How should the centenary of the First World War be marked in Staffordshire?

Teenager Fred Marshall lied about his age to enlist in the Army – and died along with 500 of his comrades on one of the bloodiest days in British military history. Private Marshall was listed in military records as aged 18 when he died on October 13, 1915, but family legend has it that Fred's true age was just 16.

Fred was one of more than 10,000 members of the North and South Staffordshire Regiments who lost their lives during the First World War. Now, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict next year, families are being asked for their views on how the county should commemorate the Great War. Christine Tilsley, aged 62, of Blythe Bridge, who is related to VC hero John Rhodes, lost several relatives in the war including Fred. She said: "It's so important that we remember what they sacrificed. I do think it is really important that we have something special to commemorate the 100th anniversary." It is not known precisely how Private Marshall, of the North Staffordshire Regiment, died. But it is likely the soldier, who lived at 8 Grafton Street, Hanley, was gunned down with hundreds of others in less than an hour, during a fateful charge on the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Loos – still renowned as one of the blackest days in the regiment's history. Eighteen-year-old Private Willam Shaw was also killed in the charge and his name is included on the Loos Memorial in France alongside Private Marshall's. His niece Trixie Bennett, aged 77, of Brownley Road, Smallthorne, said: "It is very important they are not forgotten. My uncle was 16 when he joined and died aged 18. They all gave their lives for our freedom." Military, family history, and other community groups, are now coming together to develop plans for events and exhibitions to commemorate the anniversary, which begins on August 4, 2014. And a key part of the commemoration will be the creation of a Staffordshire Great War Trail, highlighting places of places of interest to visitors to the area including the National Memorial Arboretum, the Staffordshire Regiment Museum and the Great War heritage sites at Cannock Chase. Now Staffordshire County Council is asking people to take part in an online survey, aimed at gauging interest in the centenary. Project co-ordinator David Barker said: "The Great War claimed the lives of more than 16 million. We are all connected to it and we want to ensure that people of all ages can get involved and understand the impact of the Great War on society today." Source: thisisstaffordshire Via: Forces War records Blog.

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