Gun belonging to Somme hero is discovered in a charity shop

Among the jumble of items handed in to a charity shop, it was a find to take the breath away.

Workers came across an old handgun in a bag of secondhand clothes and immediately called the police  -  who took the weapon away to dismantle it.

But when Sergeant Rich Matlock saw the weapon he recognised it as a rare piece of military history. The 1912 Webley revolver has the name of its original owner, Captain Hugh Sayres, carved on the handle.

Enlarge   pistol

The 1912 revolver owned by Captain Hugh Sayres was found dumped in a carrier bag being donated to a charity shop

A second inscription on the gun's barrel, thought to have been added by the officer's family, reveals the date of his death. It reads: 'In Honour of Capt. H.W. Sayres 1st July 1916'.

Sergeant Matlock was unable to trace whoever had made the donation to the charity shop in Earl Shilton, near Leicester.

But the keen historian discovered through research that Captain Sayres had died at 27 on the first day of fighting at the Somme.

The officer, from Gloucestershire, had also fought in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign in Turkey with the Fusiliers' 1st Battalion where he was severely wounded.

Captain Hugh Sayres of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

After recovering, he was posted to France and promoted to Acting Major. But he asked to return to the front and became a captain again in the regiment's 20th Battalion. He died commanding a company at Beaumont Hamel.

Sergeant Matlock said: 'I only found out about the gun through a chance conversation with our firearms officers. It's a remarkable story, and every time I look deeper into it, it comes up gold. Hugh Winfield Sayres was a remarkable officer who excelled at everything he did including boxing, hockey, steeplechase and cricket.

'He went "over the top" at Beaumont Hamel in the mistaken belief that the Germans posed little threat. Of course, the opposite was true and 19,000 men died that day.

'All his effects, including his gun, would have been sent home to his family who had it engraved again, this time in his memory. It is unusual for a gun to have been used in Gallipoli and at the Battle of the Somme which is what makes it so rare.'


Memorial: The engraved tribute to the soldier

Unable to trace the gun's present owners, Sergeant Matlock donated it to the Lancashire Fusiliers' Museum in Bury.

Museum Curator Lieutenant Colonel Michael Glover said: 'It is part of the magic of the museum game that items turn up from the most obscure places.'

Bloodiest day: British soldiers waiting to advance on the first day of the Somme