Photo mystery of Bridgnorth's battling Brittens

Bridgnorth's Brittens at war, when Britain was at war...

Brittens at war – but when exactly?
Brittens at war – but when exactly?

We published this photo a while ago, but since then a minor mystery has arisen over it.

It was taken by Walter Roden, who had a grocer's shop in Bridgnorth High Street and was also a keen photographer who took some fascinating pictures of the town during the war.

Delving into the picture archive of the Express & Star recently, we found the original print he had supplied the paper, and Walter's typed note on the back reads: "June 21, 1945. Six sons in the Army. Picture shows Mrs Britten, of Bridgnorth, with five of her sons in uniform (she has a sixth in the Army, now in Italy. A picture of the sixth is shown on right of the picture)."

The note on the back was headed with the address "W. B. Roden, 72 High Street, Bridgnorth," and signed in pencil at the bottom "W Roden."

But we've had a look in the Express & Star for around that date and the picture seems never to have been used, nor was it used in the Bridgnorth Journal around the relevant time.

Now, as it happens, 20 years ago we were loaned a copy of exactly the same picture from a family source who said that it was taken in 1941 – not 1945 as per the details on the back of the newspaper print.

Mrs Mona Bache, of Highley, told us back in 2001 that the picture was taken on the lawn of the municipal offices, that is, College House at St Leonard's Close, Bridgnorth.

She said then: "This is a photograph of my mother, Mrs Jane Britten, formerly of St John Street, Bridgnorth, with my six brothers who all served in World War Two. They were all on leave together in 1941 except Joe who was serving abroad at the time – his photo is inserted.

"My mother died 45 years ago. My father died in 1935. Brothers are (from left) George, Bill, Gerry, Wallace, Steve, and (absent) Joe."

Then, after we republished the photo nine years later, a reader called Richard Jones rang in to say it must have been taken much later than 1941.

Mr Jones, who had been in the Army, based that on details of the uniform. He said that the Army did not have a tie or collared shirt until the end of 1943 or beginning of 1944.

An added twist is that in June 1945, the date on the back of our newspaper copy of the print, the war in Europe had finished, and you would have thought that a picture taken on leave together actually during the war – which is what Mrs Bache was sure it depicted – would have more news value than if they had all returned home afterwards.

It could, of course, simply be that it was indeed taken in June 1945 and the contemporary newspapers chose not to use it.

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