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Saving Private Smith: Real WWI story that beats Hollywood

Published on Aug 2, 2014 8:36 AM
Amanda Nelson (left) and her mother Diane, granddaughter and daughter of former WWI British soldier Wilfred Smith, pose for pictures in Barnard Castle near County Durham, northern England, on July 11, 2014, as they look through pictures of Wilfred Smith and his brothers. -- PHOTO: AFP 

BARNARD CASTLE, United Kingdom (AFP) - Saving Private Ryan became a Hollywood classic with its heroic tale of how a World War II soldier was rescued from the front line after losing three of his brothers in action.

But the real-life story of Private Smith, brought home by royal request from the trenches of World War I following the deaths of his five brothers, puts the movie in the shade.

A simple stone memorial in the rural market town of Barnard Castle in northern England bears the names of five Smith boys: Robert, George Henry, Frederick, John William and Alfred.

Their deaths across two short years of bitter fighting on the Western Front tell of an almost unparallelled family tragedy, yet it is the survival of the youngest brother Wilfred that provides drama worthy of any blockbuster.

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