Mention of this Derbyshire market town's name invariably conjures up an image of an iconic landmark: the crooked church steeple. However, it also speaks of a military heritage built up over two millenia. The word chester itself is derived from the ancient Roman fort or castrum - military garrisons that peppered the English countryside during Roman Britain.
In 1266, at the Battle of Chesterfield, royal forces quashed a rebellion of local barons. Come the English Civil War 400 years later, anti-Royalist sentiment was again evident. Chesterfield deployed militia, together with a `company of foot' from Derby, to defend the town from the king's forces.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, global conflicts attracted volunteers from throughout the Borough of Chesterfield. Egypt, South Africa and the Western Front became household names. In the Second World War, Chesterfield's citizens, serving with battalions of the Sherwood Foresters, saw action in theatres across the world. So also came tales of acts of courage and bravery: names like Fred Greaves, Bernard Vann and Victor Robinson, alongside many others.
Born and raised in the then colony of Southern Rhodesia, full-time historian, researcher, copy-editor and published author, Gerry van Tonder, came to Britain in 1999, settling in Derby, the city of his wife's birth. Since then, Gerry has undertaken extensive private and commissioned research, specialising in military history. To date he has had three books published, including the co-authored landmark definitive 'Rhodesia Regiment 1899-1981'. A copy of this book was presented to the regiment's former colonel-in-chief, Her Majesty The Queen.