John William Streets (known as Will), the eldest of twelve children, was born on 24th March 1886 in Whitwell, Derbyshire. He was a bright and talented boy who enjoyed painting, sketching and writing about the Derbyshire countryside. Although offered a place at grammar school he elected instead to go out to work to help support his large family and worked at the coal face in the local mine from the ages of 14 to 28, while carrying on his studies with his mentor, John Mills.
On the outbreak of war Streets enlisted in the Sheffield City Battalion, later known as the Sheffield Pals. He spent the next 15 months training with the battalion at Penkridge Camp, near Rugely and Hurdcott Camp, near Salisbury and during this time wrote a number of poems. In December 1915 he sailed for Alexandria in Egypt to build up the defences to protect the Suez Canal. After two months the battalion moved to France and the Western Front.
In early April 1916 the battalion arrived in the area of Colincamps behind the British Front Line on the Somme and began training for the planned offensive against the German army. By now a Sergeant, Streets still found time to write poems and ideas in a pocket book and from time to time sent some poems home to his parents. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, Will Streets was in the second wave of men to go toward the German trenches. Wounded, Streets was making his way back to the first aid post but returned to help an injured comrade and disappeared.
Listed as missing, Will Street’s body lay in No Man’s Land until 1 May 1917 when his body was recovered and identified. He is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps. His poems were posthumously published in 1917 under the title The Undying Splendour.
Will Streets’ Poems
- A Lark Above the Trenches
- Shelley in the Trenches
- A Soldiers’ Cemetery
- A Soldier’s Funeral
- Will Streets introduces his poems
Resources for Will Streets
The Undying Splendour, Internet Archive
Image of Will Streets National Portrait Gallery, London