When the Western Front had become bogged down in trench warfare by winter 1914, miners from the Forest of Dean helped to undermine German positions and break the enemy line.
Around 300 miners from the Forest of Dean answered the call in 1914, joining the 13th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. By the end of the war they had suffered great losses.
Brothers James and George Hoare, who grew up in Fetter Hill and Drybrook respectively, were two other miners drafted to the front line.
Acting Sergeant James was with the third Monmouthshire Regiment and then attached to the 171st Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers.
He helped the mining operation under Hill 60 on April 10 1915, which was one of the most high profile battles of The Great War.
After the hill was captured by the Germans in December 1914, the British dug six tunnels under enemy positions and detonated them, causing devastating damage. The important strategic position was to change hands several times before finally being captured by the British in 1918.
James was eventually promoted to Sergeant, taking part in a number of other battles and received the Distinguish Conduct Medal for rescuing his injured section officer under heavy shelling.
Later in the war he was hit across the lower part of his body and legs while going into the trenches. The father of two died of his wounds and is buried at Brandhoek New Military Cemetery near Ypres. A local newspaper from the time described him as being “full of life and fun” and “quite popular.”
His brother, Private George Hoare, enlisted in the second Monmouthshire Regiment and later transferred to the first Sixth Battalion Welsh Regiment.
George spent the war as a stretcher bearer before he was killed aged 24 on September 16 1916 when a shell burst at the back of his group. He is buried at Flat Iron Copse Cemetery, at Mametz on the Somme.
His officer said he “thought a great deal of him as a stretcher bearer and was always trusted to find his man, treat him and bring him back in.”
The county’s mining tradition was also marked during the First World War by Private Francis Miles from Clearwell, who won a Victoria Cross and was named a ‘free miner’ of the Forest of Dean on his return.
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