Haunted Northampton fathers rarely spoke of horrors of First World War

"Sometimes he opened up a bit but I think the horrors of it haunted him," said Bill Birch, recalling the time talking with his father, Private Jack Birch, about his experiences in the First World War.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 4:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 5:30 pm
Bill Birch said his father, Private Jack Birch, rarely spoke about his time in the war

Perhaps that is a familiar refrain for other sons and daughters of men who served in and survived the Great War.

Remaining stoic in the face of adversity - Keep Calm and Carry On,"I am just going outside and may be some time" - is a well-known British stereotype.

Some who returned home from the trenches and muddy fields of the war - burdened with the horrors of what they had seen, heard and felt - chose not to share many memories, opting instead for a stiff upper lip.

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Private Jack Birch (left) and his D Company (right)

"I think they wanted to forget about it," Bill added.

His father, who lived in Semilong, served with the Northamptonshire Regiment and the cavalry - in a postcard of a uniformed Private Birch, spurs can be seen on his boots.

"I think they had a disastrous charge and they were disbanded so he joined the Northamptonshire Regiment," said Bill, 82, who lives in Whitehills with his wife Margaret.

"He got thrown off his horse and that probably saved his life."

Private Birch (far left) poses for a photo with members of his regiment

"He was 16 or 17 at the time he joined; a lot of them lied about their age."

Private Birch, who was born in 1898, went on to serve as a messenger, which saw him run along the trenches to deliver missives to officers.

Bill describes his father, who later served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, as a good athlete and footballer, qualities that would have served him well in his messenger role.

"He told me that at certain points he really had to run because the Germans had sights trained on particular spots along the trenches," said Bill.

Rosemary Lane holds a postcard photograph of her father Reg Inwards

Rosemary Lane's father, George Reginald 'Reg' Inwards (born in 1897), was another quiet type who returned from the front after enlisting as a 17-year-old.

As a result, she knows very little about Reg's wartime involvement other than that he had been injured and spent time in a prisoner of war camp.

"He never spoke about his experience," said Rosemary, from Spinney Hill.

"We tried but we were young children then so we wouldn't have had the inclination to keep trying and trying like we would have now."

Reg Inwards was 17 when he joined up
Reg (sixth from left) pictured with his regiment