A tale of twins in the Somme - and how Dave Spikey's grandfather made it back to Bolton

A tale of twins in the Somme

Dave Spikey and his mother Marian Wilkinson

James Ireland

Twins Alfred, right, and James Ireland, second right, with pals before the war

Dave Spikey and his mother Marian Wilkinson

Alfred Ireland, left

Harold Bramwell

First published in News
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , Entertainment reporter

TWIN brothers Alfred and James Ireland spent their 21st birthdays amid the horrors in the trenches of the Somme.

One of the young soldiers eventually made it back to Bolton, while the other lost his life when he became trapped in no man’s land and under heavy machine gun fire in January, 1917.

Alfred, who lived until the age of 85, was the grandfather of David Bramwell — although readers may know him better as funnyman Dave Spikey.

Mr Spikey aged 62, said: “It’s horrific. I can’t put myself in their position. I can’t imagine, those lads what they were feeling in those trenches.

“They had no option. If they didn’t go over the top, they were shot for desertion.

“It’s like a nightmare, especially knowing you were going over the top.

“They were just ordinary lads, fighting ordinary lads from Germany.”

Mr Spikey’s great-uncle James had been a boxer in Bolton and, due to his level of fitness, was trained as a bomber specialising in using hand-grenades to attack the German trenches.

After taking part in the Somme offensive, the battalion moved to the Ypres Salient battlefields in Belgium where the ill-fated attack took place, injuring almost half of the 148 raiders and killing nine.

James was buried on the battlefield, but after the war his grave could not be found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

Alfred returned to Bolton, where his family had a greengrocers in Chorley Old Road which became the Hanburys store years later.

He worked as a starch-mixer in a bleach works and lived in Lawn Street, Heaton.

Mr Spikey’s mother Marian Wilkinson said her father rarely spoke to her or her brother about the horrors of war, during which he was gassed and wounded.

Mrs Wilkinson, aged 84, said: “My dad was a reserved kind of person. He was very quiet. I think it had been so bad that he didn’t very often talk to me about it.

“One time he did, he said, you’ve no idea how awful it was. We would be walking in the trenches, standing on somebody’s body.

“He had friends who obviously were killed. It was just too much for them.

“Especially with losing his brother and then after the war, there was that big flu and he lost his sister which was very traumatising.”

Mr Spikey’s grandfather on his father’s side, Harold Bramwell, was also injured in the war, after signing up at the age of 17.

James Ireland is remembered as part of the Roll of Honour at St Luke’s Church, Halliwell.

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