By Andrew Corless
A NEW book unveils the WW1 heroes from the “bravest street in England” through candid images of the community they came from.
Pictures taken during WW1 show a procession of soldier-residents of Chapel Street in Altrincham, Greater Manchester and the Altrincham Borough Band at the unveiling ceremony for the Chapel Street Roll of Honour, a memorial for the street’s recruits unveiled by the Earl of Stamford on April 5, 1919.
The Bravest Little Street in England by Karen Cliff documents the origins of this celebrated street called “the bravest little street in England” by King George after the community saw 161 men from 60 of its homes serve in the First World War, with 29 of those killed in action.
Three years of research by Trafford Local Studies staff and a group of volunteers, have led to the story of this remarkable little street and the people who lived there finally being told in The Bravest Little Street in England.
Author Karen Cliff explained how the residents sacrificed a generation of its youngest and fittest men for their country.
“Vincent Maguire, listed as McGuire on the memorial, and Joseph Norton from Chapel Street were awarded [the Distinguished Conduct Medal].
“Joseph was also awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for Military Valour and received a Mentioned in Despatches three times.
“It was reported in the local paper in July 1916 that John Brennan had been awarded the French Military Cross, for saving the life of a French general.”
The book also features stunning photographs of Lord Stamford reading a telegraph from the king at the unveiling ceremony on April 5 1919, as well as breath-taking pictures and facts about the residents who lived on Chapel Street such as Mrs Bridget de Courcy, a lodging house keeper who was considered as “the matriarch of the street”. The book goes on to say:
“Mrs De Courcy, the proprietress of a lodging house, has a splendid record as a recruiting officer, and partly as a result of her instrumentality about 33 of her lodgers are now serving in H.M. Forces.
“In fact, she staunchly refuses to house eligible men and is not slow in telling them their place is fighting for their King and country.
“In a single day at the beginning of the war, thirteen of her lodgers left her to enlist.
“No fewer than eighty-one men, whose homes are in Chapel Street, are now with the Army.
“As there are not more than sixty-one houses in the street, this gives an average of more than one soldier from each home.”
In 2009, after years of campaigning by the families of those who fought to get the street recognised for its efforts, an English heritage blue plaque was unveiled. It read:
“In memory of the 161 men who volunteered and fought in the Great War 1914-18 and the 29 who gave their lives. We will remember them.”
The Bravest Little Street in England by Karen Cliff is published by Amberley Publishing. RRP £14.99.