For one member of the group, the years to come are particularly bright, but his happiness will be short-lived.
Sitting far right in the middle row is former Busby Babe and England legend Duncan Edwards, aged around 14, a few years before signing for Manchester United.
The never-before-seen photograph was taken during a Bible lesson led by another famous son of Dudley, Bert Bissell, a mountaineer and peace activist.
The grainy black and white image was shown to Rose Cook-Monk as she researched material for a book about Bissell, who founded the Young Men’s Bible Class at Vicar Street Methodist Church in 1925.
The local history buff, who made an hour-long documentary about Edwards and created a foundation in his memory, recognized the player right away.
“Bert’s son, Colin Bissell, showed me the photo, and it was adorable because it showed a different side of Duncan. We all know the footballer, but he also had a family life, and that I’m interested in knowing more.”
She hopes the image will help her in her search for two wartime evacuees – boys the same age as Duncan – who lived with the Edwards family for at least three years from 1941.
The discovery of the boys’ existence was a major step forward in his ongoing investigation into the footballer’s life. If the pair can be found, it could shed new light on the boy wonder’s early years.
She asks for information about the boys – not even knowing their names at this stage – and where they came from and hopes they can be found in time for a reunion in June for former pupils of the old schools in Duncan, Priory Primary, where the event will take place, and Wolverhampton Street School.
The evacuees went to Priory School with Duncan and it is possible they also went to Bert Bissell’s Bible course and are also pictured.
Rose, who interviewed the player’s mother, Sarah Edwards, on several occasions before her death in 2003, has tried to trace the pair through the British Evacuees Association but has so far been unsuccessful.
She said: “Sarah never mentioned the boys – I found out about them through Duncan’s former dance partner just a few weeks ago. It’s very likely they were brothers as the authorities tried to keep families together as much as possible, but I need to know where they would have come from.
“It would be great to bring them, even one of them, to the meeting. It would help us fill in the gaps in that aspect of Duncan’s life that we know little about.”
Edwards attended Priory Primary School from 1941 to 1948 and Wolverhampton Street Secondary School from 1948 to 1952. Anyone who went to either school with Duncan is invited to the meeting at Priory Primary, Limes Road, Dudley, on Saturday 9th June. For more information, call Rose on 07701 092994 or email her at [email protected]