THE lives and loss of 274 Knutsford men has been forever immortalised by The Guardian’s Accidental Historian.
To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, Tony Davies, a retired policeman from Tabley, has written, The Knutsford Lads Who Never Came Home – a book documenting the lives of the 274 soldiers who never returned to the town.
The 60-year-old has travelled across the UK, Germany and France and trawled through diary entries, archives and letters to find out about the fathers, brothers and sons behind the dog tags.
“I decided to celebrate them by telling a couple of their stories – set in the context of what was happening at the time,” he said.
“I want to tell the stories of these young, some would say naive, men and women who went to fight for king and country – never to return.”
Tony, an already established author specialising in WW1 non-fiction, spent six months researching and writing the book.
He received funding for the project through the Manchester Airport Community Trust Fund and this funding allowed Tony delve through war records and travel across the country meeting families of the soldiers who lost their lives.
He said: “It’s been fantastic and I have met some great people. I met the families of around five or six men and their families and they were all so welcoming.”
Tony was keen to tell the stories of the ordinary men who died - those whose names were never carved on memorials stones.
He said: “It’s not about the massive battles. That’s not the main interest; my interest was what were the lads doing on a daily basis, on the day they died. It’s about the ordinary lads in the trenches, how they lived and what it was like for them.”
The life stories told in Tony’s book include an underage soldier who lied about his date of birth to enlist, a soldier who survived the war but was killed on his journey back to Knutsford and a soldier who was killed by a comrade who accidently dropped a bomb behind him.
“Take William Brown, a 34 year old farm labourer from Mobberley who went to France in July 1915. He was killed in action on the 4th of July 1916.
His battalion was ‘on the Somme’ but the diary record ‘Battalion at rest and training’ – no mention is made of any casualties for that day,” Tony added.
“I believe that it was WW1 more than any other event, changed Britain forever – the social change it brought was terrific and far-reaching.”
‘The Knutsford Lads Who Never Came Home’ is now available to purchase from Amazon. Copies can also be bought from Tony; email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE MEN BEHIND THE PHOTOS
Arthur Berry M.M. lived in Green Street, Knutsford - enlisted in the Manchester Regiment in 1915 and served in Gallipoli - he arrived back in France in 1917 and served on the Western Front. On the 22 April 1918 he was returning from a raid on the ememy trenches when he was accidentally killed as he jumped back into his own trench when the man behind him accidentally dropped the bomb he was carrying and it went off.
John Hulse was from Lower Peover and joined the Cheshire Regiment in 1916 but transferred into the Machinegun corp. He was killed during the final German 'big push' of the war. His body was never found.
John Garner lived in Tatton Street, Knutsford. - he worked at the Royal George stables. He enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment in Feb 1916 before being transferred into the East Lancashire Regiment. He was killed in action on the 15th March 1917 as his regiment moved up to relieve the Northants Regiment in the front line. He is buried in Fins British Cemetery, France.