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From shoe maker to Somme soldier in training

Sarah Cooper

When we last saw our Somme soldier, Raymond Percival from Northamptonshire, he was about to leave his home town of Rushden, to join the ranks of 1st Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment. Don't worry if you missed it, just click here to catch up with his story so far.

Raymond Percival became Private 23857 Credit: Rushden Hearts & Soles

There were army barracks all over the country, but we think it's likely that Raymond was trained up at the barracks on Barrack Road in Northampton. Luckily for us, one of the buildings is still used by the Army Cadets today, so, it was an ideal place to film.

The Northamptonshire Regiment flag flying outside the barracks Credit: ITV News Anglia

We didn't have to look far to find someone to tell us more about the training at the barracks...

Captain Graham Bandy's son, George, played the part of Raymond in our first film and, after many hours of filming on the freezing station platform, we thought it was only fair to get dad, Graham, to dress up too!

Capt Graham Bandy's father fought in The Northamptonshire Regiment Credit: ITV News Anglia

Graham is a living military historian, with a house full of wartime memorabilia. He brought a small sample of his collection to the barracks to help explain what soldiers, like Raymond, would've had to learn.

The war also kept Raymond's old workmates in the shoe factory busy. During the First World War, 70 million pairs of boots and shoes were made in the UK - nearly two thirds of them were made in Northamptonshire.

40m
Pairs of boots and shoes were made in Northamptonshire during the First World War

Ray had probably worked in the Lasting department at a shoe factory like Alfred Sargent's in Rushden. Staff say the 150 processes involved in making a single pair of shoes are still pretty much the same all these years on and that's why it made such a good filming location.

Behind the scenes at the Alfred Sargent shoe factory in Rushden Credit: ITV News Anglia

While we were at the factory, we spoke to Rebecca Shawcross from Northampton Museum, because there isn't much she doesn't know about shoes...

You can hear more from Rebecca on ITV News Anglia tonight at 6pm, when we broadcast the second piece in our series following "The Somme Soldier". And don't forget to come back for my next blog update from France, when we'll be following Raymond Percival to the frontline.

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