On this, the 98th anniversary of the end of the First World War, As well as my grandad who fought on the Somme and his older brother George who was killed there, I’d like to pay homage to Sgt William Streets.
Will was a precocious young man from Whitwell in North Derbyshire. He was offered the chance to go to the local ‘grammar’ school which for him would have been life changing. However, typical of the time, he came from a large family where making ends meet was often difficult. He therefore decided, for the good of his family, to pass on the school place and go out to work. From the age of 14 to 28 he worked down Whitwell pit.was a coal miner from Whitwell in North Derbyshire. He enlisted in the Sheffield City Battalion – the Sheffield Pals – and became a sergeant.
He was a poet. He wrote this poem, a Soldiers Cemetery, whilst on active duty on the Western Front, sending it and others home to his family…
Behind that long and lonely trenched line
To which men come and go, where brave men die,
There is a yet unmarked and unknown shrine,
A broken plot, a soldier’s cemetery.
There lie the flower of youth,
the men who scorn’d To live (so died) when languished Liberty:
Across their graves flowerless and unadorned
Still scream the shells of each artillery.
When war shall cease this lonely unknown spot
Of many a pilgrimage will be the end,
And flowers will shine in this now barren plot
And fame upon it through the years descend:
But many a heart upon each simple cross
Will hang the grief, the memory of its loss.
Will was killed in the first hour of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
His body was recovered nearly a year later and he was laid to rest in the same cemetery as my Uncle George. A volume of his poetry was published in 1917 under the title An Undying Splendour.
They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.