To mark the First World War’s centenary, the Guardian is asking readers about their memorabilia from the conflict. This week DOUGLAS PATIENT talks to an avid collector.

A Loughton man is a self-confessed Great War junkie, owning hundreds of  pounds worth of memorabilia and more than 500 books on the subject.

Derek Bond, 58, of Newmans Close, Loughton, owns an enormous collection including original helmets from all the countries involved, grenades, gas masks, shells, bayonets and around 50 medals.

The most expensive item from his collection, which he adds to from eBay or at memorabilia fairs, is a £190 Lee Enfield rifle, though he estimates that it is worth around £400 now.

A member of the Western Front Association, he visits the battlefields a few times a year, with his next visit planned for November to Ypres in Belgium.

It all started 15 years ago when he took a 10-week course on the subject at Epping Forest College, in Rectory Lane, Loughton, ending in a weekend tour of battlefields in France and Belgium.

The father-of-two and grandfather of four, who works for a security firm, said: “I bought my first set of medals for £4 in Ilford Town Hall and it snowballed from there.

“The children grew up and moved out and I had some spare money so my wife Carol advised me to do a course, and little did she know she would create a Frankenstein's monster.

“I admit I am completely obsessed, but Carol has been supportive of my hobby and has come with me on a few trips, but she is definitely not as obsessive about it as me.”

His grandfathers both survived the war. Kyran Joyce, around 30 at the war’s outbreak, was in the Leinster regiment, and Harry Bond, of the West Riding regiment, was turning 18. 

He said: “I must have been around eight years old when we used to go on walks and my grandfather Harry would talk to me about the Somme and other experiences of the war.

“I think that is why I developed such an interest in the First World War instead of the second, because of that personal connection to it.”

Mr Bond currently holds his collection in the spare room of his home but has plans to build a shed in the garden to house it all.

He said: “I would like a large shed and turn it into a mini museum as the spare room is not big enough for all the items. It's just a dumping ground at the moment to be honest.

“I also want to keep building the collection and I don’t see any end to my passion.

“I have no idea what I have spent overall and don’t really want to think about it, but when I die I don’t want it to be sold for profit, I’d rather it was given to a 

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Woodland Trust