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Chislehurst author brings Great War to life

PUBLISHED: 12:37 10 November 2010

Yvonne Auld

Yvonne Auld

Archant

As Bromley borough vows never to forget the brave sacrifice of our men and women in battle, an historian and former teacher has launched a book documenting each of the 186 souls named on a War Memorial.

Chislehurst War Memorial

Yvonne Auld was compelled to research the personal stories of each person on the monument, on Chislehurst Common, after being moved by pictures of the young men while reading wartime archives of the Kentish Times.

“For King and Country”, which took five years to complete, was a labour of love for retired maths teacher Ms Auld, 64, who this evening will give a talk to the packed hall at Camden Place, in Chislehurst.

She said: “It is a bit ridiculous, but I know more about the lives of many of these men than my own family.

“Writing the book has been a pretty exhausting journey but I’m glad the book is finished now. There have been many late nights looking at the records.”

It was while teaching in South Africa in the 1970s that Ms Auld got the bug for genealogy after friends there who had British roots bugged her to find out about their families on her trips back to Blighty.

“Back then it was a different story” remembers the teacher, “You had to go to public records offices all over the country.”

Researching people’s background was a hobby and then briefly a job for Ms Auld, who also worked in Newstead Wood Girls School as a maths teacher. She said that in the 1980s people thought that genealogy was a “waste of time.”

When she retired from full time teaching she decided to uncover the history of Chislehurst, and found herself instantly mesmerised by the haunting faces of well-heeled youth of the small village as they head of for the front line in 1915.

The launch of the book, available from the Chislehurst Society from today, coincides with one of the borough’s biggest programme of memorial events and Armistace Day.

Ms Auld said: “Because of Iraq and Afghanistan there is more interest in the War than before.

“I recently spent the day at the War Memorial with boys from Coopers College, and I couldn’t believe how quiet and respectful they were. It was amazing.”

Ms Auld will give a talk about her extensive and exhaustive research to a packed Camden Place, Chislehurst Golf Club this evening as a guest of the Chislehurst Society.

Some of those named on the memorial are buried in St Nicholas Church, yards from the memorial on Centre Common Road. The church aslo features a stained glass window commemoration two former choirboys John Mitcham and William Steptoe.

Vicar Rev. Alan Mustoe, said: “Over the years a great number of people have taken Remembrance Day seriously, and not just old people but young people too.

“Recent events have made them very aware of what people have had to go through so that we might be free.”

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