A BRADFORD on Avon and Wiltshire councillor has written a book on his great uncle who fought in the First World War.

Cllr Jim Lynch’s relative, who lived in southern Ireland, joined the British Army in 1914 as a member of the Royal Engineers.

He said: “My grand-uncle James O’Donnell, whom I knew as Uncle Jimmy, took with him a pocket notebook, a gift from his sister Mollie.

“In it, he noted details of his service in the latter part of the war and the years immediately following.

“When Uncle Jimmy died in 1971, the notebook came to me. My book, an Irishman’s War, produced to mark the centenary of the end of the conflict, is based largely on that little notebook.”

Like many thousands of Irishmen, James O’Donnell signed up to the British Army to escape poverty and support the Empire.

He was injured early on in the war, being wounded in the arm and having shrapnel fragments in his face during the first Battle of l’Aisne in 1914. He recuperated and was sent back to the Western Front and stayed on in the army until 1920.

Cllr Lynch said: “I was only two when my father Michael died and Uncle Jimmy helped to bring me up.

“My book is part diary, part memoir, and paints a vivid and often surprising picture of James O’Donnell’s life as a young man thousands of miles from home and later back in County Tipperary, as a mentor, story-teller and something of a hero to me, his young great-nephew.”

Cllr Lynch will talk about his book on tomorrow (Friday), November 2, at 7pm at the West Barn in Bradford on Avon. The book will be on sale at £5 per copy.

Meanwhile, Bradford on Avon residents are being urged to take part in a live debate as part of the town’s Countdown to Peace events to mark the WW1 centenary.

The event, at St Margaret’s Hall on Thursday, November 8, will feature a discussion and Question and Answer session on the subject ‘Is our poetry-influenced view of WWI misleading?’

The panel will include nationally-acclaimed poet Dr Martin Malone, who recently completed a PhD focussing on WWI poets, together with Cllr Simon McNeill-Ritchie, whose book Great War Poetry is an anthology of poems by nurses and soldiers at a London First World War military hospital.

As part of the event, Dr Malone will also read from his Great War-inspired third poetry collection, The Unreturning.

Other local poets will read their work, including students from St Laurence School, and Bob Williams, who wrote a poem about Harry Patch, the last surviving WW1 combat soldier.

It will include First World War anecdotes from residents from Wiltshire Heights Care Home, and poems by William Howell, who lived in Mount Pleasant at the time of the war.

William’s brother, Sergeant Alfred Howell, of the 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, had enlisted to fight in the First World War on September 5, 1914, and was killed by a shell in a dug-out in France on May 30, 1918.

The Countdown to Peace programme features more than 40 events taking place from November 1 to the Remembrance Day service on Sunday, November 11.

The Poets’ War event starts at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced £5, are available from The Wiltshire Music Centre. Call 01225 860100 or www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/whats-on/poets-war