Lives of war hero brothers the Fighting Bradfords to be retold

The Bradford brothers, (left-right) Roland, Thomas, George and James Image copyright thebradfordbrothersofwittonpark
Image caption Only Thomas Bradford (second left) returned alive from WWI

The lives of four brothers, who were among the most decorated soldiers in WWI, are to be marked after a charity secured a £50,000 lottery grant.

The "Fighting Bradfords", from County Durham, between them won two Victoria Crosses, two Military Crosses and a Distinguished Service Order.

Only one of the quartet returned alive from the conflict.

The charity Groundwork will use the cash to retell the brothers' story through a year-long series of events.

School workshops

The brothers were born in Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland. Roland received the Victoria Cross and Military Cross, George the Victoria Cross, James the Military Cross and Thomas a Distinguished Service Order. Only Thomas survived the war.

At the age of 25, Roland also became the youngest Brigadier General in the history of the British Army.

A memorial garden and statue are already in place at Witton Park, but Groundwork North East and Cumbria, together with Durham County Council, want more people to know about the brothers' achievements.

The cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will pay for a series of school workshops, public talks and the performance of a play based on their lives.

The Bradford brothers

  • In 1917, Roland led his brigade in the Battle of Cambrai, the first major tank battle, but was killed on the 10th day. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.
  • On St George's Day 1918 - his 31st birthday - George volunteered for a mission against German submarines in Zeebrugge, during which he was killed. His bravery saw him posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
  • James' actions during the Battle of the Somme in 1917 earned him a Military Cross, but as he neared the end of a week-long battle he was injured and later died in hospital.
  • Eldest brother Thomas was the only one who returned home from the war. Before the war he captained Durham County Cricket Club, and afterwards he stood for Parliament twice. He was knighted in 1939 for his contribution to public service.

Neil Foster, Durham County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, arts and culture, said: "The bravery, heroism, service and sacrifice of the Bradford brothers is rightly still remembered today.

"We are proud to be involved in a project that will see a lasting memorial to them and that with the backing of the HLF will allow local people to discover more of their own personal histories and that of their community."

Image copyright HLF
Image caption Roland Bradford was made a Brigadier General at the age of 25

Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: "The story of the Bradford brothers provides an incredible and emotive perspective on the impact of the First World War.

"We're pleased to support this project which will see people in Witton Park come together to remember George, James, Roland and Thomas, share their own memories of the conflict and reflect on how it has shaped the place in which they live today."

Joanne Norman, Senior Project Officer at Groundwork, said "Over the next year we would like to involve as many residents of Witton Park, past and present, to build up a picture of the village during that time.

"Inspired by the Bradford family, local people will discover their own family's contribution to the Great War and experience what life was like for them."

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