Man’s quest to honour the frontline heroes

George Irwin
George Irwin

An Ilkeston pensioner on a quest to identify and map the graves of Ilkeston’s war heroes is appealing for ‘Tiser readers’ help.

John Chapman, 69, featured in the paper in November, he began looking into the town’s World War One heroes after his wife died and he spotted soldiers on gravestones on his visits to Park Cemetery.

Nrhn 300114 Private George Beardsley was killed in the trenches of Ypres, on December 14, 1915.

Nrhn 300114 Private George Beardsley was killed in the trenches of Ypres, on December 14, 1915.

One tombstone he kept being drawn to was that of the Smedley family.

Listed on there were husband and wife Robert and Georgina Smedley, of 3 Bristol Road, Ilkeston. But the grave also featured the names of their two sons, Peter Samuel Smedley and Robert Smedley - both who were killed during the First World War.

On researching the family John hit a brick wall.

He explained: “There is no official record of Peter and without this he can’t get be included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s records.

“After researching him I found out that he was born in Ilkeston in 1889.

“He married Elsie Cholerton in Ilkeston in 1914 and they went on to have a daughter Hilda, who was born in 1915.

“Peter was killed at Passchendaele on October 29, 1917.”

With no information on Peter’s regiment, John didn’t know where to turn next.

On the back of the gravestone, John found out about Peter’s brother, Robert.

Robert died as a result of wounds on September 21, 1918 - not even a year after his brother.

John found that Robert is commemorated in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s records, with date of death, parent’s names and location of his grave, which is in Pas de Calais, France. His name is etched on Ilkeston’s cenotaph.

John said: “After searching the only information that was available is that there is a Peter Smedley from Derby, he was killed April 1917, and a Peter Samuel Smedley who served for 1 year and died prior to 1969.

“I am reasonably sure that I have enough details to get him included in the official records of the CWGC, the Sherwood Foresters, and commemorated one of the Passchendaele memorials.

“But through the Advertiser, I would like to appeal to his family and ask them to confirm my research, they might have war office correspondence or letters from Peter to his family, or some other leads to follow up.”


John’s research has thrown up many interesting tales, which we hope to feature in the Advertiser over the coming months.

The first Ilkeston soldier to die was Sergeant 1623 George Irwin.

An ex-policeman who moved to Ilkeston, George was in the 1st Battalion of The Irish Guards.

He was 32 when he died as a result of wounds he suffered in the battle of Vivierres, France, on Friday September 11, 1914.

He has no known grave but John’s research shows that he is remembered on both the Ilkeston cenotaph and on La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.


Another soldier the ‘Tiser would like to know more information about is Private George Beardsley, of the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, was born in Stanley Common in 1888 and later lived in Horsley Woodhouse, and then Smalley.

The miner and father-of-two was 27 when he answered his country’s call to war, joining the 10th Battalion in 1914. He trained largely at Wool in Dorset before being shipped to Winchester for final training before deployment on the WesternFront in 1915.

The Division landed near Boulogne, France around August 1915 and later moved to Ypres, Belgium, where the Battalion took over the front line there. But George’s trenches took heavy shelling as 1915 drew on.

On December 14 that year Central Powers began an intense bombardment of his position. A total of 16 were killed that day and sadly George was one of them.

The Derbyshire man’s body was never identified or recovered, but he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing at Ypres.

If you have any more information about Private Beardsely, or you are a distant relative, then get in touch with us at You can call us on 0115 9446165 with all of your stories of those that served in the 1914-1918 conflict.