Memoirs of Hartington Great War hero to be launched at village’s remembrance service

Sapper George Frederick Birch MM, from Hartington.
Sapper George Frederick Birch MM, from Hartington.

A book containing the letters and diary of a Hartington man who fought in the Great War is to be launched at the village’s Remembrance Service.

George Frederick Birch (known as Fred) was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the First World War and the book tells his tales of life in Brompton Barracks in Kent and the Somme Trenches.

Sapper George Frederick Birch's granddaughter-in-law, Lesley Birch.

Sapper George Frederick Birch's granddaughter-in-law, Lesley Birch.

Fred’s granddaughter-in-law, Lesley Birch, has collated his memoirs and the letters he sent home during the war into the book, with all proceeds from its sale set to go to Help for Heroes. The book will be launched during a Remembrance Service on Friday November 13.

Lesley said: “Fred’s letters and diary were found among boxes of old family photographs. I was fascinated to read the letters which he had sent home, and once I commenced reading his diary, the hardships and adversities endured by soldiers in the First World War became vividly apparent.

“It was not an easy task to read and transcribe the letters and diary, as they were all written in pencil, which over the years had faded and smudged.

“It is my conviction that the centenary of the First World War is an appropriate time to make these thought-provoking letters and diary entries available to a wider audience. I am looking forward to the launch of the book at the service in Hartington.”

Pupils from the village’s primary school have been looking at extracts from Fred’s diaries and letters during their studies.

One extract, from March 30, 1918, reads: “Lay in support. Word sent that Jerry was attacking and in front line. Went over in three waves and turned him out. Lost officer but went on without him and straightened things up.”

The Remembrance Service will take place at Hartington Village Hall on Friday November 13 at 7.30pm.

The concert is being organised by resident Sarah Lacey, and all the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall, which supports wounded, injured and sick military service personnel.

Tickets for the event, featuring music by Warslow Silver Band, are priced £6 on the door.

To order a copy of Fred’s memoirs, contact Lesley on 01298 845 32 or email beechbirchcottages@hotmail.com.