Thursday 10 August 2023

12352 L/Cpl Percy George Wardle, 7th Leicestershire Regiment

Photograph wanted of 12352 L/Cpl Percy George Wardle, 7th Leicestershire Regiment who died of wounds on the 4th October 1917. Percy had been gassed and died at 8.15pm at No 3 casualty clearing station which was located close to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery where he is now buried.

Percy Wardle in the 1911 Census

Percy Wardle was the son of Charles & Sarah Annie Wardle of 651 Oak Street, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The 1911 Census, taken in April that year, records Percy's age as 14, but he would have been closer to 15 as he was baptised at Hornington parish church, Staffordshire, on the 6th May 1896. Charles and Percy's older brother, also Charles (aged 23), are both listed as brewery workers on the 1911 census, whilst 14-year-old Percy is recorded as an errand boy.

Percy Wardle, Leicestershire Regiment

There is no surviving service record for Lance-Corporal Wardle but his regimental number indicates that he must have joined the Leicestershire Regiment in the first week of September 1914 and therefore he was probably an original member of the 7th Battalion which was formed at Leicester in September 1914. The battalion would subsequently form part of the 110th Brigade as part of the 37th Division.

Percy Wardle - wounded on the Somme

Percy's medal index card indicates that he arrived in France on the 29th July 1915 and so he would have been entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He was wounded on the Somme in July 1916 and admitted to No 34 Casualty Clearing Station with a bullet wound to his left thigh. The brief report from that CCS indicates that he was serving with A Company.

Percy Wardle - witness to an accidental killing

It is not clear how long Percy's recuperation took, but he was certainly back with his battalion by June 1917 and witness to the accidental shooting and killing of 10086 Pte W Wickens by 25264 Cpl T Hickin at about 4am on the 14th June 1917. His badly damaged witness statement survives in WO 363.

Photograph wanted: Percy George Wardle

If you know of the whereabouts of a photograph of Percy George Wardle, please do post a comment on this blog post or send an email to

Saturday 23 April 2022

1921 Census of England & Wales - Half Price Sale now on!

That's right, 50% off the cost to view the 1921 Census of England & Wales - but be quick!

Those of us with an interest in the First World War and earlier will have eagerly awaited the release of the 1921 Census by Findmypast. I have enjoyed finding soldiers who served in the First World War back in their civilian environments - usually - by 1921, and now we can all find two ancestors for the price of one.

In what might be termed a 'flash' sale, Findmypast has slashed the cost of viewing the census by 50%. However, you'll need to be quick because this offer ends at 9am BST on Tuesday 26th April. The normal cost to view a census image is £3.50, and to view a transcription it's £2.50. However, these prices have been halved and so it will now cost just £1.75 and £1.25 respectively.

Make the most of this offer. Remember, the sale ends at Tuesday at 9am BST. Click on this 1921 Census sale link to go straight to the Findmypast website. If you are not already registered with the site you will need to register first.

Remember too, that you can also conduct a 1921 Census address search and a 1921 Census Employer search. So not only can you now see where your ancestor worked, but who he or she worked with.

Thursday 4 February 2021

Lieutenant Harold Monkley Bygott - Harold Bygott - H M Bygott

Please drop me a line if you know of the existence of a photograph of Harold Monkley Bygott.

Harold M Bygott was born in about 1883. He was the son of Walter and Rosina and Amelia Bygott and he served in the British Army during the First World War, first as a private and later corporal with the 1/1st County of London Yeomanry (regimental number 3544), and later with the Machine Gun Corps Cavalry (regimental number 110958). In June 1918 he was commissioned in the Leicestershire Regiment and ended the war as a second lieutenant.

According to the 1911 Census of England & Wales, Harold Bygott was born in Fallowfield, Manchester. He appears on the census return at 75 Elborough Street, Southfields, Wandsworth; a 28-year old shipping clerk recorded as Harold M Bygott and living as a boarder with Robert Roberts and his family.

During the First World War Harold first served overseas in Egypt from the 28th April 1915. He would later claim his three campaign medals which were sent to him at the same Elborough Street address in 1922.

During the Second World War, Harold was in uniform again and serving with the Pioneer Corps (army number 131752). He survived that war too but died on the 25th January 1946 aged 63 and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.

If you know of the existence of a photograph for this man I would be very interested to see it - please drop me a line at

The well-known image on this post shows machine gunners on the Somme in July 1916. Image copyright Imperial War Museum, Q3995.

Friday 10 January 2020

Rugbeians in the Great War - Review

As author Daniel J McLean points out, "3,252 Rugbeians served in the Great War, of whom 687 were killed. This represents twenty-one per cent of the total, almost twice the national average."

I have a growing interest in public school contributions to the war effort and as far as Rugby School is concerned, I was already very familiar with the seven volumes of "Memorials of Rugbeians who fell in the Great War" which were published between 1916 and 1923. Indeed, most of the men whose portraits feature in those seven volumes also appear on my British Army Ancestors website. The Memorials volumes are extraordinary tributes to those Rugbeians who died in the service of their country during the First World War, and whilst this new volume from Pen & Sword draws on some of these biographies, and uses some of the photos, the scope is far wider and in places much more detailed; putting the service of individual Rugbeians into the context of the war as a whole.

There are helpful appendices and a useful index and bibliography; essentials in my book but sadly often overlooked these days. The author, a former teacher, has obviously also had access to the school archives and there are some, I'm guessing, previously unpublished photos of pupils and staff which add to the book's overall appeal.

Saturday 23 February 2019

The prisoners of Lubin

I am grateful to Grzegorz Romanski who sent me this photograph of his great grandmother and another unnamed woman surrounded by nine British prisoners of war. The men had been captured in 1914 and were sent to work on a farm in Lubin, Poland which was owned by Captain Felix Zielinski. The photo above is undated but appears to have been taken when there was snow on the ground.

Although none of the men in this photograph are named I believe two of them to be 8718 L-Cpl Thomas Lawrence Neal of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and 9203 Pte Charles Wlbourn of the 2nd Welsh Regiment. Thomas Neal would later chair the Bradford branch of the KOYLI Regimental Association and certainly paid more than one visit after the war to visit his former 'hosts'. In April 1939, Felix Zielinski repaid the honour and visited the UK, an event that was reported in the newspapers of the time and which I re-publish below. 

The first article is from the Hull Daily Mail on the 18th March 1939:

The following month, on the 19th April 1939, the Leeds Mercury published this photograph:

Captain Zielinski stands second left and Thomas Neal is either the man on the far left or the far right. My guess is that he is the man on the left. Madam Krzymowska, Captain Zielinski's niece is the only woman in this photo. In an article published in the Leeds Mercury on the 17th April 1939 she noted that it was Thomas Neal who had taught her English as a schoolgirl. "Her uncle", she said, "found the Englishmen good workers and faithful friends but somewhat troublesome prisoners. They were rather defiant about rules and used to play truant at night and come back at all hours."

If anyone has an ancestor who was a prisoner of war at Lubin Farm, Trzemeszno, near Mogilno, Poland during the First World War, please do get in touch. My thanks to the ever useful British Newspaper Archive for the 1939 articles.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Images of the National Archives Armistice - Review

Louise Bell

Pen & Sword, £14.99

As Louise Bell notes in her introduction to this slim but useful volume, "This book will highlight key documents from the collections at The National Archives relating to the Armistice and the aftermath of the First World War. Many of these images will have been rarely seen and will provide key glimpses into what was happening in 1918 and beyond."

And so they do. This paperback book only runs to 132 pages but there are some extremely useful chapters on treaties, demobilisation, women's uniformed services, disability, Peace Day, The Unknown Warrior and The Cenotaph.

I have to admit to being a bit of a cenotaph nut.I have collected hundreds of postcards of the cenotaph over the years and so learning more about its evolution and the different cenotaph versions worldwide is always going to find a ready audience with me. But I also found the chapter on disability extremely informative and thought-provoking and, since reading this book, I have made my own forays into the LAB (labour) files at The National Archives which Louise Bell references.

I regard this useful book as a platform for further study, and as such I will definitely be returning to it again, and again...

Monday 31 December 2018

Radley College archive

When researching a man for my British Army Ancestors Facebook page I stumbled across the Radley College archive which is a collection of digitised photographs and books relating to Radley College in Oxfordshire. There are specific collections of portraits of former students in army uniform but there are also many servicemen to be found in photos like this one, in this case prefects photographed in 1907.

The majority of these men would have gone on to serve as officers in one or more of the British military arms and, blessed with uncommon and therefore easily searchable names for the most part, it doesn't take too much detective work to quickly uncover further detail.

In the image that I have posted above, a quick search on my British Army Ancestors website shows, for instance, that M A (Maurice Astley) Knatchbull-Hugesson served as a second lieutenant with the Grenadier Guards and was KiA in 1916, whilst C W (Cyril Walter) Holcroft served as a captain with the Worcestershire Regiment and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). The archive has been indexed and OCRd as appropriate and will be an invaluable resource, and a free one at that. Well done to Radley College for taking the decision to digitise its archive.

Sunday 30 December 2018

G/8382 Pte Apsley Arthur Stevenson, 1st Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regt)

One way or the other, there's quite a lot of information that survives for Apsley Stevenson whose medals I bought last week. He was born in Kingston, Surrey in 1893 and baptised at St John's Church, Kingston on the 16th July that year. The son of Benden Apsley Stevenson and Sarah Ann Stevenson, Apsley appears on the 1901 and 1911 census returns living with his family at Portland Road, Kingston. By 1911 his widowed mother was the head of the household, earning a living as a dressmaker, whilst Apsley - recorded as Arthur Apsley - was working as a grocer's assistant.

Surviving papers in WO 363 reveal that Apsley enlisted on the 29th January 1916 and that he was mobilised on the 2nd March 1916 and posted to the 3rd Battalion, Queen's. Three months later on the 9th June he was sent overseas, joining the regular 1st Battalion in the line, and less than a month later, on the 3rd July 1916, he was killed in action, almost certainly blown to smithereens in a front line trench.

The battalion was in trenches at Cuinchy and the war diary entry for the 3rd July reads:

"A quiet morning. 'Minnie' very active in left and right company frontages in afternoon and evening. Casualties: 4 killed and 2 wounded. At 10.30pm were relieved by 1st Middlesex and proceeded to billets in Le Quesnoy."

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that four men from the 1st Battalion, Queen's died that day. Private Frederick Killick, Lance-Corporal Mitchell and Apsley Stevenson were all killed in action. Frederick Stevens, a career soldier with the battalion, died of wounds and would be buried in Bethune Town Cemetery. Lance Corporal Mitchell would also be buried in nearby Cambrin Military Cemetery but both Apsley and Frederick Killick are commemorated by name on the Loos Memorial. Apsley was originally reported missing and Frederick Killick's death was officially accepted on the 15th July 1916.

Apsley Stevenson is also commemorated on the Kingston-on-Thames war memorial.

Saturday 22 December 2018

22158 Pte Albert Edward Godsafe, 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards

Give me a choice and I'd always take an original ribbon - no matter how tatty, dirty and faded it is -  over a later replacement. I've never particularly rated the Victory Medal, for that matter, but this is one of the nicest examples I've come across and it also has quite a story behind it; far more than I could have imagined it when I bought it at a secondhand market two days ago.

The medal is named to 22158 PTE A E GODSAFE G GDS and would originally have been accompanied by the 1914-15 Star and the British War Medal. This is his story.

Albert Edward Godsafe was born in Latchingdon, Essex in 1884, his birth registered at Maldon in the third quarter of that year (Vol 4a, page 424). He appears on the 1891 (Stanford Rivers) and 1901 (Widford) census returns living with his parents and siblings. His father was an agricultural labourer and, judging by his siblings' places of births, probably moved across the county (and into Kent) seeking work:

1891 Census return; Little End, Stanford Rivers, Ongar, Essex

1901 Census return; Siding Cottages, Widford, Essex

On the 23rd March 1907, Albert married Alice Porter at Stapleford Tawney, Essex and they quickly produced seven children over the next eight years: Alice Mary Godsafe (13th May 1907), Albert Charles Godsafe (1908), Thomas Charles Godsafe (27th September 1909), William George Godsafe (21st June 1911), Beatrice Maud Godsafe (6th December 1912), Albert John Godsafe (22nd March 1914) and Ethel Frances Godsafe (8th June 1915). The 1911 Census extract, below, shows Albert working as a domestic groom and gardener. Alice would have been pregnant with William, but their eldest son, Albert Charles, had died in infancy in 1909.

1911 Census return; 2 Bells Cottages, Stapleford Tawney, Essex

In January 1915, with Alice expecting their seventh child, Albert responded to his country's call and volunteered to join the army. Aged 30 years and six months, he attested on the 15th January 1915 and joined at the Grenadier Guards depot in Caterham four days later. In June that year, his daughter, Ethel, was born, and the following month, possibly as a result of complications during the birth of her child, Alice Godsafe died at the Stanford Rivers infirmary.

With Albert in the army, care of the children appears to have been handed to Albert's mother, Eliza. In November 1915 Albert sailed for France and this was almost certainly the last time that he saw his family and that they saw him because on the 25th September 1916, aged 32, he was killed on the Somme whilst serving with the 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards. Albert has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

In November 1916, Eliza Godsafe completed Army Form B.104-77 which was the "Declaration to be made by the Guardian of the Motherless child or children of a deceased soldier in support of a claim to Pension". In it, Eliza - living at Shalesmore Cottage, Stapleford Tawney - acknowledged that she was the guardian of the six orphaned children, although it is not clear what the final award amounted to. The following year, in the March quarter of that year, baby Ethel Godsafe's death was registered. 

Eliza Godsafe received £5, 7 shillings and 10 pence as money owing to her son at the time of his death, and later a war gratuity of £7 and 10 shillings. She died in 1948 at the grand age of 96, having seen her surviving grandchildren make it to adulthood, albeit her grandson Albert, like his father before him, had been killed in a world war.

As well as being remembered at Thiepval, Albert Edward Godsafe's name is also recorded on a memorial tablet at the parish church in Stapleford Tawney, Epping (photo courtesy High County History Group).

Friday 21 December 2018

5098, later 322311 Pte Benjamin Balding 2/6th London Regiment

I rarely buy single medals, and yet researching these is no less satisfying than researching a complete group. Indeed, I am coming to the conclusion that researching these - in some cases - single, last-surviving relics of a man's military life can be even more rewarding than researching a group.

I bought this medal and another one like it, yesterday, on impulse. It is named to 5098 Pte B. Balding, 6th London Regt and at the time of buying it I knew nothing about its owner. This is what I have since found out.

Benjamin Balding was born in East Ham in 1896 and was baptised there on the 22nd April that year. He was the second eldest child of George and Martha Balding, brother to George (one year his senior), and Jane (three years his junior). In 1901 and 1911 the family was living at 65 Wellington Road, East Ham. The street has seen many changes over the years but No. 65 is still standing; a typical Victorian terraced house that these days sells as a 2-bedroomed property for around £350,000. In the Google-view below, number 65 is the middle property of these five.

In late 1915, Benjamin married Maud Garbett, one of seven children born to Thomas and Rebecca Garbett of Custom House, south of West Ham. Their marriage was registered at West Ham in the fourth quarter of 1915. 

The 1901 and 1911 census returns record Maud as being 6 and 16 years old respectively and so she would have been about the same age as Benjamin. At this point in time I do not have a precise date for their marriage but I believe it could have been in the second half of December 1915. Benjamin would join the 2/6th (City of London) Battalion, The London Regiment in January 1916 and I think it possible that he attested under the Derby Scheme in December 1915 and was then mobilised in January 1916. Born in 1896 he would have been in Group 2 of that Scheme if he was single when he attested, or Group 25 if married. Group 2 men were mobilised on the 20th January 1916 but Group 25 men were not mobilised until the 7th April 1916. In other words, if he did attest under the Derby Scheme, he must have done so as a single man in order to have been mobilised the following month.

Benjamin would spend the next year training in the UK and on the 27th July 1916, a daughter, Maud Rebecca M Balding (named after her mother and grandmother) was born to the young couple. On the  26th January 1917, Benjamin arrived in France, part of the original contingent of the 2/6th London Regiment.

No service record survives for Benjamin but the war diary for the 2/6th London Regiment will provide the detail of what happened next. The condensed version is that Benjamin served for the next six months with the battalion before he was killed in action on the 20th July 1917, one week before his daughter's first birthday. His death was reported in the war office weekly casualty list published on the 26th August 1917. Interestingly, whilst Soldiers Died in the Great War records Benjamin's place of residence as West Ham, the casualty list notes Custom House:

Benjamin is buried in the British extension at Metz-en-Couture Communal Cemetery, south of Cambrai. His young widow would later be sent the £2, five shillings and three pence owing to him at the time of his death and, much later still, a war gratuity of £6 in respect of his rank and length of service. An employee of the Gas Light and Coke Company in peacetime, Benjamin is commemorated on that company's war memorial at Twelvetrees Crescent, Bromley by Bow, E3 3TE:

Benjamin's daughter, who of course would have been too young to know her father, would marry Cyril F Page in 1935 and go on to have two daughters of her own, Jeanette E Page, born in 1937, and Pamela M Page, born in 1940. Both girls' births were registered in West Ham and Maud Page would die as recently as 2005, her death registered in Newham.