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“We’re a family of survivors” - Norwich amputee traces ancestry of miraculous war forefathers

PUBLISHED: 11:39 14 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:56 14 February 2018

Steve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve pictured holding a picture of his grandfather, Dick Halesworth (middle right), with his brothers. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Steve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve pictured holding a picture of his grandfather, Dick Halesworth (middle right), with his brothers. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

In 1986 Norwich-born Steve Hopwood lost two of his limbs and almost his life in a motorcycle accident in Cambridge.

Steve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve's grandfather, Dick Halesworth pictured with his wife Ada in 1916. Picture: ANTONY KELLYSteve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve's grandfather, Dick Halesworth pictured with his wife Ada in 1916. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

More than thirty years on, Mr Hopwood is discovering that surviving against the odds appears to be a family trait.

His research into his ancestry was triggered by a conversation with an estate agent on New Year’s Eve.

Mr Hopwood said: “She was so proud of her family’s fascinating Polish heritage and it inspired me to look into my own. I vaguely knew there was a story about my granddad and his seven brothers.”

The 59-year-old searched online for his granddad, Dick Halesworth, and after some digging found an article about the eight Norwich brothers in a Cumbrian newspaper, the Mail. The article reported that they all served in the First World War and returned home safe.

Steve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve's grandfather, Dick Halesworth (middle right) pictured with his brothers. Picture: ANTONY KELLYSteve Hopwood who is trying to trace the history and ancestors of his grandfather's brothers, who all returned safely from WWI. Steve's grandfather, Dick Halesworth (middle right) pictured with his brothers. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The story was based on an interview with Lynda Russell, the granddaughter of Frank Halesworth, who shared their story to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016.

The paper put Mr Hopwood in touch with his distant relative Mrs Russell who told him the brothers had served all over the world during the conflict, in the navy and the trenches. She said that their great-granddad Arthur Halesworth received a letter of congratulations from King George V upon the safe return of his eight sons.

The next breakthrough came when Mr Hopwood’s hairdressing daughter was discussing the story with a client, who is a genealogist.

Using an ancestry website, they were able to uncover details of the extended Halesworth family.

The descendants of the miraculous siblings are now scattered across the world, as far as Australia and America.

However Mr Hopwood is hoping to gather as many as possible to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the war in November.

The Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum is interested in hosting an exhibition of the Halesworth brothers to mark Armistice Day and Mr Hopwood thinks this would be a fitting occasion for the relatives to reunite.

He said: “We’re a family of survivors, we’ve been through some tough stuff. I feel lucky to be alive and I’m hoping through this amazing story my family will continue to grow.”

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