AMATEUR historians have reunited a South Shields family with a treasure trove of First World War memories.
When Michael Caldwell, from Stratford-upon-Avon, purchased wartime picture postcards on ebay he could have little notion of the fascinating journey he was about to take.
It led him to visit the town and meet a descendent of a brave band of brothers.
Michael, 70, and wife Gillian, 68, had no idea of the journey they were about to take when they bought an album of picture postcards from the Great War two years ago.
Among more than 24 patriotic cards were several featuring Tom Roach, from South Shields, serving with the Royal Naval Division (RND) at Blandford in Dorset.
The find fascinated retired engineer Mr Caldwell, particularly as his grandfather had also been a member of the RND.
From there, he embarked on a mission to find out more about Mr Roach and his four brothers – all of whom fought in the 1914-18 conflict.
To help him do so, he contacted South Shields Central Library.
Mr Caldwell said: “Still having no idea who the men were in the postcards, I contacted the library at South Shields telling them about my problem. They were extremely helpful.
“The archivist at the library searched the Shields Gazette and Shipping Telegraph and sent me two cuttings, one on the five Roach brothers and another of Herbert Roach.
“The first cutting showed the five sons of Mr Richard and Mrs Rose Roach, of 17 Straker Terrace, Tyne Dock, who were serving in His Majesty’s forces.”
Newspaper cuttings revealed that the eldest Roach son was 28-year-old Gunner Ted, of the 107 Battery, who had been “at the front since the commencement of the war”.
There was also Harry, 19, attached to the Howe Battalion, RND. He had been invalided home from the fighting line, “but has since returned”.
Richard (Dick) Roach, 23, was a machine gunner in the Hood Battalion, RND, while Private G. W. (Billy) Roach, 21, of the Durham Volunteers RFA, who was “shortly going out to the front”.
Tom Roach, the youngest son, was also attached to the Howe Battalion and had seen “considerable active service”.
Mr Caldwell said: “The postcard collection also contained two pictures of weddings.
“In one the groom was wearing a silver war badge, Richard James, I supposed, with one of the brothers standing behind wearing a RND. cap badge.
“On the second wedding card the groom was in Army uniform with a Royal Field Artillery cap badge and standing behind the groom from the first wedding photo is Richard James.”
Through their research the couple delved deeper and deeper in to the Roach family’s history.
And after an appeal in the Gazette, they were contacted by a descendent of the clan, Lisa Roach, from South Shields.
Last week, Mr and Mrs Caldwell met Lisa in the town and have presented her with the original postcards which inspired their research.
Mr Caldwell added: “It’s been a fascinating and rewarding journey.”
THE brothers’ fate:
* Ted – killed in action.
* George, also known as Billy – survived to the end of the war.
* Harry – killed in action.
* Tom – killed in action.
* Richard – injured and discharged.