Executed at Le Catelet -
Written and researched by David
with the kind help of historians world wide.
This research project
was inspired by a innocent post on the Great War Forum by fellow
Merseysider, Richard Dalglish, alias “Daggers,” entitled
Pte William Thorpe, 8561, 1/King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.
Posted 11 April 2020
I have had 'A Foreign Field' by Ben Macintyre for several years but
until going through the shelves for a good read, while libraries are
closed, I found I had never read it.
It is a true story of a handful of British soldiers, separated from
their various units in the German advances of 1914, who link up and are
hidden by French villagers. The author clearly spent much time with the
descendants and survivors of the villagers and was allowed access to
local archives, but he does not allow his research to interrupt his
One of the soldiers is named as William Thorpe, from Liverpool, who had
joined the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in 1910 as a regular
soldier and was 36 years of age in late 1914. He had a wife and three
young children back in Liverpool, but no other details appear in the
book about where he lived or his former occupation.
After many months in hiding the four main characters of the book are
revealed to the occupying Germans, and after brief 'trial' were
executed by firing squad in May 1916. Their graves lie in the village
churchyard at Le Catelet, just north of St Quentin in Picardy.
I have not been able to trace William Thorpe's army records, as so many
were lost in a WW2 bombing, but found that he was entitled to the 1914
Star, Victory and British War Medals, which were probably sent to his
widow. The Star card shows his number as 8561. 'Soldiers
Died in the Great War' has 'KIA', killed in action, against his name
and has his number as '8501'. His entry on the Vic/BMW Medal Roll has
'85#1', where the # is an obscure, possible deleted or corrected
digit.The CWGC's Debt of Honour Register entry includes no family
information. I have been told that the Soldiers' Effects dated 20
Sept 1919 shows they were sent to William's brother Alfred J. Thorpe,
and not to his wife or widow. Would this give an address?
Without more detail of his wife's name or an address I have failed to
find a census record for the family, which might be under one of the
Liverpool districts: Kirkdale, Everton, Walton, West Derby, etc.
I would be very interested to know if more is known or can be found
about this man.
The complete research can be read here in this document
in PDF format - Click