The music "The White Cliffs Of Dover" is courtesy of Rose McKinley

Uncle Bill
Proud To Be A
Sherwood Forester


The photograph on the left is dated 29 April 1939 so pre-dates the war by a few months. In the one on the right, the expression is the same but the smart suit has been replaced by the uniform of the Sherwood Foresters and the art deco furniture has gone forever.


The trio of photos below suggest a young new raw recruit posing for his family.
On the left with one of his sisters, Lorna and his dad Thomas Birkin (my grandad); in the middle, alone and on the right with his dad again and a neighbour. All three photos were taken outside his home on Orchard Street where Bill lived most of his life.

Two more serious poses - perhaps the reality of war was beginning to dawn on this young man. Although he looks assured on the left, I think he looks particularly apprehensive on the right.

You can see from the faces below what the effect of war had had on these young men. Smiling on 01 November 1939 (left) but not so happy later when the clothing suggests a posting to North Africa.

   Two more poses of Bill with wartime colleagues.  The one on the right reminds of a story he used to tell about a parade where Winston Churchill would be doing the inspection. Standing a little under five feet (1.5m) tall, Bill was told he was not big enough to be on parade to meet such a distinguished guest.

He retorted that if he was big enough to be on the front line when all the bullets were flying then he was big enough to meet Churchill. Needless to say he went on the parade! It also reminds me of the TV series "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" in which five foot man, Don Estelle starred as Gunner "Lofty" Sugden. Uncle Bill met Don one year whilst on holiday in Bournemouth where Don was taking part in the stage show of the series. Apparently they got on like a house on fire and Don is reported to have said "At last I've met someone I can look in the eye when I talk to them". Both little men with big hearts.

A group photo now with Uncle Bill taking centre stage.


And here's another group photo below with Uncle Bill centre stage again. I didn't know where this was taken but I suspected from the buildings in the background that it was somewhere in Italy. Now I have been informed by a good internet friend, Paolo Borgognone (who has sent me the picture on the right) that it was taken in Rome "right in front of the church of Saint Peter, the greatest church of Christianity and 'home' of the Pope". Thanks Paolo. You can visit Paolo's site at
Rome Cam.


The photo below left has a handwritten inscription on the back (centre) dating it June 1944 and again shows the effect of war. Notice the glazed look in eyes that had seen the horrors first hand. The picture below right which looks as though it was taken at the same time also screams "I'm tired of this war!"


Happier times nearly a quarter of a century later on holiday in Cornwall with sister Lorna and her daughter Ann and, if I'm not mistaken, that's the badge of the Sherwood Foresters still worn proudly on his blazer.
Bill's other sisters Joan and Doris also played their part in the war as air raid wardens and are seen below with their father, Thomas. Joan, the last surviving sister and her husband Allan , celebrated 57 years of marriage in July 2003.


As this page was originally created on Father's Day, June 18 2000, I couldn't let the opportunity pass and included a photo (left) taken at Joan's wedding in 1946. It shows another father and another Thomas - Newton - his wife Doris (the same as above) and a cute child that modesty prevents me from naming!
Other Associated Pages

Crich Stand

The Sherwood Foresters at Ilkeston Carnival in 2001

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