Retro: Higham Ferrers War Walk

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A history group which specialises in the history of the First World War is launching its second book.

Higham Ferrers World War 1 History Group is publishing Higham Ferrers 1914-1918 A War Walk (A Journey Through an English Market Town) on Friday, September 26.

Henry Dawes was the youngest man from Higham Ferrers to die in the First World War. He died at the Battle of the Somme aged 16

Henry Dawes was the youngest man from Higham Ferrers to die in the First World War. He died at the Battle of the Somme aged 16

Group secretary Geoffrey Moore said: “When one talks of a war walk immediately the mind conjures up images of taking in the battlefields of the Western Front or Normandy, or visiting the many cemeteries that lie in France filled with the graves of the many thousands of servicemen from across the world who gave their lives in the two Great Wars of the 20th century.

“It is my belief that to truly understand the impact of the First World War one has to look beyond what remains on the battlefield, where a perspective of the scale of battle is gained as well as the close proximity the two sides were to each other when the war became bogged down with the scarring of the landscape with trenches from the North Sea to the Swiss Border some 400 miles or so to the south.

“Also the cemeteries show the scale of the needless slaughter on all sides that after nearly five years of war resulted in an armistice that could be said not to produce the required victory but created the foundations for the future conflicts of the 20th century.

“I believe that to gain a true perspective of the real effect of the war we have to look closer to home, in the towns and villages of all the major combatants where can still be seen, if we look closely, the full effect of this conflict.

“It is only by examining our own towns that we see the numbers involved, the effects the deaths had on their families and towns, and the role played by those at home in making the lives of the serving men a little easier.

“The book Higham Ferrers A War Walk looks at Higham Ferrers and takes the reader around the town, giving a perspective of the impact this war had on the population of some 2,000 with more than 600 of its people giving active service at one of the fronts or at home in the town’s Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital.

“However, the numbers who actually gave service were far greater as most of the population were engaged in war work, making the boots that shod an army.

“Within the book there are tales of tragedy like Henry Dawes, the youngest from the town to die at only 16 years when on July 1, 1916, he became one of 20,000 British and Commonwealth servicemen to lay down their lives on the first day of the Somme battle.

“There also tales of heroics like Joe Charles who gave a quart of blood to save a Canadian’s life and the Hurst brother who, despite being severely wounded himself, carried a Rushden man back to safety in the trenches.

“The book takes the reader through Higham Ferrers, picking out street by street those who served, were wounded, became a prisoner of war or paid the ultimate price.

“The book also gives a pictorial insight into the town at this time and some of the changes there have been, including pictures of long-gone streets.

“Inside the reader will find many pictures of serving men, nurses from Higham Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital together with copies of letters and documents from the period. The book shows the impact that the war had on this small market town and was produced in partnership with the Northamptonshire Community Foundation as well as the group being supported by elected members from East Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire County Councils.”