Foreword by Robert Walker
Genealogy is a fascinating and time-consuming hobby. Alan has devoted much of his time and
energy into delving into the past and has traced our Granddad Albert John’s family tree back as far
In 2002 the project took off in a new direction, which no one could have anticipated. “Aunty Rob and
Uncle Alf” - my parents - passed away in the spring of 2002 within a month of each other. Their flat
in Southwark had to be vacated and the daunting task of clearing up began in ernest.
Our “Nan” – Florence Purdom, - Albert John’s widow had lived with my parents for as long as I can
remember, after the death of her second husband. She herself had died in April 1986
The packing and disposal of kitchen utensils had gone into its final phase when suddenly I discovered
an old tin box tightly pushed up into a corner under the sink. Inside was a large roll of paper held
together with a dry and fragile rubber band, which literally disintegrated when I touched it.
The “roll of paper” proved to be a treasure trove of letters written to Nan by Albert John “from the
trenches” in the period January - May 1918.
There was also a letter, dated 6. June 1918 from a senior officer in which he enclosed a drawing by a
Cpl. Dodd of Albert John’s grave. The letter and the drawing can be seen at the end of these “War
These letters and documents, completing a hitherto unknown part of our family history and filling in
the many holes in the genealogical research were the spark which ignited the next stage of Alan’s
fascinating journey into the past.
The “War Diaries” coupled with excerpts of letters from the trenches give a new insight into our
family history, and with its perspective shows how – despite the daily atrocities – life goes on in
The “War Diaries” honour the memory and celebrate the life and death of Albert John, who fell like
so many others, in the horror of the First World War.
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