Family lays wreath for Hitchin First World War hero, 100 years after his death

Brenda Preston lays a poppy wreath at a remembrance service held at Hitchin war memorial in memory o

Brenda Preston lays a poppy wreath at a remembrance service held at Hitchin war memorial in memory of her grandfather Henry Walter Marchant who died on the same day in 1918. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: Danny Loo

Relatives of a First World War hero gathered at Hitchin’s war memorial on Thursday to lay a poppy wreath in his memory, a century on from the day he died.

Brenda Preston lays a poppy wreath at a remembrance service held at Hitchin war memorial in memory o

Brenda Preston lays a poppy wreath at a remembrance service held at Hitchin war memorial in memory of her grandfather Henry Walter Marchant who died on the same day in 1918. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: Danny Loo

Hertfordshire Regiment soldier Pte Henry Walter Marchant was killed in action on March 22, 1918, aged just 26.

His granddaughter Brenda Preston, from Stevenage, was joined by family, Royal British Legion representatives and others for a short remembrance service led by Rev Austin Smith.

Those looking on included Jean Handley, who wrote the book Remembered With Pride about the pupils from the Hitchin Boys’ British School – now the British Schools Museum – who lost their lives during the Great War.

Brenda, 70, told the Comet her grandfather had fought in several major battles of the conflict, including Arras, Ypres and the Somme, before falling in action near Cambrai.

Brenda Preston at Hitchin war memorial next to the name of her grandfather Henry Walter Marchant who

Brenda Preston at Hitchin war memorial next to the name of her grandfather Henry Walter Marchant who died on the same day in 1918. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: Danny Loo


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She said it meant a lot to remember her grandfather in this way – particularly because she was doing it also on behalf of her father, who died in December 1999.

Pte Marchant was born in Hitchin and lived in Radcliffe Road, the son of a railwayman who had moved up from London when the line was extended.

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He went to the Hitchin Boys’ British School, and later joined his father on the railways before enlisting in the army at Hertford, joining the Herts Regiment.

Having married Ellen Daisy Chalkley at Holy Saviour Church in 1915, he died barely four months after the birth of their son Walter – Brenda’s father – on December 15, 1917. Radcliffe Road remained the Marchant family home until 2014.

Pte Marchant has no known grave. He is commemorated on Hitchin’s war memorial, at Holy Saviour Church in Radcliffe Road, and at the Army Reserve depot off Bedford Road.

His name also appears on the Pozières Memorial in the Somme region of France, and on the railwaymen’s memorial at London King’s Cross station.

Brenda said: “As children, when we went to London, we used to get off the train and my sister and me would be pointed to the memorial and told ‘that’s your grandfather’ – so it’s always been with us.”

Brenda added that she would like to thank Robin Steel of the Hitchin Poppy Appeal for his help.

In a note attached to the poppy wreath she dedicated to her grandfather, she wrote: “We will always remember you.”

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