Patrick Dolan will never let his late grandfather be forgotten.
Now, 46 years after the death of Private Benjamin Smith, his proud grandson has published a book revealing the former Sheffield soldier’s fascinating war stories.
Patrick knew little about his late grandfather’s past until he discovered a Military Medal for ‘gallantry and devotion to duty’ and a pile of photographs in his grandmother’s box room.
The items shed light on a ‘Band of Brothers’ from Yorkshire, and Patrick set about researching his grandfather’s story and the fate of each of the 53 comrades he served alongside in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Patrick said: “Of the 54 men of the part-time Special Reserve sent to the Western Front on November 11 1914, 17 died – a third. Five deserted at some stage – including one who was ‘shot at dawn’ for desertion – and several more were discharged owing to wounds or sickness.
“A number of the soldiers were in their 30s, but most were still teenagers. All were working class manual workers, the majority of the Sheffield men working in the steel-related trades.”
Mr Dolan, who lives in Sheffield, discovered that his grandfather – a despatch rider who carried messages day and night over ground which was continuously shelled – held onto photographs of 11 wartime comrades and kept war diaries with brutally succinct entries, such as, ‘Quiet day... Pvt Roe 2/KOYLI was shot for desertion by firing party at 5am’.
Patrick said: “Going through these stories can be emotional. When you look through the medal rolls, the number killed in action is staggering and depressing, because they were all so very young. When I look at my grandfather’s war record, it is remarkable he survived four years.”