The Great War not only claimed the lives of millions, it deprived the world of many talented people who never reached their potential or had their place properly preserved in history.
One such infantry man was Thomas Gascoyne, of Whittington, Chesterfield, who was an English professional cycling champion who competed internationally and held world records.
But as the centennial marking the beginning of World War One in August approaches, Gascoyne’s exploits provide an example of how sports stars were drawn into the conflict.
Gascoyne held world records for a 25 mile distance and a flying-start quarter mile and held the English record for a tandem. He also clocked up an unpaced mile in two minutes, five seconds. But after emigrating to Australia he worked as a labourer and went on to serve in the Australian Army before dying at the Battle of Passchendaele, in Belgium, on October 4, 1917, aged 41.
He specialised in track, solo, tandem and pursuit events and competed in America and Australia. However, Gascoyne is not forgotten with many publications describing him as having “wonderful powers”, with “marvellous, unpaced efforts”.
His military sacrifice with the 21st Battalion of the Australian Army during World War One at Passchendaele has been recognised on a Roll of Honour at the Menin Gate, at the Ypres Memorial, in Belgium. He will be remembered as an international pioneer pushing sporting limits and travelling half way round the world to build a new life that was so sadly cut short.