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The boys from the 'yards' - the story of 11 days that changed Norfolk men's lives

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 28 January 2020

The second batallion Norfolk Regiment on parade in Norwich, on their return home in 1919. Photo: Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

The second batallion Norfolk Regiment on parade in Norwich, on their return home in 1919. Photo: Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

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The story of Norfolk boys who faced unimaginable horror in the First World War has been brought to life by the grandson of one of the soldiers.

Albert Cushion. Photo: Nigel CushionAlbert Cushion. Photo: Nigel Cushion

Nigel Cushion has written Undefeatable Spirit, which tells the story of his grandfather Albert over the course of 11 days, spanning from 1909 to 1919, and other boys from the 'yards' of the city.

Mr Cushion, author and businessman, said he was inspired to look back at his family history while at a remembrance service, after realising he knew little about his grandfather's time in the war.

"I knew virtually nothing about my grandfather, and what we did know ended up being wrong," he said. "We had so little that we thought anything we found out was going to be a bonus."

He began researching, creating a fictionalised account in Albert's voice, based on facts, details, cultural norms of the time and people his grandfather met.

Nigel Cushion, left, pictured with Albert and Paul Cushion, in 2019. Photo: Nigel CushionNigel Cushion, left, pictured with Albert and Paul Cushion, in 2019. Photo: Nigel Cushion

It begins with Albert's decision to sign up as a soldier, spurred on in part by frustration at the lack of options for his future in Norwich.

In the first chapter, the book says: "King Edward had just visited Norwich and there had been loads of soldiers on the streets. Me and my mates thought they looked great, and many had stories of their adventures in Africa and in far off places of empire.

"It captured my imagination. At nearly 18 years old this seemed a world away from the dreary monotony of the boot factory at St Mary's or the brewery, which were my two options in life."

It continues through his years in India with the British Indian Army, his role in the siege of Kut Al Amara, their eventual surrender and the 1,000-mile forced march through desert of British and Indian prisoners.

Albert pictured with others in the Norfolk Regiment in barracks, in Belfast in 1909. Albet is pictured second from right, standing. Photo: Nigel CushionAlbert pictured with others in the Norfolk Regiment in barracks, in Belfast in 1909. Albet is pictured second from right, standing. Photo: Nigel Cushion

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Of the 1,200 from the 2nd Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment, just 120 survived the ordeal.

Their return home - after which Albert became a postman - gives an insight into what life was like at the time, with soldiers told not to talk about the war and the jobs market completely changed by the role of women in factories.

A launch event is being held at Norwich Castle on Thursday, March 26, from 6pm to 7.30pm. It is free to attend but people will need to register for a ticket.

Albert is pictured third row from the top, third main in. Photo: Nigel CushionAlbert is pictured third row from the top, third main in. Photo: Nigel Cushion

Mr Cushion is also looking for any descendants of the 120 men that survived the Siege of Kut and death march.

For more information email office@nigelcushion.co.uk

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