By James Somper
A time capsule containing historic items from the First World War has been recently discovered by a war veterans grandson who never knew what the trunk had inside until he opened it over 30 years later.
Fred Deighton served in nearly every battle on the Western Front including the Somme and Passchendale and was a soldier in the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he faced the full horror of the fighting on a daily basis.
Although he never spoke about his experiences to his family, he left a box full of letters and photographs from the war behind for his grandson Graham Underwood after he died 1976 but he failed to open it until just three weeks ago, making the nostalgic discovery.
71-year-old Graham, from Wellingborough, said: “I knew there was stuff in there but never appreciated it’s significance.
“He was a very important part of his life and we spent a lot of time with him.
“He was a funny, positive man.
“Like so many men of his generation, he never talked about the war. He was in the trenches and was haunted by what he saw.”
Fred joined the army aged 22 in October 1915. He was wounded in action the following year but returned to serve in the trenches.
After the war, Fred took a job at a local hospital in his hometown of Wellingborough and despite never discussing his wartime experiences, kept the trunk for the rest of his life.
Graham, a retired graphic designer, said: “Growing up, I never really noticed the trunk. It wasn’t ever opened when I was around.
“After my grandfather died though I suddenly realised how important it was.”
Graham finally inherited the trunk after his grandfather died in 1976 from old age and was shocked to discover it’s contents only recently.
The trunk, which is the original one Fred took with him to Flanders in 1915 is stuffed with mementos including bandages, uniform and even the notes Fred used to treat his patients in battle as well as his battlefield pocket watch.
The watch, which is over 100-years-old, still works perfectly.
The trunk also contains cartoons drawn by an artist who served alongside Fred.
Graham said: “He fought with a cartoonist William Owen who designed the famous Bisto cartoon and I’ve got three of the cartoons he drew for my grandfather.
“How you could go through what those guys were going through and still do that was amazing.
“The trunk is a snapshot of what life was like, hell on earth.
“It’s in pretty good condition despite being over 100 years old.
“There are photos of his wife, good luck charms and a lot of medical stuff. I’ve also got tobacco tins.”
The trunk contains documents that detailed how Fred should treat casualties and reveals the shocking and gruesome reality of those injured during wartime.
The grandfather-of-three said: “There are forms here about what to do when people were shot but it’s all so matter of fact.
“It shows how routine and normalised death was.”
“I want the trunk to be passed down to my children so they can appreciate what he left behind.”