FRENCH villagers are appealing for information about a Great Harwood soldier who died during the First World War.

Residents in Neufchâtel-Hardelot, a farming and tourist commune to the south of Boulogne, are hoping to speak to the family of Lieutenant Bertram Noble, who is buried in the town’s cemetery alongside 22 other soldiers.

Claudine Malaquin said: “We want to pay a tribute to the 23 men who died far from their country to defend liberty.

“I am looking for any information concerning them: Family background, photos, decorations and medals. Maybe some of their relatives want to share their souvenirs with us to help us pay the tribute they deserve.”

Born in 1888 to Mark and Margaret Noble, of Great Harwood, Lt Noble had worked as a salesman for the family’s cotton firm before the war.

He was posted to France in March 1916. He fought in and survived the opening day of the infamous Battle of the Somme with the Lancashire Fusiliers, but drowned in an accident while swimming at a beach in Hardelot Plage, a retreat for injured servicemen.

He was swimming off the beach when he was lost from the sight of several wounded soldiers on the shore.

Despite a desperate rescue attempt, Lt Noble’s corpse was pulled from the water an hour later.

Claudine added: “As he was staying at 25th General Hospital, he was probably weakened by wounds received at the front, or maybe he was ill and not strong enough to fight the strong current.”

He was buried and his wife Margaret, living in Shear Bank Road, Blackburn, was notified of his death.

A local newspaper report at the time said Lt Noble was very fond of swimming, was a member of Blackburn Golf Club and the Literary Club, and attended St Paul’s Church.

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