FOR the best part of a century, Private James Evans has been “the unknown soldier”.

Unknown because no UK war memorial bore his name.

On Sunday, Putley, the village where Pte Evans was born, puts that right with a rededication of its newly repaired memorial.

The remarkable story of how the four boys from the village who gave their lives to the Great War got a new comrade is testament to the impact of conflict through generations.

Pte Evans was killed in Belgium on April 20th 1917 serving with the 3rd Batallion of the Worcester Regiment.

Aged 25, he died trapped in a trench taking heavy shellfire and probably from shrapnel wounds – a far cry from the fields  he called home and seemed destined for.

His grave stone offers no age, no Christian name,  and no message from the young widow and baby daughter left to mourn.

Nor does his name appear on any UK war memorial.

Yet his links to Putley are strong.

The family features in Putley’s 1891 census, James was born a year later.

Census evidence suggests he may have been born at a house called The Newtons, home, then, to his father Edward – buried at Putley church.

His parents and grandparents were agricultural labourers and records show them moving around Putley’s immediate surrounds for work.

Pte Evans enlisted in the Royal Worcestershire Regiment in 1915 having married in July that year – and a 100 years to the day of the dedication  - at Dymock Church.

By then, the couple were already mum and dad to a daughter.

Military records that could have confirmed details like his enlistment date are long missing.

Nor is it known when he was deployed to the killing fields of the Western Front from Raglan Barracks, Plymouth, though there is a clue in the “soldier’s will” he wrote on September 4, 1916,  in his pay book - informal and unwitnessed as was the custom.

The will left “everything” to his wife.

On April 20, 1917, Pte Evans was with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Worcestershire, in trenches on the west bank of the River Lys, Flanders.

The position was under heavy shellfire – it was the final day of what had been a largely uneventful duty tour.

Stark records simply show six men killed by a round of high explosive.

Though the men are not named, Pte Evans was one of them with the cause of death likely to have been shrapnel strikes from the shelling.

A medical aid post stood close to where Tancrez Farm cemetery is now.

The cemetery grew up around the post and, like Pte Evans, nearly all the men buried there would have either died on the short journey from the front line or before they could be taken to casualty clearing stations further west. 

Having received the terse telegram confirming her husband’s death, the young widow faced further tragedy, losing her two-year-old daughter to acute rickets and pneumonia little more than a month later.

By October she had re-married to raise a son.

With a new life to lead she was likely lost to the War Graves Commission and the War Memorials Commission so the details available to either were limited.

The son she raised knew nothing of his father other than the name on his birth certificate and roughly where he had lived, having been brought up to believe it was on the Welsh border.

He had no photo, no medals, no mementoes, no mentions.  

And that’s how it would have stayed if Putley had not decided to re-dedicate its war memorial.

Mike Evans, now living in Guildford, Surrey, has never been to Putley.

This Sunday he’ll get a first look at the fields his family worked, lived and died in.

He’s a special guest at the dedication that sees his grandfather’s name inscribed on the memorial.

Mike’s journey to Putley started with a letter villager Tim Beaumont wrote to Country Life magazine last year seeking information on those involved in making the memorial consecrated in 1920.

 Though the letter did not produce any leads as to its original purpose, it did put Tim in contact with Mike who had been shown the letter by a friend aware of his interest in the village.

That awareness came about when the friend mentioned to Mike that his grand-children went riding in Putley.

What neither of them knew then, was that the stables the grandchildren used were at a property called Newtons which is where Mike’s great grandfather Edward was living at the time of 1891 census – and where James was probably born.

Mike’s dad served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and survived being sunk  three times.

Mike followed his dad into “the life”  and retired as a Commander aged 55 after 37 years.

Born in 1945 when his dad was 28, Mike says he never knew him as a well man.

“He died in 1983 aged 66.  War really does have its price and its impact on families can be felt for a long time,” said Mike.

Having seen Tim’s letter, Mike wrote to the clerk of Putley Council to ask if it were possible for grandfather James to be added to the memorial.

The request then went to parish councillor Alice Rhodes who, as a member of the Parochial Church Council, was s one of the parishioners dealing with the re-dedication.

From there, the request was passed to Tim to make a case to the parish authorities and the War Memorial Commission.

Sunday is possible thanks to a substantial grant from the War Memorials Trust that boosted the efforts made by the parish.

The name of Pte Evans has been inscribed by Hereford letterer Will O’Leary.

A lean to the memorial - in the eastern end of the churchyard - has also been corrected, with that work done by local craftsman Marcus Mortimer and his team at MJM Woodworking.

In Putley, they like to think of their memorial as unique with its crucifix of oak and Christ carved from teak standing on a grit stone plinth, on a three stepped base.

 The crucifix is secured to the top of the plinth with a simple nut and bolt.

There, Mike and Tim will meet for the first time on Sunday, with Mike still unsure of how he can adequately convey his gratitude at the rededication.

And the co-incidences keep coming.

Tim Beaumont lives as Sheepcote, adjacent to Mains Wood, where Edward Evans is now known to have been living in the 1880s.

With his grand-father’s name finally on a war memorial, Mike wants to pay a first visit to the grave at Tancrez Farm War Cemetery.

 That’s planned for 2017 – as close to the anniversary of his grandfather’s death as he can – with a specially-purchased Tower of London poppy a fitting salute after so long.