My first book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War , was recently published by Pen and Sword. It contains twenty-three case studies of individuals and families of a broad range of Christian denominations, whose war experiences ranged from ardent militarism to militant pacifism. There is also a foreword by the respected MP Dan Jarvis, Labour’s spokesman on war commemoration.
It is currently on sale at the following prominent religious and military locations:
Christ Church Chapel, Oxford
National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire
St David’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Bookshop, Westminster
Church’s Bookshop, Doncaster
It can also be ordered direct from me at email@example.com, signed and at a reduced rate.
Among the case studies are:-
Father Francis Gleeson, an Irish Catholic chaplain whose ministry to his troops showed utter dedication
Mrs Edith Gell, whose pocket-sized book touched the lives of 400,000 servicemen and women and their families.
Francis Meynell, who went on hunger strike to protest against his army conscription
Russell Barry, whose work as an army chaplain made him realise that the gospel had to have relevance to the lives of the men in his care, and who went on to become Bishop of Southwell during the Second World War
Edith Cavell, the Norfolk nurse executed by a German firing squad in 1915, whose last night was spent in prayer and devotion
Pastor Jozef Dergent, a Belgian priest tortured and executed by German troops whilst caring for the sick in his parish
Alvin York, America’s most decorated WW1 hero, who was originally a pacifist based on his reading of the Bible
Noel Chavasse, the only man to be awarded two VCs during the First World War
Bert Brocklesby who faced a court martial and the death sentence for his pacifism, as his brother prepared for the big push on the Somme in 1916
Rev John Esslemont Adams, who conducted a burial service in German and English during the 1914 Christmas truce.
The Huntriss family of Mattersey, whose sacrifice is recorded on a beautiful window.
It can be ordered online, or directly from me at a cost of £20 including p+p, personally inscribed and signed, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
My second book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, was released in March 2016. It features twenty further case studies, most of them based on original interviews or previously unavailable records held in private family records. Amongst those featured are:-
The amazing Dr Bill Frankland MBE, who recently celebrated his 104th birthday after three near death experiences whilst a prisoner of the Japanese.
Stanley Warren, whose murals in the prison hospital at Changi camp stand as a moving testament to the power of forgiveness.
Edgar Beresford Mash of the Army Dental Corps, who experienced a miraculous escape from the flaming waters off Dunkirk in June 1940.
Hugh Dormer, a Catholic officer in the Irish Guards who volunteered for daring Special Operations Executive missions in enemy territory, and saw his service in terms of a crusade against evil.
H.W. `Tommy’ Tomkins, who escaped from the hell of the British retreat in 1940 and spent 5 years in the Intelligence Corps
Michael Benn, brother of future MP Tony Benn, tragically killed in a flying accident in 1944
Rev. Eric Cordingly, an army chaplain captured by the Japanese in 1942, whose ministry in the camps brought comfort to thousands.
Ken Tout, who was thrust into command of a tank in the Normandy campaign, whilst studying for the Salvation Army ministry
Audrey Forster, who as a girl in Fleetwood saw her house turned over to house a range of evacuees
Ruth Hargreaves, who grew up on the German / Polish border, and whose mother stood up for her Christian faith against her Nazi uncle
John Broom, a furniture salesman from Colchester who saw action with the Desert Rats through El Alamein, Italy, Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany,
Again, this can be ordered directly from me at email@example.com for a price of just £20 including p+p. It can be personally signed and inscribed and makes a lovely gift for anyone with an interest in history and / or religion.
The two books together can be ordered for £36 including p+p.
Where did this passion for the past spring from?
My love of history began at an early stage. By the age of five I was able to reel off the dates of all the kings and queens of England from Alfred the Great onwards, thanks to those two wonderful Ladybird books, Kings and Queens of England, Books 1 and 2. This is a feat I can still manage at four decades on!
History was my love at school, and I would spend my weekends poring over old maps of Hull and travelling all over East Yorkshire on my bike to visit sites of interest. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Sheffield in 1991 and went into a career teaching History in Secondary Schools. I organised trips for students locally, nationally and internationally and these will remain amongst the most fulfilling things I have done in life.
In 2006 by a complex twist of fate, I was given a collection of papers and memorabilia from my late father who had served in the Desert Rats during the Second World War. I felt I had finally found my vocation in life. I began a Masters degree with the Open University and then moved on to start a PhD on the connections between the Second World War and Christian culture in Britain. I plan to complete this in 2017.
In addition I was commissioned by the Bible Society to undertake research on the First World War, marking the centenary with a dedicated micro website about the importance of the Bible in war. I have also written book reviews for the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and presented a paper at the University of Birmingham’s War Studies Seminars.
My wife, Dawn, and I travel the country visiting archives, churches and war memorials, seeking to dig out and bring together the wonderful stories of faith in wartime which are still out there. Oh, and we both hold down full-time jobs in education. In our spare time we run quite a lot.
A busy life is a happy one!
The Gladstone Library, Hawarden
If you have any stories in your family or locally of people for whom faith was important during the wars of the twentieth century, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I plan further research and publications in the coming years and passionately believe that no story should go unrecorded or untold.