"Here's to the men of Lancashire
The lads of the mills and clogs
Who have left their homes and fireside cheer
In trenches to play the Bulldogs
No hate of the Germans took them away
But love of their own free land
And hatred of all that would foul the place
And fritter the free mans hand
So here's to the lads of Lancashire
The lads of the pits and coal
Who have cut the cable of fireside cheer
In the trenches to shiver with cold"
First verse of a poem written by Bandsman H.L. Smith, of the Black Watch to his mother, at 9 Cumberland Street, Nelson, whilst invalided at Addington Park, Croyden, Surrey, in 1915.
Over 100 local men who lost their lives during the First World War are buried in St John's Churchyard, Barkerhouse Road, Nelson or commemorated on St John's Roll of Honour.
Until now there has been no permanent memorial which recognised all of them or honoured their memory.
The Friends of St John's Churchyard have undertaken an extensive programme of restoration, renovation and conservation since 2005. Increasing interest and awareness of local history across the country, coupled with the graveyard's improved accessibility, have resulted in the general public wanting to find out more about the residents of the town and their lives.
Prompted by this, the Friends of St John's Churchyard began to focus on our local men who died in the First World War, discovering how many soldiers were buried or commemorated in St John’s, who they were, and uncovering and sharing their stories.
Following a successful application in 2018 to the National Lottery First World War:then and now fund, work began on an ambitious project to create a database of those who died and document their stories, recording the lives of Nelson's residents during the war years. With the involvement of a group of volunteers who received training in researching war records we were able to obtain a wealth of information which is included in this website.
Initially 30 Commonwealth War Graves in St John’s graveyard indicated that WW1 casualties were laid to rest there but research has revealed that a total of 109 local men died in the conflict and are recorded in St John’s.
In addition to the research and building of the WW1 website the Friends of St John's Churchyard, as part of the National Lottery award, have created a Memorial Garden within the churchyard. The Garden is enhanced by two information boards and improvements made to the main churchyard path to help the public gain access to the Garden.
In the summer of 2019 we will share our findings at an Open Event where displays will illustrate some of the soldiers' stories and the lives of our Nelson War Heroes. It is fitting that we acknowledge and remember their huge sacrifice and discover and share as much as we can about their lives and also those of their families left behind.