An author has brought to life the diaries of an Accrington soldier not seen since 1919.
Former soldier Stephen Corbett is set to release his new book An Accrington Pal: The Diaries of Private Jack Smallshaw September 1914 - March 1919 to coincide with the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
Accrington-born Jack fought at the Battle of the Somme; he was one of the very few so-called ‘Accrington Pals’ to survive. He would go on to fight bravely at the Battle of Oppy Wood in 1917 and stuck it out to the bitter end of the Great War.
Jack died in 1957 at the age of 63.
Stephen, 64, said: “This is the story of a quite remarkable survivor of the ‘war to end all wars’, whose diaries have lain unpublished, in the possession of his family, since 1919. The publisher put out an appeal and a lady called Louise Baird came forward with her grandfather’s diaries that she had painstakingly transcribed and the that’s how the book came about.”
Jack became an Accrington Pal on September 15, 1914 and on July 1, 1916 the battalion attacked the fortified village of Serre and was virtually wiped out. Jack was one of the very few who survived. He continued to serve on the front throughout the remainder of 1916 and into 1917, where he took part in the battle at Oppy Wood in May of that year. Shortly afterwards he was struck down by a second bout of trench fever and spent the rest of the year recovering in England.
By February 1918 he was back in France serving on the front line. He was in the thick of the action again in March when the Germans launched their spring offensive against the allied lines. He weathered that too, and stuck it out to the bitter end.
Part of the book tells the story of how Private Jack came to survive the offensive at the Battle of the Somme.
Stephen, who lives in Warrington, said: “Jack was a batman to the second in command of W Company Lieutenant Gorst, who took no part in the attack due to an Army order that the second in command was to be held in reserve. Later that day he wrote just a single line entry in his diary - ‘We went over the top this morning.’
“It is likely that Jack was by Gorst’s side carrying out his duties, but he was there on the battlefield and he must have seen terrible things that day which would haunt him.”