Life of Kidderminster First World War hero documented in new book

Kidderminster Shuttle: Important story: Don Gilbert, right, with War Memorials Trust trustee Bill Bennett. Picture: Miriam Balfry. 481366M. Buy this photo » Important story: Don Gilbert, right, with War Memorials Trust trustee Bill Bennett. Picture: Miriam Balfry. 481366M.

THE extraordinary tale of a Kidderminster-born First World War hero, who died on the first day of the battle of the Somme, has been documented by a town historian.

Don Gilbert wrote God bless England - The life and death of Alfred Edward Bland (1881-1916) to commemorate next year’s 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The project was commissioned by the Kidderminster War Memorials Conservation Trust.

The booklet describes Mr Bland's ancestry, education, career and time in the 22nd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment.

Mr Gilbert decided to write the book after reading parts of letters written by Mr Bland and recognised his name after writing about the soldier’s Kidderminster school, the former King Charles I Grammar.

After leaving Kidderminster in 1904, Mr Bland studied at Christ’s Hospital in London and Oxford University. He worked in the Public Record Office and as a part-time adult education tutor.

In 1915, he joined the Manchester Regiment and rose to be a captain. He went to France in November, 1915 and was killed on July 1, 1916.

While in France, Mr Bland wrote frequently to his wife, Violet. Mr Gilbert’s booklet contains extracts from the personal letters about his life in the Army.

In one piece of writing which particularly inspired Mr Gilbert, the soldier wrote: “Darling, I cannot bear you to be unhappy about me. Think of the cause. It is England, England always and all the time.”

Mr Gilbert said: “It is important people realise just what people in the First World War went through. The letters Mr Bland wrote show how he dealt with it. What came through to me was his personality. He was a patriot of the old-fashioned type.”

He said writing his 13th publication was “very fulfilling” and he had travelled to several places, including Manchester and London, and contacted several of Mr Bland’s ancestors.

For more information on buying the booklet, visit Kidderminster Library.

 

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