A twist of fate meant Wilpshire man Eric Nolan was able to attend the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and honour the lives of his decorated grandfather and brave great uncle, both from Clitheroe.
Eric’s grandfather was Private James Dunn, known to friends as Jimmy, of North Street, who joined the 2nd Coldstream Guards when war broke out.
Pte Dunn’s half brother was Private Fred Brown, of the 14th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who was killed in action.
Eric and his cousin Brian Wright were lucky enough to receive two returned tickets, after being unsuccessful in an earlier application to attend the Thiepval Memorial ceremony and lay a wreath on behalf of their family, Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley.
A report from the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times from September 17th, 1916 read: “Although experiencing the stiffest of fighting, almost continually under fire, Private Dunn has not received even a scratch. How he has escaped has puzzled him greatly, and as he said, can only be attributed to ‘divine providence’.
He said: “I’ve prayed for many an hour in the trenches, and thanked God with all my heart for sparing me. How I’ve managed it is beyond me.”
A final report in the Clitheroe Advertiser, dated September 6th, 1918, detailed his award of the Albert Medal, since replaced by the George Cross, for
“Saving wounded from beneath burning trucks at rail-head in France on June 12th, at the risk of his own life.”
Pte. Dunn returned home to his family after the war and died in 1943, aged 54. Eric said: “I can’t adequately describe the trip and almost can’t put into words how I felt at the ceremony. It was wonderfully moving.”