1. The Background
My father, Charles Harold Payne, (CHP in this document) died suddenly at his home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, on the 26th December 1950, aged 57 years. The diagnosis on the death certificate was 'Cardiac syncope - morbis cordis, Chronic bronchitis' i.e. Heart failure and bronchitis. However, in reality, the prime cause was probably emphysema, which in turn was a cumulative result of his smoking habit (by preference the famous Great War staple cigarette - Woodbine) and being gassed in the trenches in 1916. In effect, he was yet another casualty, if delayed, of the Great War .
Although, without question, the most significant event in CHP's life was his service with the Northamptonshire Regiment in the Great War - from 25th August 1915 to 23rd July 1919 - we, his children, heard very little about this. There were a couple of war souvenirs to be handled: I well remember a German infantryman's pill-box type hat, in feldgrau, with a circular multicoloured bull's eye type badge, so located as to worn above the centre of the forehead, and a black, leather, battle-dress belt. From time to time, almost en passant, The Somme was mentioned; the trenches, the mud, the explosions of shell and mines, the best friend who was blown to pieces whilst shaving, and the gas attacks. Also, there was talk of another theatre of war with Turks, Egyptians, ever-circling hungry kites (a falcon-type bird of prey), sand, dust, dysentery, malaria and flies. But no personal diary, or other written record. Just a few disjointed and fading memories and a single vignette type sepia photograph sent to a sister, circa 1915 to show CHP in his New Army service uniform.
We can only ask ourselves why such an important period in CHP's life was given so little emphasis in ours. Perhaps, as we grew up in the 30's, and 40's the much more publicised events of the Second World War overshadowed the important anniversaries as they came round. Certainly, the severe austerity that reigned during the Second World War and which continued well into the 1950's, with the concomitant travel restrictions it imposed, meant that today's battle-field tours by veterans and their families were beyond contemplation by all except a privileged few. Indeed, even the modest annual Poppy Day ceremonies received declining observation in the 1960's and 1970's, until the Falklands War rekindled public awareness of the human cost of war.
No doubt, then, in the late 1930's and the 1940's, the events of the Second World War and the Cold War, seemed to have more import and interest, reducing the events of the earlier war to a seemingly less important relevance than they really had. It may also be supposed that these preoccupations and distractions were almost thankfully accepted by many Great War ex-servicemen as a way of pushing old, unpleasant memories into a not unwelcome limbo. There was also the well-known guilt complex associated with personal survival, when so many others had fallen. Accordingly, we observed that only the occasional reverie brought on by on unusual circumstance, or humourous event, allowed CHP to break free of this armour of reticence.
It was only when the numbers of Great War veterans were beginning to be rapidly diminished by age and infirmity that a general sense developed that something important was being lost forever. Led by a new wave of prominent historians, such as John Terraine and Correlli Barnett, a more acute awareness developed of the need to conserve something of the future by raising a heightened interest in the personal reflections, impressions and verbal accounts of the remaining veterans. The outcome was a series of books, journals and radio and TV programmes where the memories and opinions of the Great War veterans played a principal part. Even in 1998, when only a final few centenarian Great War veterans were left, a multi-part TV series was screened to mark the 80th anniversary of the ending of Great War, once again primarily featuring the recollections of these very few aged survivors.
The sheer scale of the numbers of ex-servicemen involved in the Great War, and the almost totally anonymous role most played in the battles of attrition as virtually expendable soldiers (cannon-fodder is perhaps a not too pejorative word to use in the context of the Somme in 1916 and the Ypres Salient), also meant that only the deeds of a few were contemporaneously documented. This distinction was generally by virtue of high military rank, renown (e.g. poets, social standing), bravery in battle, infamy because of cowardice or, most notable of all, death in action. In any event, the overwhelming scale and intensity of the war endured by so many soldiers must have imposed on them a daunting and psychologically traumatic experience.
To put the experience into context, in the three month campaign of the Falklands War in 1982, there were 1,000 British casualties, of which 252 died (25.2%). Whilst in the four and a half months of the battles of the First Somme in 1916, the daily average number of British was 5000; also with about 25% fatalities. There were also many more Missing, assumed Killed in Action, on the Somme. On Day 1, on July 1st, 1916, there were 56,000 casualties; most due to machine-gun fire. For the whole four and half month period of the First Battle of the Somme, British casualties were 419,000 (57,000 Missing in Action) which is equivalent to about one and a half times the present population of the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
It was only in the early 1980's - over 30 years after CHP's death - which I began to take a real interest in finding out the detailed history of his war service. My son, Marcus, then in his twenties, a librarian by profession and by definition a skilled archivist, joined me in the search. Unfortunately, by the 1980's all of CHP's immediate relatives, and those contemporaries we knew about, had already died. In their turn, their relatives did not have any relevant material or anecdotes of use to us. My own brothers recalled similar brief verbal anecdotes to my own. Indeed, there was one about the mud of Passchendaele in the Flanders Sector, which I was subsequently able to prove, fairly conclusively, as erroneous as there is no record of CHP ever being closer than 40km to the infamous Ypres Salient. So, Heaven only knows where that little gem of information came from! Such false trails are the bane of the Great War researcher and can cause much frustration and loss of time and effort.
2. THE SOURCES.
The total documentary evidence we managed to unearth within the family consisted of the aforementioned solitary vignette sepia photograph of CHP in his Northamptonshire Regimental khaki uniform, undated, but believed to have been taken somewhere in England circa 1915, and sent to his sister, Frances. We did not know the numbers of his Battalion(s), his Regimental Number, of the period, or duration, of his service in the various possible theatres of war. Obviously, these are the minimal essentials if one is to locate any relevant documentation and attribute it with any reliability. In addition, his Campaign Medals had been lost, or mislaid, after my mother, Lily, died in 1971; the medals would have borne his name, rank and regimental number.
An intensive, if intermittent, search was made of any possible source of information. It included visits to the Northamptonshire Regimental Museum in Northampton, extensive reading and note taking of general background information and published books and documents (both private and official) about the Regiment, and lengthy correspondence with the then curator. Also, visits were paid to the Public Records at Kew. Unfortunately, at that time the PRO at Kew had only recently opened, and the present superb Great War section had not been established. Moreover, the guidebooks, which give a comprehensive overview of the possible sources of documents concerning Great War servicemen and women, were still only a gleam in their authors' eyes.
What were available at the PRO were the extant pages of the War Diaries of the 1st, 2nd, 1/4th (a.k.a. the 4th), 5th and 6th Battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment in, respectively, Documents WO.95:1271, 1722, 4653, 1842, and 2044. Extensive notes and photocopies were made. (As the 3rd Battalion did not go on active service in the Great War there is no Regimental Diary for 1914-18). None of these sources revealed any reference to CHP. Indeed, this was anonymity to the nth degree by any interpretation.
Amid these disappointments, I had learned from correspondence in 1980 with the Ministry of Defence, that the Ministry had confidential official archives of the army service records of Great War soldiers which had been retained for the purposes of possible post-war claims for army pensions and disability awards. However, I was also informed that 60% had been destroyed, and much of the rest badly, damaged by fire and/or water during the Blitz in 1941. This left only about 30% that were readable to any extent and, of these, only a part were of soldiers who 'served for the duration', i.e. 1914-18. These remaining documents, - classified as Documents WO.363 or 'The Burnt Documents' - were largely uncatalogued and stored in 33,000 boxes each containing 1,000 items. There is another archive of army service files which are selective duplications separately held by the Ministry of Pensions under the classification of 'The 14-20 Collation' and classified by the Ministry of Defence as Documents WO.364; these are known as 'The Unburnt Documents'. To some extent, these duplicates overlap the surviving 'Burnt Documents' but, as they are said not to include anyone who was demobilised as fit, they presumably did not include CHP's army service documents anyway.
As I supposed, the Ministry of Defence confirmed these army service records could only be searched if the essential military biographical data of the individual soldier could be provided. If sufficient personal details such as regimental number, etc. could be supplied this might allow the archive staff, on the payment of a search fee, to make some inspired guesses and use cross references to lead them to the appropriate file(s). (At that time only the next of kin could authorise the search, but this embargo has now been lifted).
As I did not have the essential personal data, we were stymied and no search could be made.
A recent important development associated with the Millenium and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, has made possible the progressive microfilming of all the available 'Burnt Documents' and 'Unburnt Documents'. These microfiches can now be viewed in the new Great War Section of the PRO, Kew - itself soon to be renamed the National Archives. (CHP's army service record was microfiched in the 2001 tranche - long after our own search had been completed).
Back in 1995, at this seemingly hopeless juncture in our search, I had an inspiration. It occurred to me that since all servicemen who had seen active service in the Great War were awarded campaign medals, there must be somewhere in the official records, a list of these persons. This list would surely give the details of the parent Regiment and, quite possibly, the Battalion(s), and the period(s) and theatre(s) of service of the respective awardee vis à vis their qualification for each medal. Since we knew the parent regiment, this should narrow the search enormously and, hopefully, there would not be too many Charles Harold Paynes who served in the Northampton Regiment in the Great War.
3. THE SEARCH.
Upon further inquiries we found that Great War campaign medal awards documentation did exist at the PRO, Kew, and was described in: Leaflets Nos. 101, (Service Medals and Award Rolls); 105, (Indexes to Medal Entitlement: First World War) and 108, (Records of Medals). The information on the award of Campaign Medals was presented as a card index (Medal Index Card - Document WO.329). This resource had been recently prepared by the PRO from the original bound registers that make up the First World War Medal Rolls (Document WO.3290.), which are kept at PRO. Generally, the original registers contain only the same information as the index cards but, when correctly identified, are much easier to search.
Once we had carefully studied the system of cataloguing of the Medal Rolls, it was really very simple. Using the Regimental Order of Preference, we located the series number of the Northampton Regiment. We then searched alphabetically for PAYNE under references WO.372.1423 (B423) to 1434(B434), then Charles H (Harold). And there it was: Surname, Forename, Second Initial, Rank, Regiment, Regimental Service Number, the Campaign Medals Awarded and, in code, the Theatres of War served in. Also given, was the date the awardee first entered a theatre of war; though there was some ambiguity as there had been service in more than one theatre of war. But by any definition, Bingo indeed!
Further specific confirmation was obtained by cross-reference to the original volumes of First World War Medal Rolls (WO.3290). The access to the specific volumes was given by the entries in WO.372, alongside the names of each of the medals awarded. This gave a Roll Code Number and a Page Number. A 'key' provided in a bound volume in the Microfiche Room was used to convert this number to the WO.329 code: (WO.329.1429 for PAYNE). Armed with this reference number, the actual original Medal Roll volume was requested by using a computer terminal in the Research Enquiry's Room. As there was only one Charles Harold Payne listed as serving in the Northamptonshire Regiment in the Great War, we felt confident we had found my father. But, of course, we needed further confirmation such as date of birth, next of kin, and/or civilian address to be absolutely sure: at best, so far, we had found only the broadest indications of CHP's army service history. To obtain the full details we needed to get copies of his Army Service Record from the 'Burnt Documents' - if his file had survived the Blitz and the gallant efforts of the 1941 Fire-brigade, and if the documents could be located in the Ministry of Defence archives. There are a lot of 'ifs' in Great War research!
So, once again I wrote to the Department CS(R)2b of the Ministry of Defence, Hayes, Middlesex, with all the information we had found at the PRO, along with the search fee and proof of kin-ship.
Miraculously, within two weeks we received a communication from the Ministry that CHP's Army Service Record had been found in relatively good condition.
4. THE PROOF.
Six weeks later, through the post, we received 15 photocopies representing the whole of CHP's army service records from the day of his recruitment, on 25th August 1914, to his final release on 27th July 1919. Almost exactly 5 years of service.
To us, the most important of these records were the biographical details confirming it was indeed my father's Army Service Record detailing his recruitment, career in the army (postings, etc.) and medical history. Now it was possible to review our earlier research to see where this coincided with the dates and information provided on his Army Service Record, and to revisit the PRO to focus on those parts of the documentation in the Northamptonshire Battalion War Diaries (WO.95) which we now knew were pertinent. We also made a visit to the Somme battlefields to physically trace his general movements on the ground.
Whilst the Regimental Histories gave the overall picture of his war timetable, the respective Battalion War Diaries provided extra insights into the immediate daily records of the respective battalion, its principal characters and its activities whilst in and out of the Front Line in both France and Egypt/Palestine. CHP's Army Service Record also enabled us to identify, and obtain a copy of, the appropriate Secret War Map which detailed in colour the exact part of the battlefield of the Somme at the time CHP served there (G.S.G.S. 2742 dated 01.09.16). This map clearly shows many of the trenches and other features mentioned in the Regimental War Diaries.
Published war maps of the Palestine Front in 1916/17 were also obtained permitting a similar plotting of CHP's general movements with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. These maps were not in quite the same detail as the scale was much larger and there were few features such as trenches.
As stated earlier, perhaps the most striking aspect of our research has been the observation of the almost total anonymity under which the vast majority of the British and the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces (and others) served. As mentioned earlier, it is extremely rare to find documentary mention of the Other Ranks (i.e. all except Commissioned and Warrant Officers) other than when attention was drawn to a particular soldier for an outstanding reason. Other Ranks casualties were routinely detailed by numbers (so many OR's Killed, Wounded, Missing) rather than being named individually. So, effectively, over a few months, huge swathes of a battalion - with a normal active service strength of about 800 OR's - are recorded as anonymous casualties. Only to be replaced (usually frequently) by large replacement drafts, with sometimes as many as 500 OR's in a single transfer, of equally anonymous replacements.
In all of our researches we only found one Roll Call of named Northamptionshire OR's, and that was of the 5th Battalion whilst in training in the UK in 1914; even there the number of OR's listed was less than 400, i.e. fewer than half the battalion's strength. CHP's name was not among them.
5. THE BATTLEGROUNDS.
Our research confirmed that CHP had served in two theatres of war: France, 20th July 1916 - 31st January 1917 (6 months and 11 days) and Egypt/Palestine, 18th October 1917 - 25th June 1919 (one year, 8 months and 11 days). The balance of his four years and 11 months of army service was spent in the UK.
The initial period after his recruitment as a Regular volunteer 'For the duration of the hostilities', was drastically changed from the normal routine of assignment to, and training in, an active service regiment, by an accident. This occurred during field training just six weeks after his assignment to the 5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. This service battalion, i.e. established for war service, was then based at Weymouth, Dorset, and was engaged in providing the basic training of the New Army volunteers prior to moving to France as part of the BEF. It was during one of these field-training activities, on the 9th October 1914, that CHP was struck in the eye by the rifle of a fellow soldier - Pte. William Lynch, Regimental No. 12140. The facts are detailed in CHP's and Pte. Lynch's hand-written reports of the incident obtained from CHP's Army Service Records, and supported by a report by the NCO in-charge, 'C' Company.
This accident resulted in series of hospitalisations lasting until July 1916 when CHP was declared as 'fit to serve' and posted to the 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, then serving in the Bethune Sector on the Western Front in France, as part of 4th Army, 8th Division, 24th Brigade. The 2nd Battalion moved into the Front Line at Annaquin on 30th July 1916, where it first saw action.
On the 2nd August 1916, CHP was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment (1st Division, 2nd Brigade), then in reserve at Henencourt Wood, behind the lines in the Albert Sector of the Somme, where the First Battle of the Somme had been raging unabated since the 1st July 1916.
On the 13th August 1916, the Battalion marched up to the Front Line at Bazentin-le-Petit (the roads they used still exist relatively unchanged) and along the southern slope of the ridge capped by the German fortress in High Wood. At this time the Bazentin/High Wood sector was an extremely active area of the Somme offensive; both Bazentin and High Wood appear among the 12 battle honours of the splendid Thiepval Memorial to the Missing located on the former Somme battlefield.
The various battalion companies were soon involved in action in and around High Wood and the Elgin Trench System, suffering, according to the 1st Battalion War Diary, more than 140 casualties (around 20%), mainly killed, in just one action in High Wood. (It is interesting to note that Pte. Lynch, also of the 1st Battalion, and mentioned earlier in the CHP training accident, was killed in action on the 16th September 1916, and is buried in Bazentin-le-Petit Military Cemetery. Unfortunately, our efforts at trying to contact any extant relatives of Pte. Lynch, who was from the Hammersmith area of London, were unsuccessful.
The 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, remained in this sector of the Somme battlefield until 29th September 1916, being active in front-line hot spots such as Mametz Wood and Lozenge Wood. It then moved forward to the Eaucourte L'Abbaye positions, as part of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette - General Haig's 'final push' in the First Battle of the Somme.
Flers-Courcelette was the Great War battle famous for the first use by the British, on 15th September 1916, of the tank in battle. It is improbable that the tanks were still in action when the 1st Battalion moved into the sector, but no doubt, accounts of their passing, and vivid reports on their impact on the Germans, were still being talked about in the trenches when the Battalion took up its position.
On the 27th September 1916, CHP was again taken ill; this time with a fever (diagnosed as P.U.O. = fever of unknown origin), which led to his hospitalisation in Rouen until 6th November 1916, whence he was discharged to the much disliked Base Depot at Etaples in northern France.
It is quite possible that this fever was the result of a chest infection exacerbated by an earlier gassing in the trenches. After CHP's death, my mother told me on several occasions that he had been gassed quite severely more than once on the Somme, and she certainly blamed this as a major cause of his chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and early death aged 57. (From time to time, for many years after the war, CHP shed small fragments of shrapnel which my mother subsequently found in their bed or in his clothing).
On the 5th December 1916, CHP was posted back to the 1st Battalion as 'fit to serve', but shortly afterwards (1st January 1917) he was again hospitalised and medically evacuated by sea, on the Hospital Transport 'Grantley Castle' to the Netley Military Hospital on Southampton Water, in southern England. A further series of hospitalisations followed in the UK, until he was finally posted, on the 20th July 1917, as again 'fit to serve', to the 3rd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, based at Chatham, Kent.
His final posting within the Regiment, to the 1/4th Battalion, took place on the 18th October 1917. Shortly afterwards he left from Southampton, by sea, for Alexandria, Egypt, with the 54th (East Anglian) Division, as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF).
One can conjecture that CHP's relief at escaping the miseries of the Western Front, were rather tempered by the fears, imagined and real, of the heat, dirt and disease of the then largely unknown Middle East in general, and Egypt and Palestine in particular.
Once again CHP arrived in a theatre of battle shortly after, as they would say at the time, 'The balloon went up'. On this occasion it was the Third Battle of Gaza which had begun in Palestine on the 1st November 1917 and was still ongoing when the 1st Battalion arrived in Egypt.
After a short period of acclimatisation, re-equipment and training at the regimental depot in Kantarah (now El Qantara) Egypt, on the east bank of the Suez Canal, the 1/4th Battalion moved into Palestine on the 8th November 1917 in preparation for the Fourth Battle of Gaza. The 1/4th Battalion's assigned position was located between the sea (Mediterranean), and the coastal town of Sheikh Hassan, a few miles east of Gaza City.
On the 11th November 1917, the 1/4th Battalion moved northwards to concentrate on the beaches at El Nazla, north of Sheikh Hassan. Thereafter, it was engaged in a highly mobile war through the coastal belt and its towns, leading up to the seaport of Jaffa. One particularly onerous task was the clearing suspected Turkish troops, disguised as civilians, from the town of Medjel Yaba. Another serious action took place in the Front Line between Safireyeh and Beit Dejan, where the 1/4th Battalion was ordered to 'Hold the line, at all costs' against an anticipated ferocious Turkish counter-attack.
The 1/4th Battalion took up new battle positions on the 26th November 1917, in front of the inland town of Wilhelma; a German colony in the Philistine Plain. It was tasked to hold a line of three strong posts, again 'At all costs', against a determined onslaught by over 3,000 Turks. The 1/4th Battalion's casualties in this action were 93: 33 killed; respectively around 1% and 0.5%.
Thereafter, a highly mobile war continued up the coast-line of Palestine, via the Sharon Plain, that was marked by numerous small, but hard-fought actions, including the famous Passage of the Auja (20th to 21 December 1917) which put the Turkish Army in retreat.
These small actions, aimed at pressing the retreat of the Turks, continued until the 12th March 1918, when the 1/4th Battalion was in a major action at El Mezeirah Ridge, named 'Operation Wadi Deir Ballut'; part of the 'Actions of Mount Tell Asur (to the Turks 'The Battle of Turmus Aya). Here again the Turks were repulsed.
The 1/4th Battalion continued its advance until it was engaged in its final major action at Kufr Qasim in the Battle of Megiddo (a.k.a. Armageddon) on the Sharon Plain. The Battalion achieved its objectives in the capture of Azzun Ibn Attme and Kufr Es Sumra.
The casualty figures of the 1/4th Battalion in the Battle of Megiddo are not given in the War Diary, but those of the parent Division (54th East Anglian), were 535 (around 7%).
At this juncture CHP's recent history of chest complaints was formally confirmed when he was again hospitalised on 26th June 1918 with another diagnosis of bronchitis; not a common complaint in the Middle East in June, other than, perhaps, in those with chronically weakened lungs. He was subsequently evacuated to the Military General Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt.
No doubt the 1/4th Battalion thought its active service days were over when they were transferred to Helmeih in the Suez Zone, Egypt, but fate had more troubles in store for them.
CHP eventually rejoined his Battalion on the 16th December 1918 upon his discharge after six months of hospitalisation. But, soon after the ceremony of the Commander-in-Chief's March Past had taken place in the streets of Cairo, on the 20th December 1918, units of the 1/4th Battalion were assigned to guard duties at port and railway installations throughout the Suez Zone Area. The object of this deployment was to offer protection against the civil riots that had erupted, post-war, throughout the country and threatened civil insurrection against the British supported Egyptian Government.
On the 3rd June 1919, CHP's turn came round for repatriation and demobilisation. He was repatriated to the UK on the troopship H.T. 'Kashgar' to Shorncliffe, and finally left the army, on transfer to the Reserve, on 23rd July 1919.
He also answered the call for volunteers for the Home Guard in 1940, during the Second World War. A few stray bombs, fell on the town and its environs and there were attendances latter in the war at the sites of the spectacular crashes and collisions of B27 and B29 bombers of the US Airforce who had many airfield bases in the area. (The crash sites with their acres of shards of shattered Perspex were found ideal for providing the where-with-all for the fabrication of rings by the local schoolboys). But overall, there was little of excitement in the bailiwick of the Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, unit of the Home Guard. So, there is nothing of known import to report of his service with this defence force.
6. THE AFTERTHOUGHTS.
I have visited the cities of Alexandria and Cairo, in Egypt, many times since 1960: the Regional Offices for the Eastern Mediterranean Region of the World Health Organisation (WHO), my former employer, has been located in both cities at different times.
In the 1960's both these cities still bore a close resemblance to the glories they enjoyed during the Great War when CHP saw them. In the case of Cairo, he surely would have recognised in 1960 the streets through which he marched for the Commander-in-Chief's March Pass on the 20th December 1918. Also the countryside he saw in Egypt and Palestine was still much the same as I saw in 1960. But a prolonged bout of Colonel Nassau's socialism, a soaring birth rate (in 2000 over 30% of the total population of Africa lived in just two countries - Egypt and Nigeria), continual strife between the Arabs and the Jews and deteriorating economies, have left Egyptian and Palestinian cities and the rural areas around them, completely changed. The principal avenues and fine buildings remain, but now they are over-built, over-populated, jammed with noisy chaotic traffic, generally very shabby, and difficult to recall from memory.
The countryside is also extensively built over with sprawling towns and villages. The fields have become much more fragmented and cultivated in different ways. So there is little on the ground as it was then, and almost nothing has been preserved to commemorate those largely forgotten events of over 80 years ago.
In France, on the Somme, the situation is completely different. Composite photographs we took of the Bazentin Ridge in 1996 from the vantage point of the D.20 road - Bazentin-le-Petit to Longeval - would be instantly recognisable by the soldiers who fought there in 1916. Even though, when they first saw it, was probably already considerably knocked by the pre-attack artillery barrages.
The destroyed villages on the Somme battlefield have been carefully rebuilt, largely within their original confines, and the numerous woods have regrown; albeit that High Wood Military Cemetery, with its three prominent trees, does tend to challenge the former box shaped dominance of High Wood along the horizon. But the sweep of countryside is still there, with the village of Martinpuich and its church spire, still as clearly visible today on the uncluttered middle horizon as it was then and as depicted in innumerable Somme battlefield photographs. An incredible reversion to those past days.
Add to this the secluded poignancy of the many military cemeteries in the immediate area, with their uniform off-white headstones, monuments to The Fallen, manicured lawns and stately trees, and it is a very moving experience. All in all, one might imagine, an almost unbearably evocative sight to those few were still alive in recent years to see it, and remember what took place there over 80 years ago.
The results of this search for my father's war came to a satisfying conclusion with the completion, in 1997, of a limited production of 15 numbered, bound copies of a document entitled 'HISTORY OF THE PARTICIPATION OF CPL. CHARLES HAROLD PAYNE, NO. 12373 IN THE 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 1/4th BATTALIONS OF THE NORTHAMPTONSHIRE REGIMENT: 1914 TO 1919.' Each bound document consists of: 13 A4 pages of text, 9 maps (six coloured); 3 sketch-maps; 7 photocopies selected from CHP's Army Service Record, and 1 landscape coloured photograph of High Wood and environs. The frontispiece includes a copy of the vignette sepia photograph of CHP in service uniform dated circa 1915.
The numbered copies were distributed, and accepted, as follows: nos. 1 - 9 to family members; no. 10, The Public Record Office, Kew; no. 11, The Northamptonshire Record Office; no. 12, The Central Library, Northampton; no. 13, The Public Library, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire and no. 14, The Irchester Historical Society, Irchester, Northamptonshire.