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The Story Of A Real-Life Saving Private Ryan From World War One

Michael Minay

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The Story Of A Real-Life Saving Private Ryan From World War One

Featured Image Credit: PA

For many of the modern generation, Saving Private Ryan may seem like an extravagant way to tell the horrors of World War II.

Famed for it's opening half-hour, with an intense portrayal of battle, the story follows a squad search for paratrooper Private First Class James Francis Ryan, who is the last surviving brother of four servicemen.

The film won several Academy Awards, including Steven Spielberg for best director, and a handful of Golden Globes amongst others.

However, for one family, the horrors of the story are a little closer to home and they occurred 30 years earlier in World War One.

Four brothers, Privates William, George, Ernest and Harry Rea, all went to war but, sadly, only one came home.

Credit: SWNS

William, of the Bedfordshire Regiment, lost his life in the Battle of Passchendaele on September 14, 1917.

George and Ernest were killed shortly before him and that left Harry as the only surviving member of the band of brothers - similar to the film's plotline in Saving Private Ryan.

Raised in Worcestershire, all four worked together before going to war at a local vinegar manufacturer.

William's 76-year-old grandson, Michael, said: "William died in hospital in Bethune [France] when he was 35. He was shot through the lungs.

"He left behind one kid - my dad, Reginald. It's a wonderful bit of history that wants recognising.

"It's the same as Saving Private Ryan but it's real history. Three out of four brothers died in six months."

Credit: SWNS

World War One claimed the lives of almost one million British soldiers, and was named the Great War as many believed it would be 'the war to end all wars'.

Michael Rea became increasingly interested in his family history as he got older, but said his dad never really explained anything about his grandfather.

Private George fought with the 2nd Battalion, Private Ernest Rea belonged to the Worcestershire Regiment, and Gunner Harry Rea was in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Ernest died at the Battle of the Somme in 1917 after being shot in the head, while George, 33, lost his life in Ypres on September 1, 1917.

What happened to Harry after the First World War is unclear.

Sadly, there are no more heroes from the four-year war surviving. The last, Florence Green, who served as a British woman in the Allied armed forces, died on February 2, 2012 aged 110.

Their heroic actions, however, will never be forgotten.

Michael Minay
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