A very moving story that began in France and was took up by a group of family historians on the Genealogy forum 'Rootschat'
From the Wartime Website http://liverpoolremembrance.weebly.c...names-s-t.html
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A group of people who live all over the world and are members of the free family history site of RootsChat.com came together to bring this WW1 soldier back into the limelight !!
A silver identity tag was found some 25 years ago on a Great War battlefield near LA COUTURE, a village between ARMENTIERES and BETHUNE in France, together with some old coins and a button from a British army trench coat. The tag belonged to an officer of the Machine Gun Corps - 2nd Lieutenant ROBERT WILLIAM STEAD (1896-1926) from Liverpool. It had been Michel Knockaerts fervent wish that the tag be returned to Robert's family .... he wrote .....
”25 years ago, when I was General Secretary of the town hall of LA COUTURE, a village between ARMENTIERES and BETHUNE, just on the western front, I found, among old coins and a button of British trench coat, a piece of metal engraved in English. Since that day, I search in the British cemeteries of my sector the grave of the man (there are many of them near my home) In fact, with help of members of the forum and of a new friend from Minnesota one day I see I made a mistake, the man survived the conflict and returned back alive at home in Anfield Liverpool.
The memory of this man, that I do not know haunt my spirit, my best wish is to restore the wrist tag to his descendants, if they are still alive, that is very very important for me. Of course, no money in this history, just to be in peace with my soul, this medal is not mine, it must go back in his real place “
They weren't able to find relatives but they did find Roberts final resting place .... at St Peters Church Woolton Liverpool ... sadly the grave stone had fallen so they all "chipped in " to re-erect his gravestone so he was able to face the sun again !! Who knows what it was that endeared Robert to so many people ? - maybe it was because they could all relate to their own Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers .... but they knew they wanted to honour this brave soldier - in the eyes of the world he was an ordinary man .... but in their eyes he became a very extraordinary man and they seem to have become all the better for "knowing " him !!
Robert William STEAD (1896 West Derby -1926 Gateacre)
Robert William Stead was born March 22nd 1896 in West Derby Liverpool - the son of William Harley ( Master Mariner ) and Emily ( nee Richards ) Stead and lived at Watford Road Anfield Liverpool
He was 17 years and 5 months old when he attested to join the army for 4 years in Liverpool on 25 August 1913 He gave his address as Watford Road Anfield Liverpool the home of his father William Harley Stead who he gave as next of kin and later identified as a Master Mariner Robert who was a single man, identified his birthplace as Liverpool Lancashire - his current occupation as a bank clerk at Parr's Bank Liverpool and his religion as Church of England. He returned the next day, for a medical examination. This revealed that he stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 10st 9lbs and had a chest measurement of 35 inches. He was accepted into 6th Rifle battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment
Once in the Army - Robert William Stead became a number – 1466 to begin with - he faced a couple of months worth of drill square bashing and weapons training - in order to turn him from a bank clerk to soldier ....... Private Stead 's unit first entered the theatre of war in France in February 1915 and he was promoted to L/Cpl 28th August 1915. Yet Robert given his intelligence - was not the sort of man to remain an infantry soldier for long - in fact he was the perfect sort of person to become a member of the newly created Machine Gun Corps.
Robert William Stead # 22397 attested 20th February 1916 with 165 Brigade MGC and was promoted A/Cpl 29th March 1916 - he was sent to the Machine Gun training centre at Grantham back in England - here he familiarised himself with the workings and complexities of the Vickers .303 and heavy machine guns. He became a team player – each gun was ideally manned by a crew of eight - four men were involved in the actual firing and the other four responsible for sighting and the preparation and the bringing up of ammunition - crews in the field normally numbered six - simply because of the shortage of men.
The course only lasted approximately 6 weeks due to the intense demand for gunners. Thus Robert really only had basic training in the complexities of machine-gun warfare. ( The targets of every enemy weapon - members of the MGC were also called the Suicide Squad ) He rose through the ranks and was promoted to Second Lieutentant.
Robert was wounded in the chest and thigh in August 1916 while in Abbeville and was released from the Army 20th March 1919. Coming home after the war he married Elizabeth Neil Grant in 1921 at St Simon and St Judes Church Liverpool and they moved to Gateacre .... tragically they were only married 5 years as Robert William Stead died in 1926 in Gateacre of a cerebral hemorrhage.