MANY thousands left their homes to fight in the First World War.

They saw for themselves the harsh realities of the trenches and battlefields. Many did not return.

Of some we know little, or have scant details of their previous lives.

Writer and military/social historian Charles Sandbach and colleague Robert Jackson have delved deep into the lives of 50 men and have recounted their personal stories in a new book, Inky Pinky Parlez Vous.

All the men are recipients of medals owned by Robert, a collector of medals awarded to casualties of the Great War.

Of the 50, just one survived. Two - Thomas Dunlavey, known as Tom, and George Taylor - are from Bradford.

Tom’s parents were the children of Irish immigrants who arrived in Yorkshire to escape the potato famine and settled in Bradford. Life was difficult. Growing up, Tom witnessed the deaths of several of his siblings and the grief of his parents that accompanied that.

With a criminal past, he joined the 3rd Battalion Scots Guards, assuming the identity of his older brother James. James later signed up with the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), yet, incredibly, the deception remained intact.

James was killed on the Western Front in June 1915, not long before Tom, aged 27, was wounded. He was brought back to England, where, tragically, in November 1915, he died from infections. He is buried in Bradford’s Scholemoor Cemetery.

George Taylor’s story demonstrates how the devastating effects of the war had far-reaching consequences for his family.

A former colliery foreman, he joined Bradford City Police, settling in Thorpe Street with Sarah, his childhood sweetheart. The couple had a child, Connie.

Surprisingly, the book points out, his job at the coal mine was not seen as a reserved occupation during the First World War. In January 1916 George signed up, going on to serve on the Western Front.

It was there that he received the terrible news that Connie, aged five, had died after complications with a cerebral abscess.

Not long after returning to France, George was invalided home with a back strain. After the war he returned to his police duties, but his heath suffered, most likely due to the effects of poison gas.

He died in hospital in January 1920, aged 30, of a heart infection and lung problems.

Within months, Sarah had lost both her child and her husband.

George is not a casualty of war as far as officialdom is concerned, says the book, and has no war grave headstone in the Bradford cemetery where he is buried. His heartbreaking story comes as a result of Rob’s £28 purchase of George’s silver British War Medal.

This thoroughly-researched 354-page paperback, with its deeply moving accounts of young lives brought to an untimely end, includes details of the lives of two Muslim soldiers, Ajab Khan and another known only as Ahmad.

They were among the 370,000 men from the Punjab region who volunteered to join the British Indian Army, made up of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu soldiers.

From a tranquil village near the River Indus, Ajab Khan served with the famous frontier force the 59th Scinde Rifles. He endured horrific conditions and fierce fighting on the Western Front before being killed in action in France in 1914. It is not known how old he was.

With little information available surrounding Ahmad, Charles and Rob pieced together his life leading up to his death in Mesopotamia in 1918, it is believed from malnutrition and disease. He has no known grave but his name appears on the Basra Memorial to the Missing - a Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial in Iraq.

The book - which also contains photographs and illustrations - concludes with a summary of the birthdate, deaths and resting place (if known) of all the men featured in the book, along with their regiments.

Helen Mead