Posted by: lensweb | January 14, 2016

What did you do in the war Grandad?


What did you do in the war Grandad?

Researchers at a university in Australia have appealed to the public for their help in creating a database of all Australians and New Zealanders, Anzacs, who served in the first world war. The country’s census records over the last 100 years were often destroyed soon after the government used them.

Interview with Christine Carrier (Douglas Road, Long Eaton)

Recently when I moved house I discovered a suitcase of memorabilia which my mother had kept. There was a copy of the Anzac Book and some old photographs and newspaper cuttings.  I remembered my mother telling me the 2 large trunks full of old clothes in our house were from when the whole family were going to emigrate to Australia and she told me about her favourite Uncle Charlie.

At the turn of the twentieth century our family lived in Normanton on Soar.  This was a farming community and my grandfather E Burley may have worked on a farm.

post office.png

normanton house

When my Grandmother Maggie Burley married George Sawbridge she moved away from Normanton and went to live in Park Street, Long Eaton, George had got a job on the railways.  As a single man looking to improve his prospects, her brother Charlie also moved from Normanton and lodged at the Long Eaton house.

Park Street annotated

Charlie was my mother Nellie’s favourite uncle, but when she was seven, Charlie emigrated to Australia. Charlie kept in touch and sent photos of the farm where he worked. Every Christmas my Grandma sent a picture of  Nellie, my mother.

The prospects in Australia seemed so good that the whole family decided to move out to join Charlie, they bought two large trunks and packed all their belongings and were ready to get on the next  boat to Australia, but they never went, as war broke out, the first World War had started.

With patriotic fervour my uncle signed up to fight for England, the Motherland.



In 1915 Charlie sent a postcard from a convalescent home, he had lost his hearing, possibly due to the noise of battle.  Here is a photograph of him ‘Somewhere in France’ with his comrades in arms.

somwhereThe war which they thought would soon be finished went on for years. The facts are not clear, it is possible Charlie came to England when the Anzac troops paraded through London 6 April 1919, a newspaper double page spread has been saved from that day.


My mother was certain Charlie did not die on active service, he received a war medal but it seems that shortly after the 1919 Anzac parade, Charlie caught flu and died.  The trunks full of clothes stood in the corner of the bedroom, ready to be used but the family never did move to Australia because Charlie was not there.

In the 1920s my Great Grandparents were chosen to plant a memorial tree as they were the oldest inhabitants of the village of Normanton on Soar.  It may be that as they planted the tree they thought of my brave and loyal Great Uncle Charlie Burley.

memorial tree



Photographs all copyright of Christine Carrier

Marion Bryce 14 January 2016


%d bloggers like this: