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Book tribute to war dead

PUBLISHED: 14:05 12 November 2008 | UPDATED: 14:48 07 July 2010

When Private Charles Blanch was killed in action during the First World War the brave soldier left behind a wife and five children.

Nine decades later his son Sidney Blanch, now a 92-year-old great-grandfather, spoke on Monday of how proud he was of his father as he read Private Blanch's entry in a new book that has been compiled to honour more than 150 soldiers featured on Dereham's three war memorials in St Nicholas Church, the Market Place and the Memorial Hall.

When Private Charles Blanch was killed in action during the First World War the brave soldier left behind a wife and five children.

Nine decades later his son Sidney Blanch, now a 92-year-old great-grandfather, spoke on Monday of how proud he was of his father as he read Private Blanch's entry in a new book that has been compiled to honour more than 150 soldiers featured on Dereham's three war memorials in St Nicholas Church, the Market Place and the Memorial Hall.

The book tells of how Private Blanch, from Dereham and who belonged to the Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers), died in action in Flanders and France on June 7 1917, when he was aged 38 and Sidney was less than a year old. He is buried at Wytschaete Military Cemetery in Belgium.

“It was very inspiring to see my father in the book and to think of what he had done for his country,” said Sidney, who was a leading aircraftman in the RAF during the Second World War and is the secretary of the Hellesdon branch of the Royal British Legion.

“It is a wonderful book. It is nice to see the lives of all these soldiers recorded.”

The book was the brainchild of the Mid-Norfolk Family History Society. Members Patricia Skittrall, from Dereham, and Margaret Bohn and Marguerite Statham, both from Bradenham, spent about three years collecting all the information by, among other things, trawling through past copies of the Dereham and Fakenham Times and visiting graves and memorials in France and Belgium.

Mrs Skittrall said: “It was something that we felt needed to be done and it has been very interesting finding out the different stories and backgrounds of all the soldiers. We hope it will be a worthwhile record of one aspect of the Great War in our town.”

The book will now be kept at St Nicholas Church for the public to view.

Anybody who has information they would like to add to the book should email pskittrall@aol.com or call Mrs Skittrall on 01362 695195.

Remembrance Day marches - pages 24 and 33

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