A STOURBRIDGE man has penned the poignant story of a long lost relative killed on the battlefield after a chance charity shop bargain sparked his interest in First World War history.
Neat Little Rows tells the tale of Andy Rudall’s almost obsessive quest to find out about his distant Black Country relative Harry Hackett who died in the Battle of Lys on April 21 1918.
Andy, from Collis Street, Amblecote, developed an insatiable appetite for tales and information relating to WWI after picking up a fictional tale of terror in the trenches at his local charity shop on a buy one get one free offer in March 2009.
Having speedily ploughed his way through the paid for book of his choice he leafed through the second freebie - which then kickstarted an emotional journey to discover his own connections to the Great War.
After much research he was overwhelmed to discover his great granddad's brother - Harry Hackett, a Grenadier Guard from Old Hill, had lost his life in the conflict at the age of 26.
Andy uncovered several letters sent by the soldier from the battlefield to his sweetheart and later wife - Olive, including one sent just the day before he died of injuries suffered when his regiment was bombarded with high explosives and gas shells.
He also discovered heroic Harry was involved in the historic Christmas Truce of 1914 which saw German and British soldiers mingling in no-man’s land and exchanging seasonal greetings during a series of unofficial ceasefires.
Andy, an IT operations manager for a law firm, also found the final resting place in Hazebrouck, Flanders, northern France, of his brave relative who left a four-month old son - also called Harry.
The 50-year-old father-of-two said of his labour of love: "It’s not a history book, but more a conversational - and at times light-hearted - explanation of my experiences and of those involved in WWI.
"Essentially it is a book of two very distinct halves. Andy's story is entirely my own journey of discovery and of finding Harry. While Harry's story chronicles what I have pieced together of Harry Hackett's life and times."
The book, which will help raise funds for The Colonels Fund, also pays tribute and draws comparisons to modern day Black Country Grenadier Guard Daniel Probyn who was killed in action in May 2007 in Afghanistan's deadly Helmand Province.
Priced £7.99, Neat Little Rows is available from Amazon, the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley and The National Arboretum at Alrewas.
It can also be obtained direct from Andy by emailing email@example.com or check out www.neatlittlerows.co.uk