Family of Alfreton soldier mark centenary of death

Second Lieutenant Godfrey Gordon Furness of Alfreton was killed in the Somme on February 9 ,1917.
Second Lieutenant Godfrey Gordon Furness of Alfreton was killed in the Somme on February 9 ,1917.

The family of a young Alfreton soldier gathered at his grave last week to mark the centenary of his death during the First World War.

Second Lieutenant Godfrey Gordon Furness was one of 11 soldiers killed on February 9, 1917, as he led 100 members of the 6th Division, 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters in a raid on enemy trenches on the battlefields of the Somme.

Lt Furness, 18, was given a memorial grave at Vermelles British Cemetery near Lens in northwest France.

Exactly 100 years on, his nephew Gordon Pepper and family travelled to France to pay their respects.

Gordon, who was awarded a CBE for his work as an economics professor, said: “I and my three sons held a little ceremony by the graves.

“We placed a wreath on my uncle’s grave and another on that of the sergeant killed alongside him to represent the other ranks, and read out the names of the dead.”

Gordon is the son of Lt Funess’s sister, and chose to honour his uncle by passing Godfrey and Gordon on to two of his own sons as middle names.

On February 16, 1917, the Alfreton and Belper Journal - a local newspaper which closed in 1935 - reported that Lt Furness’ parents had been informed of the death by telegram.

It noted that Lt Furness had “done splendidly in his studies at college and was preparing for a great career.”

Lt Furness first went to Orient College, Skegness, then attended Cheltenham College and the Royal Military Training College at Sandhurst.

The news report added: “This is another case of a brilliant case cut short. The blow has fallen very heavily and is felt most keenly by Mr and Mrs Furness. He was their only son, but they are British and through their sad loss are showing the typical British spirit.

“‘I have one big hope’ says Mr Furness ‘and that is that his life has not been given in vain.’”

One of Lt Furness’ friends from the regiment wrote: “He was one of the bravest officers we ever had.”