THE GRANDSON of a soldier injured in the First World War made an emotional trip to Southam after a chance online discovery.
In 1918, Alec Colbeck sustained injuries to his back and leg while fighting in France. After a painful journey back to Southam’s ‘Grange’ Voluntary Aid Detachment hospital, the 19-year-old was nursed back to health but went on to live a difficult life which saw his leg amputated before his death aged 73.
It was after seeing pictures of his grandad on the Southam Heritage Centre’s website that 43-year-old Simon Colbeck decided to discover what happened to his ancestor.
And his eight-year-old son Alec – who was named after his great-grandfather – and 13 -year-old daughter Megan, also made the journey from Hertfordshire to learn more about their long-lost relative.
Simon, who works for Marks and Spencer, said: “It was great for me and the family to visit the exhibition. I was amazed my grandfather was one of so many injured men treated in such a small hospital and we were very interested to learn the stories of the nurses who appeared in pictures with him.
“The exhibition helps to bring to life the human stories from the tragic events of world war one. I think it’s important for my children and their generation to understand what people like their great grandfather and the nurses had to endure.”
The Southam Women in War exhibition tells of the 15 women who gave up their lives to care for those injured in the war – often treating amputees, patients with shell shock, gas poisoning and treating infections in a time where there were no antibiotics.
More than 1,000 soldiers were cared for during the hospital’s two-year existence, likely being sent from Birmingham on the train.
Curator Val Brodie said: “I like to think Alec would have been pleased that his great-grandchildren came back to Southam to commemorate his memory and the sacrifices he and others made.
“Alec was quite severely affected by his wounds throughout his life but did not even get a war pension.”
“We believe it is desperately important to honour the dead who made that ultimate sacrifice. We also are paying tribute to the women and their families who made sacrifices to become unpaid VAD nurses.”
The exhibition at Vivian House on Market Hill will be open from 10am to noon each Tuesday and Farmer’s Market Saturday until September.
Simon Colbeck with daughter Megan and son Alec at the site of the hospital where their relative was cared for. (s)
Alec was cared for at the ‘Grange’ after being wounded in action. (s)