Life in the Armed Forces and back in Northamptonshire during two world wars

Troops of the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment resting in a front-line trench at Molain, October 17, 1918
Troops of the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment resting in a front-line trench at Molain, October 17, 1918

Old photographs of Corby during the Second World War have come to light – thanks to a local clothing company!

Realm & Empire, a contemporary menswear brand based in Market Harborough, creates collections inspired by the findings they uncover in the Imperial War Museums archives.

During one of brand manager Lauren Park’s recent research trips to the IWM archives in London, she came across some images and information relating to her home town of Corby.

She said: “As a brand we gain access to the Imperial War Museum’s private archives every single season, searching through old uniforms, artefacts and artwork created on the frontline to inspire pieces for a new collection.

“We’ve even taken inspiration from a notebook that we found in Churchill’s bedroom in the war rooms, underneath 10 Downing Street, which we visited after hours.

“I was looking through 1940s military training photographs for our new PT range, when I came across the snapshot of the Corby Boys Club.

“I’ve always been so proud of my town; its strong heritage of steel-making and its hard-working, good-humoured people.

“However, growing up, I didn’t learn much about its early history, so I was excited to share this positive snippet from the Second World War!”

Among the images was a photograph of Corby Boys’ Club members climbing ropes during a physical training session in a gym in 1944.

The original caption states that “the boys are very keen on PT and have won the National Fitness Shield four years in succession - the only club to have done so”.

Another picture shows boys relaxing by playing chess or reading in the library, while a third shows a group of girls inspecting their pet rabbits at the Girls’ Club in Corby.

Rabbit keeping was just one of the many activities carried out by members of the club.

Other photographs relating to the county which Lauren has discovered include one of men of the US Army Air Corps joining in singing the hymn Lead On, O King Eternal during a Thanksgiving service at Cransley, also in 1944.

Also pictured are an American sergeant and his English girlfriend watching bombers return to Chelveston on May 5, 1944, and, from July 1941, the crew of a Boeing Fortress Mk I of No. 90 Squadron RAF putting on electrically-heated flying suits at Polebrook, before taking off for a high-altitude bombing attack.

There are even photographs from the First World War of men of the Northamptonshire Regiment, including troops of the 1st Battalion resting in a front-line trench at Molain on October 17, 1918.

A Realm & Empire spokesman said: “We engineer garments that are built to last and age with character.

“Our aim is to create honest, original garments that offer modern fits with strong historical links.

“With a strong background in technical and military garment supply our team have a genuine enthusiasm for scouting out interesting pieces of the past, while the authority of the IWM archives ensures all our apparel is authentically sourced and inspired by real history and heritage.

“It’s a unique collaboration that we’re extremely proud of.”