Chesterfield Somme soldier finally laid to rest after grave is located
A Chesterfield soldier who was mortally wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme was carried to safety across the battlefield by a friend who lived in the same neighbourhood.
The unexpected tale came to light at a special service for Private Charles Gordon Shaw, of the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regiment), whose body had lain unmarked at the graveyard at Christ Church, Stonegravels, Chesterfield, for 100 years until this week.
But thanks to detective work by local amateur historian, John Holmes, who located the ‘lost’ grave, Private Shaw’s family have now been able to mourn his death and put plans in place for a permanent headstone later this year.
Paying tribute to Sergeant Dick Wagg, whose relatives also attended the service on Monday (July 11), Private Shaw’s great nephew, Ian Shaw, said: “It is an amazing story.
“The service was very emotional and humbling. It could not have gone any better.
“I gave Mr Wagg’s relatives a hug and thanked them. Without Mr Wagg we would not have a grave for Charles in England where we can visit.
“I do not get choked up but I have to say I did get choked up at the service.”
Private Shaw was mortally wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1, 1916. He was left lying under uncut barbed wire after being hit by a shrapnel shell.
Sgt Wagg ran out three times to rescue Private Shaw and two other men, carrying them across a battlefield raked with machine gun and shell fire. He survived the war. Private Shaw died a week later in hospital.
Private Shaw and Sgt lived on the Hardwick Street estate of Stonegravels.
Private Shaw’s grave was ‘lost’ due to a change of vicar at Christ Church, who was unable to tell the Commonwealth War Graves Commission where his body was located.
However, historian Mr Holmes, who also attended the service, used the church’s archives to locate where Private Shaw was buried.
Mr Holmes said: “I was contacted by Private Shaw’s niece Dorris Innes.
“I used the archives and found the handwritten register and it just went from there.”