Joanne and Jade’s intriguing mystery after finding 100-year-old First World War book full of soldiers’ memories

IMAGINE the thrill of finding a historical book, each filled with gems from the First World War. Mother and daughter, Joanne Grylls and Jade Dawson from Hartlepool did just that. But they need a helping hand from our readers to unearth the stories behind the pages. Chris Cordner met them to find out more.

A BOOK that laid untouched for decades has now become the centre of an intriguing investigation by a mother and daughter from Hartlepool.

Joanne Grylls with her daughter Jade Dawson

Joanne Grylls with her daughter Jade Dawson

Family Roots readers may hold the key to the mysteries in the 100-year-old document which has just been unearthed by Joanne Grylls, 44, and her daughter Jade Dawson, 23.

A quaint autograph book had been kept by Joanne’s husband, Barry Grylls, 56 - a keen collector.

And when they examined it carefully, they realised it was a fascinating documentary of the lives of First World War soldiers.

It had been passed to men from different regiments to add their feelings through poetry, drawings, sayings, and even pressed poppies. Now, the mum and daughter team have begun deciphering the handwriting of men from The Front in the hope of tracing their descendants.

Joanne, from the Fens area of Hartlepool, said: “Barry showed me the book a few years ago and when the anniversary of the First World War came round, I asked him if he still had it.

“When I have looked at it closer, it is fascinating.”

While Joanne deciphers the handwriting, Jade researches the names contained within the book on the internet.

The document - running for around 100 pages - was created in around July 1918. It seems to have been a present for a woman or girl called Thirza Tucker, from her brother Will “as a mark of esteem to your many virtues.”

And then it contains the message: “Yes, you are welcome to quiz but the penalty is that you add something for others to quiz.”

And that’s how a fascinating documentary of life in First World War Britain became a book that was passed between hundreds of people to add their own contributions.

It started out in South Moor, Stanley, with Thirza and travelled as far south as Romford and as far north as Aberdeen - though most entries are from Teesside and County Durham.

In the next few weeks, we shall share its entries.

One of the first, from October 1, 1917, comes from GW Laughton of Bondgate Manse in Alnwick. Its excerpt reads: “The measure of a man’s power to help his fellow men is the measure of the love that is in him.”

Another, from a Private Holmes of the Machine Gun Corps, simply reads: “For death or glory.”

One is a drawing of a Seaforth Highlander with the simple message “Killed in Action September 25, 1915.” It adds: “A tribute to my great friend Lt S Phillips.”

And an entry on July 5, 1918, is of two pressed poppies with the message “Poppies From France.”

Can you identify any of the above? Watch out for more details as well in the coming weeks. If you can, contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email