Friday, 21 July 2017

M2/156830 A-Sgt Fred Harwood, Army Service Corps

How can I find a photograph of my British Army Ancestor? It's a question I get asked a lot, and something I have been putting my mind to of late. Watch this space for further developments on this topic.

In the meantime though, here's a photograph of M2/156830 Private Fred Harwood of the Army Service Corps who, according to text scribbled on the reverse of the photo, served with 603 Company, Mechanical Transport, Army Service Corps in Floriana, Malta.

He certainly served overseas during the First World War and by the time he was issued with the British War Medal (his only entitlement) he was a corporal and acting sergeant. This photograph pre-dates that time, when Fred was a private, proudly standing by his lorry, presumably somewhere in the UK. 

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who is related to Fred Harwood, and so would the current custodian of this photograph.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Reasons to be cheerful - Findmypast gives away 10%

Here's a nice offer from Findmypast, 10% off the price of a UK or World subscription.

Fortunately, I don't have ancestors - at least, not many - who ventured to Canada, the US, Ireland or Australia, and so the UK sub suits me just fine. I use it pretty much exclusively for military records these days: the worldwide British Army indexes for 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871, the British Army Service records (far more indexed on Findmypast than at Ancestry), The Scots Guards, the HAC, Tanks, Artillery... it goes on. I begin my day with Findmypast, usually between 5am and 6am, and I return to it in the evening. Personally, I consider a full-price sub to be a bargain, but it's even more of a bargain when there's 10 PER CENT OFF!

This is a time-limited offer which starts at 12.01am GMT this evening (ie one minute past midnight on the 19th July) and ends at 11.59pm GMT on Sunday 30th July.

So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a bargain by following the links on this page. This offer is not being promoted other than through partners like me!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

1817 Pte Clarence Pygott, 1/4th Lincolnshire Regiment

Thirty-one years ago I met and interviewed a veteran of the 1/4th Lincolnshire Regiment, Donald Banks. You can read transcripts of my interview with him on my World War 1 Veterans' blog by clicking on the link on Donald's name. As a sixteen-year old, Donald was badly wounded at Lake Zillebeke on the 2nd September 1915 when the dug-out he was in received a direct hit. His friend, Clarence Pygott, and other 1/4th Lincolnshire Regiment men besides, were killed when the shell landed, and Donald was temporarily blinded.  As Mr Banks told me, 

"I carried a bible in my pocket and there was a certain Lance-Corporal Pygott with whom I formed a friendly association and he saw me take this out and said, “let me have a look at it” and he opened it at the text of one of St Paul’s epistles, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans VIII, 38-39."

After Clarence Pygott was killed next to him, Donald Banks wrote a small In Memoriam piece in his diary and, some years after I had interviewed him, I visited Pygott's grave at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground near Ypres and recited the verse from ROMANS. He lies buried next to Sergeant Preston and other Lincolnshire men killed that day.

Today, in anticipation of meeting Donald Banks' grandson in a couple of weeks' time, I decided to search the British Newspaper Archive to see if there was any mention of Clarence in a newspaper roll of honour.  What I found, in The Lincolnshire Chronicle on Saturday 18th September 1915, far exceeded my expectations.  Not only was there an article but also photos of Clarence and an older brother. The article reads:

Lce-Corpl C Pygott

News of the death of Lce-Corpl Clarence Pygott was received with much regret by his many Lincoln friends this week. Lce-Corpl Pygott, whose home was at 20 Grafton Street, Lincoln was well-known in the West-End of the city and had been in the Territorials three years. When hostilities started he was called up and went to France in February. No official news of his death has, as yet, been received, but the following is the letter from the Major of his regiment, conveying the sad news to Mrs Parkin, sister of deceased:

Dear Madam

I am very grieved to have to tell you that your brother was killed on the 2nd September, by a shell whilst in his dug-out. That afternoon we were badly shelled whilst in support. All; was done for the safety of everybody, and it was the luck of war that he was taken. Your only consolation is that he was killed instantaneously. He had only been under me for a short time, so that I can't say that I knew him very well. He is buried alongside his comrades who were killed the same afternoon and not far from the place where he died.

All my sympathy is with you and your in your bereavement.

Yours Truly

F Eric Tetley

Prior to mobilisation the deceased worked at Ruston's. The last letter received by his sister was written on the day of his death. In it he said he was going in the trenches that day for five days. 

Herewith we also give a photograph of deceased's eldest brother, Sergt Jack Pygott, who is training in England with the Lincs Yeomanry, prior to going to the Dardanelles. He is the husband of Mrs Pygott of Spa Street, Lincoln. He was a member of the old Volunteers, and among those who, under Col Ruston, volunteered for service in Africa. Before enlisting he was employed on the brass gallery at Ruston's. He also possesses a Long Service medal.

There is another brother who is also in the army. He is in the 3/4th Lincolns.


Clarence Pygott was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire on the 11th October 1895 but was not baptised until the 25th May 1901. By then, he was living at the home of his elder sister, Amelia Parkin; the Mrs Parkin referred to in the letter above. Clarence's father, George Henry Pygott, had died in 1898 at the age of 47 and his mother, Annie Pygott, may have re-married or also died. I have been unable to find a trace of her.

Amelia and her new husband (they had married in 1897) took in six of the Pygott siblings and they all appear together on the 1901 census. Some of these older children were probably Clarence's half-siblings. His mother is recorded as Annie on his baptism certificate but on the 1891 census return (below) it is Mary A Pygott who is recorded as the wife of George Henry. 

The family address in 1901 was 10 Britannia Terrace, Gainsborough. Amelia and Herbert Parkin must have lived there at least since 1899 as Clarence appears on an admission register for Gainsborough Holy Trinity school that year and it is this home address which is given. 

By 1911 though, now aged 16 and working as a cardboard operator / photo mounter, Clarence was living at the home of John Thomas Hart and Mary Elizabeth Hart. He is recorded as the brother of John Thomas Hart although this is surely incorrect; the brother of Mary Elizabeth Hart may be more likely.

I could find no entry for Clarence Pygott in the Soldiers' Effects Register although I presume his next of kin would have been Amelia Parkin. She would have been sent Clarence's medals and, in due course, a memorial plaque and scroll. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of these, assuming they are not held by the family, I would be happy to purchase them.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

14184 Pte David Johnson, 15th DLI - KiA 1st July 1916

Around the top edge of the colossal Lochnagar crater at La Boiselle on The Somme, there is a modern-day duckboard track. And screwed into this track are small brass plaques bearing the names of men who lost their lives on the Somme.

I stood at Lochnagar a year ago today, on the 100th anniversary of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, and I took a photo of the area around my feet where I was standing. Looking at those photos again today, I see that one of the men commemorated there was David Johnson of the 15th Durham Light Infantry who had been killed in action on the 1st July 1916.

On this day, the 101st anniversary of David Johnson's death, and that of nearly 60,000 of his fellow soldiers on that awful day, pause to remember their sacrifice, and reflect on the individual lives lost.

David enlisted at Jarrow on the 7th September 1914. Born at Hebburn, he was 18 years old, the son of Robert and Sarah Ann Johnson of 14 Oak Street, Jarrow. He remained in the UK, training with the 15th Battalion (a K3 Kitchener battalion)  until the 10th September 1915 when he sailed with the battalion, part of the original contingent, for France. The battalion formed part of the 64th Brigade in the 21st Division and David's first action would have been at the Battle of Loos when the division sustained nearly 4,000 casualties for negligible gain. David came through this action unscathed but his luck ran out on the 1st July 1916. 

Soldiers Died in The Great War records that 137 men of the 15th DLI lost their lives on the 1st July 1916. David at least has a known grave and is buried in Gordon Dump Cemetery, not a million miles from where I was standing a year ago. The Google map below shows that he literally does lie in the corner of some foreign field. Note the chalk outlines of old trench lines, still scarring the landscape a century later. 

David does have papers which survive as badly water-damaged pages in series WO 363 (available to download from Ancestry and Findmypast) and these show that his mother accepted his medals and memorial plaque. It's clear that David had also spent time in hospital in April 1916 but was obviously fit enough for front-line service by July. His name would later appear in a list of men killed in action; this from The Newcastle Journal, published on the 16th August 1916.

The same day his name also appeared in a roll published by The Times newspaper which listed the names of 4733 men.

If a photo survives of David, it does not appear to be in the public domain, but he is remembered at Lochnagar, at Gordon Dump, probably in a local church at Jarrow and now, 101 years after his death in action, here on this blog.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,