Gillian and Alan's talk will focus on the impact on the town of the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt on the 13th of October 1915, when Uttoxeter lost 15 men on one day. It was the first occasion in which the town lost a large number of men in a single day and it shocked the people at home.
The talk will be illustrated with photographs taken at the battle scene, contemporary maps and images and the stories and photographs of the men from Uttoxeter who died.
Counted amongst the townsmen killed on that day was Oswald Bamford, a member of the family who went on to found JCB. In a series of events following the family’s commemorating the centenary of Oswald’s death, Lord Bamford generously paid for three new bronze plaques to be commissioned and installed in the Market Place at Uttoxeter to commemorate additional men from the town discovered by Gillian and Alan’s research. In this talk, the story of Oswald, his Loos compatriots and their lasting legacy will be discussed.
Gillian was born in Carshalton and brought up nearby in Wallington, two once-small towns in Surrey that have since been swallowed-up by London. She has had an interest in the people and history of the Great War since she was nine years old and this interest was nurtured by family.
When it was time to choose a career, Gillian decided to pursue her other great interest and become an engineer. This brought her to the Midlands when she served an undergraduate apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce Aero Engines Division in Derby and gained an Honours degree course in Aeronautical Engineering and Design from Loughborough University.
After graduating, she became a Chartered Engineer, Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a Member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
Throughout her life, however, she has maintained her interest in the Great War and sought at every opportunity to expand her knowledge of it.
Alan was born and brought up in Uttoxeter in a family born and bred in the town for generations. He has had an interest in the people and history of the town since a very young age. His parents, were well-known by many and they taught Alan the value and importance of local history.
His father, Charlie, served during the Second World War and saw action with the Transport Section of the RAF at El-Alamein. He knew from personal experience what war means and, whilst he never spoke of his experiences himself, he instilled in Alan great respect for those who have paid high prices for our freedoms.
Charlie was a skilled mechanic of the ‘old school’, who could turn his hand to repairing most cars and lorries of his era, including, if necessary, making parts from scratch for them. Alan followed in his footsteps by joining the Staff at Rolls-Royce as an undergraduate apprentice, specialising in Mechanical Engineering at Derby Technical College (later to become Derby University) and becoming a Designer and Computer-Aided Engineering Expert.
Alan is also a Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and has a strong interest in aviation during the Great War.
Gillian and Alan met at Rolls-Royce while they were training together in the design office. They married in 1984 and have been exploring the battlefields of the Great War together ever since. In 2014 and again in 2015 and 2018 they travelled the entire length of the Western Front from the beach at Nieupoort on the Belgian coast to Pfetterhaus on the Swiss border.
In 2014 they published the first edition of their book about the Uttoxeter’s people who died in the Great War. This embodied more than 10 years of research that had included gathering images of personal memorabilia from a large number of families in the town, along with numerous visits to the battlefields and graves.
Their second book, “In the Pink” was released a year later and this told the story of Alan’s great-uncle, Sydney Harrison, who served and died on the Western Front, through an extensive collection of letters kept by the family. ‘In the Pink’ led to collaboration with playwright James Warden in producing a play based upon Sid’s story.
In 2018, they were runners-up in the ‘Extra Mile’ category of the Burton Mail Local Heroes Awards for work that culminated in three new bronze plaques being donated by Lord Bamford of JCB and installed on the War Memorial in the Market Place in Uttoxeter. This added 45 new names from 1914-1918 and one from 1939-1945.
They are currently working on books about the people from the villages of Marchington, Marchington Woodlands, Lower and Upper Tean and Leigh who died in the Great War.
Gillian and Alan are both members of the Western Front Association and the Great War Forum as well as Life Members of the Victoria Cross Trust.
They are now both retired and concentrate their efforts upon researching and writing about the First World War and their other interests.