Alan Fendley, of Rothbury, historian and raconteur, gave the August meeting of the Alnwick Probus Club a masterclass of public speaking.
His subject was A Soldier in the Great War and he outlined the experiences of a regular soldier who joined the British Army in 1912 from the West Riding of Yorkshire, following his progress through the Dardenelles and then into France until he was shipped home after being wounded.
The talk was interspersed with anecdotes of the soldier’s experiences on leave in Whitley Bay and with tales of being nursed in a military hospital in London. All soldiers on active service were issued with a bible, which fitted into the breast pocket of their tunic, and the soldier in question also had a photograph of his girlfriend in the same pocket.
Remarkably, these articles saved his life, for he was hit by a rifle bullet in the chest and after passing through the photograph, which Alan produced, complete with hole, the bullet lodged in the bible.
Other artefacts were produced along with cartoons demonstrating servicemen’s wry sense of humour enabling them, somehow, to cope with intolerable conditions.
This was not a tale of ‘the glorious dead’, but rather an amazing story of hardship and tragedy, told in the manner of stripping layers off an onion until an unexpected twist came at the end which brought all the parts together.
The surprise is not going to be revealed in this report in case readers have the chance to hear Alan for themselves.
The next month’s meeting of Alnwick Probus Club features Air Vice Marshall (rtd) Sandy Hunter telling of his experiences as a military attaché in Moscow.
Anyone interested in joining the club should contact Bill Bland on 01669 620572 or at firstname.lastname@example.org