A RETIRED minister turned author has recounted the sacrifices made by his five uncles on land and in the air during the battles of the Great War.
Hugh Neems, 86, grew up hearing the tales of how both his maternal and paternal relatives served at the Somme, Ypres and Gallipoli.
And in the centenary year of the start of the First World War, the former Royal Navy engineer has revisited their exploits for a new book, A Rough Ride.
His uncle Dai Lloyd was severely wounded at Vimy Ridge in 1916 among the derelict mining tunnels and his brother Hugh, initially a despatch rider, a military messenger, was struck down three times in battle before joining the Royal Flying Corps in 1917.
Hugh, a Military Cross winner with the Royal Engineers, would go on to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross a year into his service.
While Hugh was trying to turn back the German tide near Arras in March 1918, the author’s paternal uncle Arthur Neems was killed in a grenade attack on the ground at Fampoux.
Another of the writer’s uncles, his namesake Hugh Neems, served with the Australian Cavalry, and on his mother’s side Griffith Lloyd, a younger brother of Dai and Hugh, enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery in 1917.
Hugh, of Victoria Road, Todmorden, who is a familiar face on the sequence dancing circuit in Padiham and Accrington, said: “Despite the personal suffering and tragedy of war, the book is nevertheless an uplifting story, restoring hope in human resilience.
“It tells the story of a family at war and in this year of commemoration it should appeal to anyone who wants a broader picture of the conflict.”
He has also detailed the experiences of Todmorden’s Samuel Jukes, father of his partner Doris Sharphouse and a Lancashire Fusilier who survived the treacherous Battle of Suvla Bay against the Turkish.
Trained as a post office telephone engineer, the Worcestershire-born author was a Royal Navy wireless operator and spent 14 years overseeing boarding schools and inspectors in the South Pacific.
He was a United Reformed Church minister in Littleborough, Rochdale and Bamford for 20 years before retiring to Todmorden. His latest effort is published by Brighton-based Book Guild and widely available in shops and online.