I was born in Wirral in 1958. I grew up in West Kirby and Greasby before attending York University (1978-1981) and The University College of Wales Aberystwyth (1984-1985). I worked as a secondary school history teacher in Wales and England between 1985 and 2016. I am now working on a PhD about Wirral in the Great War and am also researching the War's impact on life in other parts of the north west.
I have a small business called North West History which offers genealogical, military and general historical research services as well as guiding and battlefield touring. Get in touch with me if you would like to know more.
Colin Burford is Chairman of the Friends of St. James the Less Church in Lower Tatham, Lancashire. Knowing my interests, he asked me whether I would help to plan a family history event at the church. I suggested that we focus on the Great War, as then I would be able to use my collection of artefacts and documents and employ my specialist knowledge in helping people to build their family trees using Great War sources. He agreed and then we asked Mike Winstanley of the Tatham History Society to come on board. Over the following months, the three of us met several times to plan the event, making sure to discuss such vital matters as whether the trench cake was likely to poison anybody and lead to expensive litigation which neither society could afford.
The event occurred on the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day 2018 (whilst the Irish team were soundly beating England at Twickenham and winning the Grand Slam in the process). The church’s north aisle was given over to display tables and a refreshment stand, while the nave was reserved as an auditorium for the talks given by me, Mike Winstanley and John Wilson. I spoke about the military experiences of some of the men who appear on the parish roll of honour; Mike spoke about the nurses, medics and other volunteers and their families while John analysed the experiences of the men recorded on the Tatham Fells Roll of Honour. Every pew seemed to be occupied and people appeared to be genuinely interested in the content of each talk. During preceding and subsequent discussions, many topics were investigated and questions about research procedures for Great War ancestry answered. For my part, it was one of the most enjoyable history events in which I have ever taken part. I wish to thank Colin and Mike for their expertise and enthusiasm and all the volunteers who got the church ready, served the refreshments and were generally enthusiastic and welcoming to all the visitors. I also thank my friends Frank Sherratt and Terry Lambert who assisted me with my display and, in Terry’s case, added to the exhibition’s diversity by bringing some of the priceless memorabilia associated with her Great Uncle Edward who served and died with the American Army on the Western Front in 1918. Continue reading →
‘… the atmosphere that was created was very moving’ – comment by a year 9 pupil after a trip to the Somme, July 2016
The Hundredth Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Givenchy – when the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought off a massive German attack – will occur on 9th April 2018. It will be a good moment to visit the ground upon which so many soldiers from the North-West of England fought and are commemorated.
We will explore the landscape by either minibus or small coach (depending upon numbers) and on foot, taking in remnants of the battlefield and the many associated memorials and cemeteries. Real soldiers’ stories will be woven into our visits, giving many opportunities for discussion, reflection and commemoration.
This event is held every year in the village of Wray in the Lune Valley. It is an extremely well organised and jolly occasion which attracts visitors from all over the region. Local people show a great deal of creativity and humour by erecting scarecrows, which represent the year’s chosen theme, outside their houses. I did not produce a scarecrow, but placed a small exhibition on the festival field during the final Sunday and Monday of the event. My aim was to share my artefacts and research with the public in order to stimulate interest in and conversations about the Great War and to publicise my military and genealogical research services. Continue reading →
I was asked by former colleagues at school to accompany them on their annual trip to Normandy, the main purpose of which was to immerse the pupils in the French language and French Culture. Amongst other things, they were encouraged to order things in French at the market in Trouville Sur Mer and goats’cheeses from a nearby farm. The children were also taken to see the Bayeux Tapestry and on a visit to Paris. I was particularly interested in the sites relating to the D-Day Invasion of 6th June 1944 and to the subsequent Battle for Normandy.
The biggest attraction at Trouville Market was the stall selling ‘Fondantes Aux Pommes’, which are a local delicacy and yes indeed, I can recommend them. Continue reading →
During the weekend of 1st and 2nd October 2016, the autumnal sun shone warmly and brightly on Wennington Green in the Lune Valley not far from Kirkby Lonsdale. In order to show the world my collection of replica and authentic Great War artifacts and to advertise the services I can provide, I organised a living history event. My wife Anne, despite having hardly any interest in history whatsoever and certainly not being attracted by the Great War, offered to take charge of the catering. She found authentic recipes and baked trench cake, soda bread and anzac and hard tack biscuits (with a bit of added butter in order to make them slightly more edible). She also offered tea, coffee, bacon sandwiches, bully beef, brown sauce and baked potatoes. My sister Alison came up from Wirral with her homemade trench cake and Lesley and Bernard Simon paid a visit and donated another trench cake and extra anzac biscuits. I provided the plum and apple jam, made with apples from our own tree. Our neighbour, Bruce, donated firewood and looked after the stove and my daughter Eleri, granddaughter Evie, son-in-law Nick, son Samuel and his girlfriend Lauren also helped. Eleri and Evie are responsible for the excellent photographs.
It being the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, I was eager to take a party of my year 9 and 10 pupils on a memorable journey to the battlefields. I was determined that our field trip would be individual, unique, memorable and meaningful for my pupils, especially so as it was to be the last battlefield tour I would lead as a full-time history teacher, because I was due to retire at the end of the year. I planned it well in advance and at the end of May, during the school half term holiday, took my wife on a four-day trip to the province of Picardy in Northern France in order to reconnoitre the walking routes. We stayed in the picturesque village of Heilly and enjoyed the local gastronomy and countryside as much as the battlefield visits. It was the wettest May and early June in France for many a year and my belief that it never rains all day was proved to be ill-founded. However, I am a great believer in persisting with one’s plans to walk the Western Front despite the weather, as I think we should sometimes be made to feel uncomfortable in order to feel a bit more more empathy for the soldiers who served in those conditions during the Great War. The following images were taken during that preliminary visit.
The Golden Virgin in Albert, close to where we stayed.
This website is designed to tell you about the services I am offering as a self-employed historian with the business name North West History. Each one of my services is explained on a separate page, access to which is gained via the links on the menu at the top of the screen. This, the blog part of the website, will contain posts which talk about some of my activities, keeping you up to date with developments and demonstrating the sort of things I can do for you. Continue reading →