suffered no pain. Before going into action he handed me ten franc notes, telling me to forward them to you in case anything happened to him. I enclose them, please let me know if you receive them alright. His death has cast a gloom over the whole Company for he was a cheery fellow and well liked by everyone.’
Private Evans, who was 36 years of age had been in the Army two years. He leaves a wife and seven children, the youngest three weeks old. Before the war he was employed as a collier at the Plank Lane Collieries’
Details on our database show he is buried at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial Cemetery and his name is on the Leigh Cenotaph.

The second article reports the death of Mr Dunn and was printed in the Leigh Journal on 29th June 1917.


‘Enlisted and Killed on Same Day’
Mrs Dunn, Leigh, received official news on Friday morning of the death of her husband, Private Herbert Dunn, Lancashire Fusiliers, during the Messines advance on June 7th. Private Dunn, who was 36 years of age, leaves a wife and two children. Before joining the Army last August he was employed as a packer at the Mather Lane Mills where he had worked for 24 years. He is on the Roll of Honour at Pennington Church. Private Dunn and Private Hayward of Orchard Lane, Leigh, who was reported killed last week, both went up in the same group on the same day. They were put in the same regiment, went through their training together, and were both killed on the same day’.

Mr Dunn is buried in the same cemetery as Private Evans – Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial Cemetery.

First World War resources at Wigan & Leigh Archives and Local Studies can be accessed by clicking here.