A South Hetton soldier survived battles, a mite infection and even being shot accidentally – only to die days after fighting ended.
Private Frederick George Waters, from South Hetton, made it all the way through the First World War.
But the sheer toll of a gruesome illness cost him his life, 22 days after peace had been declared.
Historian Kevin Dance shared his story.
Life had been horrendous for Private Frederick Waters.
By the age of 20, he was already a veteran of working below ground as a putter at South Hetton pit.
Frederick succumbed to nephritis on December 3, 1918. He was awarded the Victory and British medals and also the Silver War Badge which was given to soldiers who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sicknessKevin Dance
Joy came at last in 1905 when he married Jemima Cook. Three children quickly followed – Frederick George in 1906, Isabella in 1908, and Henry John in 1910. A fourth bundle of joy – William Cook Waters – followed three years later.
But then came war, and Frederick volunteered in 1914. He was a 34-year-old father of four at the time.
His medical history shows him as 5ft 2ins tall. Kevin said: “Due to his stature, he was posted to the 15th (1st Birkenhead) Cheshire Regiment which was raised as a Bantam Battalion.
“Bantam Battalions were those which admitted soldiers who were under the normal regulation minimum height of 5ft 3ins.”
After training in Britain, the battalion eventually arrived in France – after an aborted plan to head to Egypt – and got into Europe in January 1916. It was tough from the start.
Yet somehow, Frederick came through the horrific battles of The Somme at Bazentin Ridge, Arrow Head Copse, Maltz Horn Farm, and Falfemont Farm.
But what he did get was a dose of scabies (where tiny mites burrow themselves in the outer layers of human skin.)
Frederick was taken to a French hospital in April 1916. It was a nasty condition to get rid of and needed several courses of treatment in the months that followed.
But just as he seemed to be over it, then came a completely different setback.
Frederick was accidentally shot in the chest and had to be evacuated back to England on September 23, 1916.
Four months later, he was back in France and posted to the 13th Battalion Cheshire Regiment.
But within a month of that, he was back in hospital and this time with a completely different and more painful condition.
In April 1916, Frederick was admitted to hospital at Wimereux in France suffering from Nephritis. Nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys and often occurred in soldiers subjected to cold and damp conditions in trenches.
The painful symptoms can include pain in the pelvis, a burning sensation while urinating and vomiting.
For Frederick, it meant his war was over and he was eventually evacuated back to England on May 8, 1917.
But this was no triumphant return to his family. He found himself in hospitals at Stratford-on-Avon, Alcester, and Exeter and was finally discharged from the army on May 1, 1918, as he was no longer physically fit for active
service. Private Waters was given a full army pension.
But as Kevin explained: “Frederick succumbed to nephritis and died at home in Richmond Street, South Hetton, on December 3, 1918.”
War had ended just 22 days earlier. Kevin added: “He was awarded the Victory and British medals and also the Silver War Badge, which was given to soldiers who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service in the First World War
“His widow Jemima was awarded £14 War Gratuity.”