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'They're more than just statistics' - new book uncovers the stories of South Derbyshire's fallen heroes

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: July 31, 2014

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AS the centenary to mark the outbreak of the First World War draws near, plans have already been made to honour the men from the parish of Marston-on-Dove who lost their lives in 'the war to end all wars'.

To coincide with the centenary events, an exhibition will be held at the Village Hall in Hilton on August 3 and 4 detailing the lives of men who grew up, lived and worked in South Derbyshire and East Staffordshire before heading to fight in unfamiliar surroundings.

They have already been honoured at St Mary's Parish Church, where wooden boards on the walls display the names of men from the villages and hamlets in the parish who served not only in the First World War, but also the Second World War and Falklands conflict. Next to the names of those who fell is a small incised cross.

The stories of the 18 men who fell in The Great War have been told in a series of Memory Books, which have been put together by Rosaleen Darlington and Richard Sherratt following thorough research into their past.

"We felt that it was right to publish a Memory Book for the villages and hamlets, which made up the historic parish of Marston-on-Dove – Hilton, Hoon Hay, Hoon Ridge and Marston," says Rosaleen, who has spent many an hour trawling through census records, war diaries and other archives to piece together the lives of those who fell.

"We wanted to know all about them, not just their military careers but also their home lives. Who were their parents? Did they have brothers and sisters? Where did they work and so on?"

She says the purpose of the Memory Book is to ensure that each man is not viewed as a statistic and casualty of a conflict which started 100 years ago, but as somebody whose contribution to the local community is not forgotten. The process has been a long, drawn-out process which has taken around 18 months to complete.

"You start off looking at census records, but the information given is often quite limited," says Rosaleen, "After that you have to begin to look at war diaries, where you begin to build up a bigger picture of what life was like for those in the trenches."

Rosaleen says the key to uncovering the real key is to get in touch with the families of those who died, although she admits that this can be a rather difficult task. "You have to have a look at old newspaper records and see if you can make any connections. It's a bit like starting a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are there but it needs somebody to put them together."

The 175 page book, which costs £12, includes the story of Arthur Bull who was found abandoned on the doorstep of a Hilton family when he was just a few days old and James A. Blood, who worked at the Nestles Condensary before going to war. A CD version of the Memory Book will also be available to buy at a cost of £6 from Hilton Village Hall on August 3 and 4.

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