AN appeal has gone out to readers to trace surviving relatives of a Blackburn soldier who wrote to the father of an injured Welsh comrade shortly before his own death in combat.

Archie Forrest from Knuzden died on August 25 1917, aged 20, when out with a Royal Engineers working party above Ypres in preparation for the advance on Passchendaele.

The weaver from ' The Cottage' in Cabin End had been in the trenches since January 1916 and had formed an unlikely friendship with Owen Williams, the son of a schoolteacher from the South-West Wales village of Lawrenny.

Just a month before his death Corporal Forrest wrote to his friend's father Thomas to update him on his son's recovery from a serious head injury sustained in an action where a fellow Royal Engineer suffered fatal wounds.

Now Owen's nephew Tom, a 74-year-old retired banker living in Ipswich, is keen to find Archie's family to share the letter dated July 23 1917.

Since finidng the it recently, he has traced a cutting from the Blackburn Times which records that Archie had a brief meeting with his father, whom he had not seen for three years, during the battle of Vimy Ridge

Mr Williams said: "Archie’s letter begins, ‘As a very close comrade and chum of your son Owen… ’, and says how he sadly misses him.

"There are a number of remarkable aspects to Archie’s story: probably the most poignant being the meeting with his father.

"There is the friendship between Archie and my late uncle – a cotton mill Blackburn lad an academic from a small village in Pembrokeshire set to go to university. Fortunately Uncle Owen survived his injuries and, after his recovery went on to become a senior classics teacher and deputy headmaster of a large grammar school.

"Here we have, on the face of it, an odd friendship between a Second Corporal, a mill weaver from Lancashire, and one of his section of junior rank, a classically educated young man from rural South-West Wales. An example of war throwing together people from very different backgrounds who looked out for each other."

Cpl Forrest also refers to a mutual friend,the Rev. Tubby Clayton who established Talbot House, an 'Every Man’s Club' for all ranks, in a nearby small town called Poperinghe which still exists as a museum with a chair donated by friends of Archie in his memory.

Mr Williams said: "It would be wonderful to share this letter with Archie’s family, testimony of his kindness and support for his company colleagues.

"It seems young Archie made an impact on many in his too short life. I believe he was the second child of Isaac Forrest and Harriett, nee Fowler."

He adds: "An interesting point to note is that post-war Tubby Clayton went on to establish the enduring international charity and membership movement called Toc H based on the principles he operated at Talbot House."