Chris Bishop is the Managing Editor of Forbes Africa magazine in Johannesburg.

On July 11 he opened a WW1 exhibition at Bewdley Museum dedeicted to hisgreat uncle Jack Bishop who was the among the first to go to war, on July 30, and was the youngest from Bewdley to die - aged just 16.

It is a remarable tale of Spies,  Lies and Bravery, which it took him20 years to write and here we start a series of extracts.


The life and death of Jack Bishop, Royal Navy.




"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us."


"For probably the last time, I take up my pen to write about my long lost great-uncle Jack. Its been nearly 20 years now since I began researching his short life; the details of which ran through my family's folklore like a half forgotten nursery rhyme.

Grandpa said Jack was torpedoed at sea and that my great-grandfather always used to leave the back door open, just in case he came back. The truth, that sadly my forebears never knew, was even more fascinating. A story of danger, secrets, lies, betrayal, courage, tragedy, espionage, questions in Parliament that led 16-year-old Jack, of Lax Lane, Bewdley, dying alongside a German secret agent on-the-run, who perished disguised as a Mexican.

Jack was a loss that resonated decades after the freezing waters of the Atlantic closed over his lifeless body. He was a vigorous young blood torn from the bosom of his family long before his time. A child sent to fight a men's war who paid the ultimate price.

I don't know whether many people will read it,that is not important. What is important, as we pass the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, is that Jack's sacrifice is not forgotten. He was one of nearly a million who paid with life or limb for our country, but he was special; he was ours. A young life snuffed out; a sturdy branch of my family hacked off before it blossomed.

Jack was just a teenager, too young to be at war, who was one of the first British servicemen to go into the field. He had lied about his age to join the Royal Navy, through a combination of ambition and the press of poverty, and was certainly highly unlucky to die in the way he did.

I came across many child soldiers during my years of reporting in Africa and as much as I found it appalling, I often thought ruefully that my great-uncle wasn't much older when he faced the terrors of the North Sea.

I often wonder what Jack would have made of his great-grand nephew researching his short life nearly a century after it ended. I'm sure he would have been surprised to know his picture looks down from the walls of my home in South Africa . I don't know what a stocky, young working class lad from Worcestershire would have made of any of it; he may have been proud, or just puzzled, or both . Certainly, he would have known that respect for our own blood is that which makes us Bishops. So, maybe, where ever his is, I hope he does know and smiles in agreement.

My research has been carried out intermittently over the last two decades. I looked into Royal Navy records when I was working in London and, in latter years, have carried out exhaustive research on the internet. It is a sign of the times that, with a few clicks of the mouse, I can find out more than my great-grand parents and Royal Navy ever knew about the untimely demise of my great-uncle Jack.

May he rest in peace.

I dedicate this research to my grand-grand father, John Charles Bishop, a great patriarch and rock upon which a family was built, who should never have blamed himself for Jack's death, to my grandfather, Eric Hunt, who carried Jack's story  to my generation; and to my father, Tony, who taught me about family, decency and that knowledge is power. He also taught me never to be afraid of a short sentence. Indeed. Thanks Dad.


To follow: Chapter One, The Grief of Loss