From the Darlington & Stockton Times of April 15, 1922

PRACTICALLY every community was unveiling a war memorial 100 years ago, partly as a point of focus for the bereaved who could not afford to travel to the Somme to see where their loved one had fallen.

But the D&S Times of 100 years ago has an unusual story of Walter and Elizabeth Wilkinson, of Grove Square in Leyburn, travelling to see the grave of their son, Pte WE Wilkinson of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who had been killed near Rheims on July 20, 1918, aged 19.

They left Leyburn by the 11.35am train and arrived in London at 6.30pm, before sailing the next day to Boulogne. They made it to Amiens at 8pm, dined in the YMCA café, and set off next morning at 4.30am for Rheims, picking their way through the battlefield.

“A great number of trenches remain all around, the roads are full of shell holes, and hundreds of coils of barbed wire still remain in and around the trenches,” reported the D&S. “The village of Amifontane has been entirely wiped out, nothing but big heaps of empty shell cases and battered Red Cross wagons being visible.”

They found their boy in a small cemetery near a village of eight houses called Courmas. “They had no difficulty in finding the grave, every grave being clearly defined and well looked after,” said the D&S. “The cemetery is in a very restful and quiet position, its appearance denotes every attention, many bulbs have been planted, and the graves kept in a most tidy manner.

“For miles around Courmas can be seen cemeteries studded here and there, the white crosses on the graves being very conspicuous.”

They “sorrowfully” returned to Rheims to start their journey home, “Mr and Mrs Wilkinson expressing the greatest satisfaction at seeing their son’s grave in a foreign land so well cared for”.