A YOUNG man from Earby who died in the First World War has been labelled one of the “trumpet greats” by an American virtuoso.

Only months before the Armistice of 1918, Edwin Firth – described at the time as one of the best cornet players in the country – was killed in an explosion in Varennes, France.

But now he is to be recognised internationally as American professor David Hickman has included him in an encyclopaedia of trumpet greats.

Born in 1888, Edwin was the eldest son of 11 children to Squire and Clara Firth. Both Squire and his father were accomplished musicians so it came as no surprise that Edwin took to playing the cornet with ease at the age of 11.

He won his first contest in Bradford in 1904, which marked the beginning of a career as a soloist. He became known as “the boy champion cornet player” and won more than 40 gold and silver medals and four silver challenge cups, As his fame increased it was not uncommon for groups of people to congregate outside the family home in Victoria Street, just to listen to him practise.

At a time when brass bands were extremely popular and almost every town and village created their own, Edwin’s talent was in great demand.

In those days national competitions could draw crowds of up to 40,000. Being only slight in stature, Edwin’s father had him stand on a box when he played.

In 1908, Edwin was invited to become the solo cornet player for Foden’s Motor Works Brass Band, which became the best in the country, winning championships galore. They were invited to play for George V and Queen Mary.

Edwin married Doris, granddaughter of Edwin Foden, in 1916 and soon after decided to join theArmy. He was signed up to the 28th London Regiment, also known as The Artists’ Rifles.

When the regiment was posted to the Somme, Edwin took his cornet with him and would play whenever he could. But on June 1 1918, he and his colleagues were making their way back to the trenches when a shell exploded killing them all. Doris had borne a son just 10 weeks earlier, but father and son were destined never to meet.

As the post girl at the time, it was his sister Pattie who had to deliver the telegram to her parents saying he was dead. His two brothers, Walter and Wright were also badly wounded during the war.