THE FAMILY of a man believed to be a community's first soldier to head for battle in the Great War have had a headstone made for his grave, 60 years after his death.

George Ernest Mather, from Rainhill, joined the armed forces 1911 in the 23rd Field Company Royal Engineers as a Sapper.

When war was declared ‘Ernie’ and his company became part of the First Division under General Haig, arriving in France in August 1914.

He was involved in all of the war’s major battles including The Somme, Mons, Ypres, Loos, Passchendaele and Hindenburg.

Surviving the conflict, he later married his wife, Phoebe, in 1928 at St Ann's Church and took residence in the same house in Exchange Place where he raised his family until his death on April 6, 1954.

He was buried in a grave at St Ann’s which had remained unmarked for 60 years.

However, following the death of Ernie’s oldest daughter, Olive Blackmore (nee Mather) in July of this year, relatives have had a special headstone made.

The family decided to combine Olive’s ashes with those of her husband, Edward, and plan to have them interred into her parents’ grave.

Their efforts, tom mark the centenary of the First World War, will also see a memorabilia from Ernie’s war experiences being displayed as part of an exhibition at St Ann’s this September.

“Rightly, we remember soldiers who died in the war, however we should not forget those who fought every inch of the way, in all the battles, and kept on going to the end and beyond,” said Ernie’s grandson, Ian Blackmore.

“He joined in 1911 and was a regular soldier. His company were the first ones to go over making him the first man to go to the war from Rainhill.

“He was in the very first battles of the war including the Battle of Mons. He spent five years on active service in France and Belgium, which must have been a nightmare.”

Ernie also had two brothers, Wilf and Jack, who also fought in and survived the conflict.

Following the war, Ernie stayed abroad going to Colne, in Germany as part of the British Expeditionary Forces as a peacekeeping force, remaining on active service until 1919 before he was transferred to reserve until 1923.

Ian, 58, added: “He was also awarded the Military Medal although the action he took resulting in this award is unknown and nor is the precise battle."

Among the exhibits photographs, postcards, medals, documents, a prayer book, a 1914 Christmas box from Queen Mary and trench art from Ernie's time in the War.

On September, 25 1915 during the Battle of the Loos he wrote a poem in indelible pencil about a Lone Tree and the fighting that took place there in the battle.