Historian's new book honours 72 men from a Chesterfield community who sacrificed their lives during the First World War

A Chesterfield historian has uncovered the stories of 72 men from one community who lost their lives during the Great War after a Roll of Honour commemorating their sacrifice disappeared nearly a century ago.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:36 pm

MIchael Orme has spent several years researching the background of the brave troopers from Birdholme who fought for their country.

Their stories feature in his new book Only Remembered which the author will launch at Saints Augustine Parish Church on Derby Road, Chesterfield, on May 18.

Michael said: "It is believed that the original Roll of Honour was lost at some point in time between an older Church of Saints Augustine that occupied the same site being demolished and the splendid building that replaced it being consecrated in 1931.

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Michael Orme with his new book, Only Remembered.

"Sadly, the names of those Birdholme men who made the supreme sacrifice in the war have languished in obscurity ever since. I not only suspect that a great many family members are now completely oblivious to the fact that their ancestors were once commemorated there, but that the modern inhabitants of Birdholme are equally in the dark about this important aspect of the history of their community."

The collection of biographies highights that men from Birdholme were present at every major battle fought on the Western Front from Mons in August 1914 to the Sambre in November 1918.

More than 60 percent of these men served with the Sherwood Foresters during the conflict and 12 of the regiment's battalions were represented on the roll.

Michael said: "My research also casts a light onto the impact that the war had on this entire community, which truly endorses the old adage that hardly a single household would not have been touched by the war in one way or another.

"There are desperately sad and moving stories here too, concerning three pairs of brothers that were lost and fathers who, having been parted from their families by the call of duty, never saw their youngest child.

"Perhaps the starkest effect of the war, however, can be found on just one street which contained only twelve houses in 1914. Staggeringly, six men marched away from them who were destined never to return.

"Three of the men named on the roll had been decorated for bravery, none of whom are now remembered by name anywhere in the borough of Chesterfield."

"Theirs are a very special set of stories that have been a neglected part of Chesterfield’s history for far too long."

The newspapers of 1920 which covered the unveiling of the surviving monument in the grounds of the church were key to Michael’s research. He said: "The Derbyshire Courier not only made specific mention of the accompanying Roll of Honour but, along with the Derbyshire Times, also printed a full list of the names that had appeared on it. This was absolutely vital evidence, because the stone calvary that serves as a memorial outside the church has never borne the precious detail of those names."

Michae, 60, said that he been encouraged by the momentum that is gathering for a replacement Roll of Honour to be restored to its rightful place in the heart of Birdholme. He said: "It has always been my fondest hope that the book might generate sufficient interest to see that happen, and I am really looking forward to working alongside others who are interested in making that a reality.

"With the exception of the centre of the town every other parish in the borough has a memorial where, at least until now, the names of their fallen have been preserved for future generations. Whilst some of these surviving memorials are now in a condition that should give us some cause for concern, I am sure everyone must agree that the most pressing case it is possible to imagine is one where that original and precious listing of the names has been absent for so long."

Michael will give a talk about his research for Only Remembered at the book launch on Wednesday, May 18, at 7pm. Copies of his book, priced £15, will be on sale at the Church of Saints Augstine that night and will subsequently be available to buy at the church’s Gussie's Super Kitchen and at the Arkwright Arms in Duckmanton.

Only Remembered is Michael's second book commemorating those who sacrificed their lives in wartime. His debut offering, At The Going Down Of The Sun, explores the stories of more than 50 men in the Duckmanton community who died during the First and Second World Wars and whose names are listed on a memorial near the Arkwright Arms.