Audrey’s quest

FOR ALMOST a century, the overseas graves of two World War One heroes remained unvisited – until their Saddleworth descendent fulfilled her wish of getting there.

Audrey Perrins grew up listening to stories about her grandmother’s brothers, Osmond Bentley who died in Greece on the Dioran front in November 1917 and Joseph, who was killed in the Somme in February 1918.

Audrey & Lawrence visit Thessaloniki
Audrey & Lawrence visit Thessaloniki

Determined to visit the resting places of two men she felt connected to by their tales, she became the first in her family to visit Joseph’s grave on a trip across France two years ago.

“I don’t think it had ever crossed anyone else’s minds to go,” admitted retired teacher Audrey, 76, of Grotton, to whom the grave papers have been passed down.

“From my parents’ point of view, there was not the travel there is today and my grandmother probably never wanted to see the graves.

“I did feel I knew them and it was important to me. My grandmother spoke so often about what sort of young men they were, where they worked and what they did growing up.”

Audrey and husband Lawrence, who runs the family’s plumbing business, then visited Osmond’s grave in Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, and Audrey was delighted by the well-kept British Military cemetery.

But she revealed she had not been prepared for the strong emotions that washed over her as she stood in front of the graves.

“Standing there looking at the names and knowing that they had a direct association with my grandmother, who I was very close to, was very emotional,” she said.

“I didn’t realise I would feel like that and my husband felt the same emotion even though he didn’t know them.

“The cemetery was so beautifully kept – almost like a garden – and I feel at least he has a very pleasant final resting place, even if it is a long way from home.”

No memorial was laid for the brothers in their home town of Glossop but Audrey treasures two commemorative silk tags with their names, pictures and poems on.

After visiting the graves, the couple attended a Greek Rotary meeting where Lawrence, 77 – a founding member of the Saddleworth Rotary – stirred interest with their story, which was featured in local newspaper, The Dimkratia (see tear out)

Said Audrey: “We were so well received. We could have been celebrities the way they treated us and wanted to know our story.”

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