Two local authors have revealed details about a new book that uncovers previously unpublished photos and facts about the lives of two WW1 heroes from Crewe.
Mark Potts and Tony Marks have written extensively about the Great War, focusing on the men and women from the Crewe and surrounding area who served the country between 1914-1918.
Their latest book – The Villiers Russell twins: Crewe’s Most Commemorated Great War Casualties – is a project triggered by a chance graveside meeting in January 2015.
Mark said: “A group of people attended a memorial to the twins at their family grave at Coppenhall St. Michael’s cemetery, marking one hundred years since their deaths.
“While I was there, standing in the cold as it began to snow, I started talking to a gentleman about the twins. He told me that his father had been a close family friend, and that he had listened to a number of stories over the years.
“I thought nothing of it until he contacted me a few months later. He had found a large envelope in his loft, containing photos, letters and postcards relating to the twins’ lives.
“When I looked through these amazing items with my colleague, Tony, we knew that a more expansive story had to be told.”
A plaque in honour of the Villiers Russell twins was originally placed in Crewe’s Municipal Buildings in 1994 by the Royal Naval Association (Crewe branch). This encouraged Mark and Tony to follow-up the story.
In 1998 they took a trip to Lyme Regis, West Dorset, where they researched and produced a book – Before The Bells Have Faded – that documented the sinking of HMS Formidable, the ship that the Villiers Russell brothers served on.
The new information that surfaced in 2015 led to a further eighteen months of painstaking research and investigation, but resulted in a publication that addresses many of the unknown facts that make stories surrounding the Crewe twins fascinating.
Mark added: “There are some incredible new details, but it also allowed us to highlight a few errors on the original plaque. This will now be taken down and placed at the Crewe Sea Cadets’ base on Queen Street.
“We have received great help from the Royal Naval Association, the Crewe Historical Society, Cllr Dorothy Flude, Paul Blurton and Peter Ollerhead as we collected information and dealt with what is a very emotional story.
“Proceeds from the book will allow us to produce a new plaque, and also make a donation to the St. John’s Ambulance Service.
“This will see two defibrillators installed in Crewe town centre, named in honour of the twins and two other Crewe men, James Burnell and Albert Edward Kinlay, who also died following the sinking of HMS Formidable.”
Next week, the Chronicle will reproduce a passage that documents the Villiers Russell twins’ final hours as they tried to reach land aboard a life boat.
Only 200 copies of the book, priced £10, will be printed and it will not be available in the shops.
You can order a copy of The Villiers Russell twins: Crewe’s Most Commemorated Great War Casualties for £10, direct from Paul Blurton, 41 Vine Tree Avenue, Crewe, CW2 7NT. Please add £4 if you require the book posting, and make cheques payable to Crewe Historical Society.
For any further information, please contact Mark Potts on 07503-178132.