John Davies with a picture of his uncle Henry.
John Davies with a picture of his uncle Henry.

The amazing lives of two brave brothers from Hucknall who fought in World War One have been uncovered by their nephew.

Henry Northage met Lawrence of Arabia and Gandhi, while his elder brother Jack married a world-famous medium.

John Davies (80) decided to research the life stories of his uncles while investigating the lives of fallen soldiers memorialised at Pinewoods Church in Newstead Abbey Park.

Mr Davies, of Leen Drive, grew up hearing tales of his uncles’ exploits and traced their biographies back to 23 Colliery Cottage, in Bestwood Village. Jack, born in 1896, and Henry, born in 1897, both worked as pit boys at Bestwood before signing up to fight in the Great War.

Mr Davies said: “On 16th April 1916, Jack was riding with a group of mounted soldiers of the Royal Field Artillery when his friend Kit Dixon of Northumberland was shot. Kit fell from his horse. Jack saw the sniper and shot him, then dismounted to attend to Kit who died in his arms.

“He was shot in the shoulder himself, and then caught in a gas attack on his return to base and hospitalised for six months.

“After the war he travelled to Cumbria and gave Kit’s personal effects to his fiancée. He wound up marrying the fiancé - Isa Anderson Philips, who later became a world-famous medium. Stories about her were written all over the world.”

After the war Jack became a blacksmith at Bestwood colliery.

His brother Henry joined the machine gun corps in 1916, was demobbed in March 1919 and immediately signed up again to join the Royal Tank Regiment.

Mr Davies said his uncle also served in North Russia, India - where he trained armoured car soldiers - Iraq and the North West Frontier Province, before returning to India from 1925 to 1945.

He said: “He worked his way up the ranks, from private to captain, and kept passing exams. He only came home four times on leave because it was such a long boat trip. All I knew of him I learned from my mother and other aunties.”

Mr Davies was told that his uncle was also friendly with T.E. Lawrence, the British Army officer renowned for his role in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the Arab revolt against Turkish rule and whose exploits were immortalised in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

“They told me that Henry used to say - ‘Lawrence was always at my bungalow for a cup of tea!’”

And the family believes that Henry also met Mahatma Gandhi, leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. They suspect he may have been present when the historic figure was arrested for his campaign of non-violent civic disobedience.

“Henry used to tell us about meeting Indian princes and maharajahs,” said Mr Davies. “He brought back gifts from them including an ivory-inlaid table. He brought back a Gurkha’s kukri knife in a jewelled scabbard.”

In 1946 Henry left the army and worked at Bestwood colliery in the engineer’s office. His death in 1979 at the age of 82 was marked in the Hucknall Dispatch.

Mr Davies pieced together the stories from genealogists at Nottingham Castle, a biography of his aunt entitled ‘A Path Prepared’ written by Allan MacDonald, his uncle Henry’s paybooks and family sources.