A WELLAND man had just returned from a visit to the grave of his great-uncle, who was killed in action 100 years ago this week at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Andrew Turner recently visited the cemetery in France to pay his respects to Private Jesse Spragg, who is buried there alongside five of his comrades from the Worcestershire Regiment.

Mr Turner was also able to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate last post service on behalf of all those who. like Jesse Spragg, left Malvern never to return.

Jesse Spragg was the only son of Jesse and Mary Spragg, The family lived on the corner of Pound Bank Road and Bellars Lane in Malvern where he helped with the running of the family coal business and smallholding.

In January 1916, at the age of 25, he joined the Worcestershire Regiment as a member of the 14th (Severn Valley Pioneers) Battalion, that had been raised in the autumn of 1915 by Colonel Sir Henry Webb at his own expense.

At this time, the battalion was quartered at Norton Barracks on the edge of Worcester, but in the spring of 1916, the battalion moved to Salisbury Plain for further training.

This continued until June 19, when the battalion left for Southampton, embarking the following day and arriving at Le Havre on the 21st.

Mr Turner said: "Jesse, however, must have followed at a later date as, on 22nd June, he married Olive Moore, whose father ran the Gas Tavern pub on the corner of Pickersleigh and Sherrards Green Roads, now the site of a local Tesco store.

"As for many couples for whom war had prompted a rushed marriage, this would be their last time together.

"The 14th Battalion were attached to the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division of the British Expeditionary Force and by the 24th June had settled into bivouac three miles from the front near Vimy Ridge. Here they stayed for the next three months helping to build defences whilst under fire.

"After a period of rest, the battalion moved to the Somme front. Here they continued working on defences whilst under shell fire in preparation for the attack that took place on November 12-13. All companies of the battalion were heavily involved in the attack and in small attacks and advances that continued until April 1917.

"The end of April saw the 14th Battalion building roads to the north of Arras. On April 28, although not part of the initial Battle of Arleux, the battalion were hurried into the line where they helped attack and hold trenches held by the Germans. After two days and 13 casualties, they were taken out of the line.

"The 14th Battalion remained in the Arras area and continued their work on defences and communications whilst still enduring casualties through shell fire. On September 24, they moved north into the Ypres Salient and by October 8 were near Poperinghe.

"On October 12, the British armies again attacked but with little success. This was the start of the fighting around the Passchendaele Ridge.

"The 14th Battalion, worked hard laying cables, creating duck-board tracks, building gun emplacements and trench systems. This was done despite continuous shelling and nightly bombing. By October 25, 11 men had been killed and 91 wounded.

"October 26 saw the final attack on the Passchendaele Ridge. The Germans responded with heavy shelling, some of which was long-range and targeted the easily-spotted camps. Several men of the battalion were hit and this is probably how and where Jesse died.

"A few days later, on October 29, a big bomb wrecked a hut in the camp, killing five more men and injuring 14 others.

"Jesse is buried in the La Brique Military Cemetery No 2 near where he died."