Sheffield author's new book delves into the Great War and the people who went missing
Of the one million British and Empire military personnel who were killed in action, died of wounds, disease or injury or were missing presumed dead during the First World War, over half a million have no known grave and a Sheffield author has made it his mission to search for the truth.
John Broom, who has written Reported Missing in the Great War – 100 Years of Searching for the Truth, studied history at Sheffield University in the late 1980s and said: “For the families of those who were reported missing, months of agonising uncertainty could await, as searches were made to establish the precise fate of their loved ones.
“Sometimes rumours an individual was recovering from wounds in a hospital, unable to contact his family, or had been taken prisoner by the enemy could circulate, causing a
toxic admixture of hope, tinged with anxiety then dashed by the despair of the confirmation of death.”
This book traces the history of the searching services that were established to assist families in eliciting definitive news of their missing loved ones. Then, using previously unpublished material, most of it lovingly preserved in family archives for over a century, the lives of eight soldiers, whose families had no known resting place to visit after the
conclusion of the war, are recounted.
John pursued a career in teaching and was also awarded a PhD on Christianity in the British Armed Services and it was a chance inheritance of family papers eleven years ago prompted his interest in the spiritual and ethical issues of the twentieth-century world wars.
He said: “These young men, their lives full of promise, vanished from the face of the earth. The circumstances of their deaths and the painstaking efforts undertaken, both by family members and public and voluntary organisations, to piece together what information could be found are described."
Of the eight missing men John follows in his quest for answers he also follows the journey of Private Arthur Greensmith, 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, the SheIeld
He said: “He was a Sheffield mining engineering student, one of nearly 20,000 men to lose his life on 1 July 1916.”
The book is out now available here.