The BBC & the Press


Media interest in our project began to grow just prior to the Passchendaele centennial commemoration at the end of July 2017. 
 We were approached by a number of sources asking us to share our story.

Here is a transcript of the BBC article which appeared on the BBC news website from 30th July.


Passchendaele:
The village that gave its men to war

                                                              By Mario Cacciottolo BBC News    31 July 2017



Brimington, near Chesterfield in north-east Derbyshire, sent hundreds of its men to fight in World War One. Fifteen of them were killed at Passchendaele. Now, a couple from the village have traced out the lives, and graves, of those who died on the battlefield 100 years ago.

Charles Hurst and Fred Hobson were friends, bound together by their lives in Brimington, a busy working-class village where they lived during the early 1900s.

They worked in the same production shop for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, and played cricket together.

Most notably of all, both stepped forward on the same day in March 1917 to enlist, and fight for their country.

After basic training, they both joined The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment on 20 July, just before the Battle of Passchendaele.

That battle began on 31 July 1917, and is one of the most-remembered battles of World War One.

An estimated 320,000 men were killed and wounded on the Allied side, and the conditions were nightmarish. Some parts of the muddy battlefield were so deep that men drowned.

Fred, 23, got married five days before signing up. We don't know if Charles, 22, was there, or if he was Fred's best man, but it seems possible.

What we do know is that these two young friends, who worked, played sport and went to war together, died together at Passchendaele on 12 October, and that their bodies have never been found.

There are no photographs of them, but their names are engraved on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.


We only know all this today because of Sally and Stuart Mullins, a couple from Brimington who have spent years bringing to life those men who sacrificed theirs.

"Stuart had an uncle who died in World War One, and another in World War Two," says Sally.

"In 1998, I got hold of an aged computer and started tinkering around on the internet, looking for information on his relatives. Then I just began looking into soldiers from Brimington."

Sally, 64, says she and Stuart, 70, have worked as a team on their relentless research. Stuart describes his wife as "research", and himself as "logistics".

     Sally's starting point was the village's war memorial,               containing 120 names.  She says the number of
    those  killed is actually higher, but for various reasons
    some were not included on the memorial.
    Many more men were left maimed by the fighting.

    Using the plaque's names as a base, Sally traced the            soldiers's histories,using military records online.
  Her task was not made easier by some vague names
  such as F Brown.

 


                                  Brimington War Memorial

  And to complicate matters, some names were misspelled. Charles's surname of "Hurst", for example,
 is recorded as "Hirst"
                        

She also spent hours at Chesterfield library, squinting at microfiche replicas of local newspapers, booking the one computer attached to a printer and "spending a fortune" on printing out military records, and newspaper pages containing notices of a soldier's death on a battlefield.

The Mullins also bought, at some cost, the entire 1901 census .


Tyne Cot Cemetery & Memorial

At least 800 of Brimington's young men went to fight in  World War One, and among the many stories Sally has unearthed is one involving four brothers from the village.

Private George Bradshaw, 27, joined the Sherwood Foresters in 1915 and saw action in the Balkans and France before his battalion was moved to the Ypres area in 1917.

He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery on 16 August 1917 but was killed at Passchendaele on 19 October, leaving behind a wife and young son.

He is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, but his headstone only became engraved with "MM", to mark his medal, after the Mullins spotted that it was missing and reported it.

George's brother John was shot in the ankle in 1915 and died in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, while another sibling, Thomas, died in Belgium in October 1914.

Just one brother, Len, who served in India and France with the Yorks and Lancs regiment, survived the war. There is no record of the boys' mother in the local archives, or of how she coped with such a terrible loss to her family.

     
                                                                       Queen Street remains largely unchanged
                                                                                since 1917 and is where Charles Hurst lived

An honorary mention must be given to one of Brimington's residents, Fred Greaves, who won a Victoria Cross for his bravery at Passchendaele. Although born elsewhere in Derbyshire, he loved living in the village and remained there after the war until his death in 1973.

What's also come to light is how the young men of the village at the start of the 20th Century, who worked in mines and did back-breaking factory work, were clearly as fit as a fiddle.

"Our local schoolboys' football trophy was the Clayton Challenge Shield - it was the prestigious competition of that era," says Sally. "  By 1913 Brimington boys had won the shield four times in eight years.

"Unfortunately, by the summer of 1917 and Passchendaele, at least seven players of the old Brimington teams were already dead, killed in action in earlier arenas of the Great War."

Years later, armed with an updated computer, Sally has now painstakingly pieced together enough information to build and run a Brimington memorial website and self-publish a memorial book of all the village men lost to the war.

She coos and rubs her palm lovingly over the page of one soldier as she talks about him.

Since August 2014 she has been printing out a list of the soldiers who died in the corresponding month 100 years ago, during World War One. This goes on display on a small altar in St Michaels church in the village where it is read out by the rector at the start of each month.


                                                The list of fallen soldiers is displayed in St Michael and All Angels Church in Brimington

Not only have the Mullins made a huge effort to remember Brimington's boys on paper, they have travelled extensively around Belgium and northern France to find their graves.

Sally and Stuart, who are attending the 100-year commemorations being held at Passchendaele, have been making about four visits a year to the region. They started in 2004, driving themselves around with maps and their own, Brimington-inspired itinerary. Once, they covered a 1,000-square-mile area in a week.

They seek out the well-known cemeteries containing thousands of soldiers, as well as tiny plots with a few dozen bodies laid to rest, ones not usually found on battlefield tours. It's in all these places that they find the men from their village.

Stuart says upon reaching the grave of any of "our lads", the couple feel "heartbreak" and sometimes become tearful. He also says they follow the same ritual each time.

Stuart reaches out his hand to demonstrate and speaks with a Derbyshire accent, warm and comforting.

"We always pat the headstone and say 'We're here, lad. We're here.'"

                                                

   

 


                                                 


 Transcript from The Derbyshire Times article published : Tuesday 08 August 2017


The Brimington best friends who died together
 in the Battle of Passchendaele

MICHAEL BROOMHEAD 


Two young soldiers from Brimington - who were best friends - died together in one of the bloodiest episodes of the First World War, research has revealed. Sally and Stuart Mullins, who have worked tirelessly to create a record of Brimington's war heroes, visited Belgium last week to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. Volunteer soldiers from Brimington pictured in 1914. At least two were killed at Passchendaele. The couple laid a wreath in memory of the village's 15 men who died in the campaign, including Private Charles Hurst and Private Fredrick Hobson. Sally, 64, explained: "They were best friends. "Our research shows they played sport together, they joined the forces together in March 1917, and they died together in the Battle of Passchendaele on October 17, 1917. "Pte Hurst, of Queen Street, was 22 and Pte Hobson, of South Moor Road, was 23. Pte Hobson was married just five days before he enlisted to fight the Germans. "Their bodies have never been found." 

An estimated 320,000 Allied troops died in the Battle of Passchendaele, which started in the West Flanders region of northern Belgium on July 31, 1917, and ended on November 10, 1917. Ferocious bombardments and torrential rain turned the battlefield into a massive quagmire of liquid mud in which men and horses drowned. In 1998, Sally and Stuart set out to build a comprehensive body of work about the First World War and Brimington's servicemen and fallen soldiers. Two of Stuart's relatives died in both World Wars.

After years of painstaking research and visits to scores of cemeteries, the pair produced www.brimington-memorial.co.uk The website features names and stories of many Brimington soldiers, including Corporal Sidney Baker, of Station Road, who was killed aged 24 in Ypres, and Pte Horace Stott, also of Station Road, who was the village's youngest soldier to die at 17-years-old. Survivors - including Killamarsh-born Sergeant Fred Greaves who received a Victoria Cross medal and lived and died in Brimington in 1973 - are also mentioned on the remarkable website.

Sally said " It is difficult to accurately calculate how many Brimington men signed up to fight in the First World War.  Some figures show around 700 enlistments from the village, others far greater numbers  " The actual number of village men who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918 has not been accurately recorded.  "120 names are inscribed on Brimington Memorial Gates - but we found more during our extensive research".  Almost every road in Brimington was affected by the First World War. Sally said : " It is so important we remember those incredible brave Brimington lads who made the ultimate sacrifice"



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