Wednesday 30 December 2015

Naval & Military Press - Winter Sale - 20% discount

Forget Next, John Lewis, Blah-de-blah; this is the sale that matters. Naval and Military Press already offer some great deals on hard-to-find books and now you can save an additional 20% on all orders placed by 6pm on 25th January 2016.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information. 

Sunday 20 December 2015

Boy service in the 2nd King's Own in 1896

The photo above was first published in the Navy & Army Illustrated in its issue dated 21st August 1896. The caption underneath the photo reads, "The oldest and youngest soldiers of the battalion".

Further down it is explained that Sergeant-Major Jepson and Private Stapleton had 22 years' and 21 years' service respectively, whilst Boy Stokes had less than six months' service.

There are at least six boys in this photo and at least three of the soldiers (one of whom must be Jepson) have four good conduct chevrons on their lower right sleeve whilst three soldiers have three chevrons each. So who were these youngsters and old hands? I thought I'd try and find out.

Sergeant Major Jepson
This man is possibly Charles William Jepson who would later become Lieutenant & Quartermaster and would serve in the Boer War.
Private Stapleton
No convincing match identified
Boy Stokes
5107 William Edward Stokes, born around November 1881 and enlisted in London on the 30th March 1896 aged 14 years and 4 months. Discharged as a lance-corporal in March 1908 on the termination of his first period of engagement.

These boys may also appear in the photo.

5085 John Frederick Barlow, born around September 1880 and enlisted in Manchester on the 6th March 1896 aged fifteen years and six months. Discharged June 1897, services no longer required.

5111 William Foster, joined 6th April 1896 aged 14 years and 4 months (about the same age as William Stokes). Discharged July 1898, services no longer required.

5141 Walter Ezekiel Adams, joined in London in May 1896 aged fifteen years and six months. Discharged medically unfit in October 1898. This boy joined later than Stokes but Stokes was younger than Adams.

5157 George Millwood, joined in London on the 13th June 1896 aged fifteen years and seven months. Discharged in June 1908 on the termination of his first period of engagement.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information. 

Wednesday 9 December 2015

The Blogger's bookshelf

Here are some recent reviews of Pen & Sword books, published on Amazon, which readers of this blog might find of interest. Books can be obtained directly from the publisher or from Amazon. Links on this page are to the Pen & Sword website.

Title: The Family History Web Directory: The Genealogical Websites You Can't Do Without
Author: Jonathan Scott

This is an ambitious undertaking and the author and the publisher must have been aware, as soon as they embarked on this mission, that no sooner had they published the book, than it would be out of date. I suspect that this will be a regularly updated publication, and it will need to be if it is to retain its usefulness. There has probably never been a better time to undertake family history research and I say that as someone who started embarking on my own research project around thirty years ago when there was nothing on line at all (in fact there wasn't even the concept of "online"). I began the hard way, trekking up to the National Archives, calling up documents and spinning through microfilm. I completed the project many years later by accessing those same documents on Findmypast and Ancestry when I was based in India. Today, as this new book highlights, there is so much more.

I would have liked to have seen some overviews of the main commercial family history providers - Ancestry and Findmypast - with honest appraisals of those sites in terms of content, search, navigation and value for money. Force War Records, minnows in the genealogy stakes, get far too much coverage for a company of their dubious worth. Caveat Emptor. There are also some errors. Findmypast did indeed purchase Origins, but the militia attestations were never part of the Origins collection but rather licensed direct from the National Archives along with soldiers' pensions records 1760-1915. There are also some startling omissions. Where for instance is the Army Service Numbers blog ( which has been an extremely useful resource for many? [Yes, yes, I know that this is one of my blogs, but I am continually told how useful it is and I was genuinely surprised, or at least a little piqued, to find it not mentioned].

Overall though, this is a good book and should sell by the bucket-load at fairs such as Who Do You Think You Are? I rather think though that the author has set himself a task akin to painting the Forth Bridge.

Title: Victoria Crosses on the Western Front - April 1915 to June 1916
Author: Paul Oldfield

This is a weighty book packed with information. The author states that this is as much for the battlefield visitor as it is for the armchair reader, and if that's the case I would advise the battlefield visitor to buy the Kindle version. This is the second book in this particular series and follows the same format as the first volume. Details of the VC actions are explained in largely chronological order and are then followed by biographies of the winners. The actions occupy the first 184 pages whilst the biographies take up the next 270-odd pages.

There is a lot to recommend this book. Paul Oldfield obviously knows his stuff and is also quick to acknowledge the support of fellow members of the Victoria Cross Database Users Group. There are also ten pages of acknowledgements and sources, no wonder then that the actions are well-explained and the men well researched. Having been used to seeing the same images re-published again and again for a lot of these men, it was nice to see new contemporary images for many, and also to read more about their background and their families.

As you would expect with Pen and Sword, the book quality is first rate and old photos have been brought to life. The maps are also extremely useful and will be a particular boon to the battlefield visitor who can now visit the exact spots where the actions described took place. I can find nothing to fault this book. My copy will be a useful reference resource on the bookshelf at home - but I'll invest in the digital version when tramping across Flanders fields.

Title: The Fighting Pioneers: The Story of the 7th Battalion, DLI
Author: Clive Dunn

This book is up to Pen & Sword's usual high standards: a weighty hardback, nicely printed, solidly bound and, more to the point, packed full of well-researched information and photographs which won't have been seen by many before. If your ancestor served with this battalion then this book will be invaluable, particularly if read alongside the official battalion war diary.

Author Clive Dunn has used a myriad of sources to piece together this battalion's history from its origins in 1908 until the end of the war. There are accounts from the men who served as well as articles pulled from newspapers, and official sources such as published histories. A list of battalion awards, a nominal roll of men who landed with the battalion in April 1915, a roll of men known to have served in Volunteer Service Companies during the Boer War, Territorial Force War Medal recipients, and finally a roll of serving officers all provide layers of icing for this already rich fruit cake. There's also an index and a bibliography.

This is a great book that will be a very useful reference resource.

The Monocled Mutineer

First published in 1978, nearly forty years on, this is a timely and welcome re-print of a modern classic. My own copy of this book dates to 1986 and the paperback re-print issued to coincide with the BBC drama of the same name. It tells the story of a revolt; a mutiny even, by British and Commonwealth troops at Etaples in Northern France in 1917, and the charismatic and elusive Private Percy Toplis, the eponymous Monocled Mutineer. This Souvenir Press edition contains a new introduction by John Fairley, one of the co-authors, and new epilogue. That aside, the text is largely unchanged apart from some minor updates (inckluding the curious omission of the paragraph that dealt with acknowledgements to Murray Allison, Jill Barron, Tony Timmington and Richard Cackett).

Since this book was first published, many thousands of records have become available on line, and hundreds of new books have been written that cover aspects of the Great War in enormous depth. Hundreds of thousands of men passed through the hated "Bull Ring" at Etaples and The Monocled Mutineer probably gives the best overall account of the place. For this fact alone, the book is well-worth getting hold of.

If I have any criticism it is that more could have been done to make this work more accessible. An index would have been useful, and perhaps footnotes and a bibliography. The front cover photograph of troops in the trenches is credited to the Royal British Legion but who does the photo depict and which regiment were they serving with? Such detail could have been added without too much fuss and would have made the work more complete.

Nevertheless, this book will find a new audience - and deservedly so - as we approach the 100th anniversary of the mutiny in 2017.

I also offer a comprehensive, fast and cost-effective military history research service. Follow the link for more information. 

Friday 4 December 2015

Grab a pre-Christmas book bargain
Naval and Military Press have some great bargains in this flash sale. Grab them while you can. Click on the image above or HERE to go straight to the Naval & Military Press website.

Saturday 14 November 2015

32859 Pte William Henry Newsam, 29th Field Ambulance, RAMC

Earlier this year I bought a medal group to William Henry Newsam who served with the 29th Field Ambulance, RAMC, during the First World War. This is his story.

Early years

William Henry Newsam was born in Sheffield on the 14th September 1891. He was the son of William and Mary Newsam and they baptised him at St Stephen’s church, Sheffield, sixteen days later.

By 1901 the family was living at 5 Ada Street, Nether Hallam, Sheffield. The census return for that year (above) shows that William senior was working in the print industry as a "stereotyper". William Henry was then aged nine and he had a younger brother, Rowland, aged six.

Ten years on, the 1911 census shows the family now living at 9 Bosville Road, Sheffield. William senior is still shown working as stereotyper whilst William Henry is recorded as a bookbinder and Rowland as a machine printer. Another son is also recorded: Bernard Hugh Newsam, aged nine.

The First World War

According to his entry on the silver war badge roll, William enlisted [with the Royal Army Medical Corps] on the 2nd September 1914 and was given the regimental number, 32859. Rowland Newsam also enlisted at about the same time and he was given the regimental number 33306. 

Although no service record survives for either man, there is nothing to suggest that William served with any unit other than C Section, 29th Field Ambulance. There is a photo of William in the 29th FA football team for the 1914-15 season along with other group photos all taken – judging by the photographer’s details on the front of these photos – when the unit was stationed at Middlesbrough.

William and Rowland both arrived overseas with the 29th Field Ambulance on the 12th May 1915 and presumably served with the unit, part of the 9th (Scottish) Division, right through the Battle of Loos in September 1915, the Somme battles in 1916 and then Arras in 1917.

On the 9th and 10th September 1916 William took part in "The Bells", a "drama in three acts" performed at the Theatre-des-Arts at Rouen, the proceeds being handed over to the officer commanding No 2 convalescent depot.

At some point too, William was also at Bethune. The card below is undated:

The Caserne de Montmerency was certainly used as billets - the poet and author Robert Graves was there in 1915 - and it is possible that William was stationed there.

It was at Monchy Le Preux on 3rd May 1917 that William was severely wounded. According to a handwritten note from his son - also Rowland which accompanied the medals I bought, William lay in water on the battlefield for 13 hours before being picked up. He was evacuated to England on Empire Day (24th May) 1917 and had a leg amputated. He spent time at the War Hospital in Thorpe, Norfolk, the Red House at Cromer and the Pavilion Military Hospital in Brighton. He was discharged from the army on 1st May 1918 as a result of wounds.

Read an earlier blog which dates to William's stay at Brighton.

Life after the army

William had married Emily C Rudd (born 21st March 1893) in late 1917 or early 1918, their marriage registered in the first quarter of 1918 in Eccleshall Bierlow, Yorkshire. Their son, Rowland Barratt Newsam, was born on the 30th October 1918.  

William and Emily appear on the 1939 Register at 5 Wharncliffe Road, Sheffield (above). William is noted as a book binding manager and there is also a 48-year-old William H Rudd recorded at the house, presumably a brother of Emily’s. The closed record for this household is presumably Rowland, who would have been approaching his twenty first birthday when the register was taken.

Despite his appalling injury, William lived to enjoy a long life, dying in late 1980 or early 1981 at the age of eighty-nine.

Identifying William

The medal dealers told me they'd bought William Newsam's collection directly from the family. It's a shame though that they didn't ask the vendor to identify William in the photos that accompanied his medals. Maybe they were told at the time but if that was the case, they certainly didn't pass the information on to me.  The only positive identification was of William in a bath chair in England after his amputation. This is a small photo, and one that has also deteriorated with age.

It was taken at a VAD Auxiliary Hospital, The Red House, in Cromer, Norfolk in August 1917. On the reverse of the photo William has written, "After 4th operation with my friend and assistant, Sergeant Butcher, KOSB".

Zooming in on this image, I looked for the same man in the other photos I acquired and am pretty sure that I have identified him. What do you think?

Also included in the lot were various other bits and pieces including the items below:

The medals themselves are unremarkable: a 1914-15 Star, a British War Medal and an erased Victory Medal which may not even have been part of the original lot and could well have been sneaked in by the dealer to complete the trio. To me, that small detail is not important. What is important is that the entire collection has been passed on for safe keeping and will, in time, be passed on to my children. In the meantime, if anyone can tell me anything more about William Newsam, I'd be very interested to hear from you.

Do drop me a line if you need help with your own family history research. I offer a fast and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and contact me if you think I might be able to help.

Friday 30 October 2015

Original grave markers - Salisbury Cathedral

Colonel Frank Albert Symons CMG, DSO; Royal Army Medical Corps
Killed in action 30th April 1917

I happened to be in Salisbury today and popped into the cathedral to photograph its war memorials. What I did not expect to find were original grave markers brought back from the battlefields of the First World War. There are six in the cloisters and two more in the nearby military museum, The Wardrobe. I post all eight images here.

318 Gunner G A K Buskin, 1st Field Artillery Brigade, AIF
Killed in action 3rd November 1917

Captain Christopher Ken Merewether
1/4th Wiltshire Regiment. Died of wounds 20th December 1917
Captain Charles Basil Mortimer Hodgson, 3rd Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)
Died of wounds 1st April 1918
Lieutenant John Philip Morton Carpenter, Royal Field Artillery
Killed in action 15th September 1916
There is a biography and photo of him on the Lancing College War Memorial site
Captain Guy Dodgson, Hertfordshire Regiment
Died of wounds 14th November 1918
Captain Edward Dugdale D'Oyley Astley, 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment
Killed in action 1st June 1918
This grave marker is inside a display case inside The Wardrobe Museum
Lieutenant Frederick Hicks, 2nd Wiltshire Regiment
Died of wounds 4th November 1918
This grave marker is also inside a display case inside The Wardrobe Museum

Thursday 15 October 2015

World War 1 - Free online course

I have been contacted by Alice Gill of the Digital Learning Team at the University of Leeds who writes:

"I’ve been looking at your blog and thought your readers would be interested in this free online course we are launching on 26 October 2015.
"It’s completely free to take part and we have designed the course in partnership with the BBC to help learners explore, discuss and challenge the ways in which World War 1 heroism has been remembered."
For further information, and to find out more about the course, please visit:

Friday 9 October 2015

10069 Cpl Alf Webb, 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment

In March 2009 I wrote about Corporal Alf Webb on my Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog. I'd bought a postcard which had been sent by Alf to his sister as he was preparing to embark for France. A relative contacted me some while later and now, today, the same relative has sent me photos of Alf. It seems like a good opportunity to update his story.

Alfred appears on the 1901 census living with his parents and six siblings at Wicken Road, Newport in Essex. His parents, Joseph and Susan, were both aged 41, and the children ranged in age between 16 and two years. Alfred was the youngest boy, aged seven, with two older sisters - Lily (11) and Elsie (eight) - and two younger sisters: Ethel (four) and Dorothy (two). Joseph and his two eldest sons, Arthur (16) and Charles (14) are all recorded as agricultural labourers, with Joseph specifically recorded as a "yardman on farm".

By the time the 1911 census was taken the family was still living at Wicken Road, with Joseph recorded as a stockman (labourer), Arthur as a farm labourer and Charles as a nurseryman (labourer). Alfred is recorded as a grocer's assistant while 14-year-old Ethel was a nursemaid and the two youngest daughters, 12-year-old Dorothy and nine-year-old Daisy, were both at school. The census also notes that Joseph and Susan had had twelve children in all, of whom two had died.

Lily Webb, born in 1890, married Albert Edward Hulatt the same year the 1911 census was taken and Alf can be seen in the wedding photo, sitting with his arms folded, far left. Their marriage was recorded in the second quarter of 1911. The following year, Alf would join the army.

Alfred Webb joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in July 1912, probably around the 29th of July because this was the date that the man with the number 10070 joined the regiment. He would initially have been posted to the regimental depot to undergo a period of 10 weeks' training before being posted to the home battalion, which was the 1st Battalion, stationed at Aldershot. It was normal for soldiers to then spend up to eighteen months training with the home battalion in readiness for posting to the overseas' battalion which, in the case of the Bedfordshire Regiment, was the 2nd Battalion. However, I think that Alf was probably posted a little earlier than this. The man with the number 10070 was posted to join the 2nd Battalion in South Africa in November 1913 and I think it likely that Alfred, who had joined at the same time, would have been part of that same draft. As I wrote in my original post,
"The 2nd Bedfords had been in South Africa when Britain went to war with Germany. The battalion was mobilized on the 10th August and embarked for England aboard HMT Kenilworth Castle at Cape Town on the 22nd August. It put into Table Bay the following day and sailed for England on the 27th.

After a short stop at St Helena, the battalion arrived in at Southampton on the 19th September and then moved to Lyndhurst where it joined the 21st Brigade in the 7th Division. As Alf wrote to his sister, the battalion moved in two trains to Southampton on the 4th October, half of the battalion then sailing to France the same day, the other half sailing the following day."
Alfred was a lance-corporal when he landed in France and may well also have had a chevron on his lower left sleeve indicating two years' good conduct. At some point over the next 12 months he would be promoted to corporal.

Alfred's great-niece writes, "When he left school he worked as an errand and stable boy until he enlisted. He was hospitalised in October 1914 (which was very shortly after his arrival) with shrapnel in his hand. He was discharged from hospital in December 1914 when he fought in the First Battle of Ypres. His battalion were then involved in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, The Battle of Festubert and Givenchy. He was shot by a sniper on 20th September 1915 as he patrolled between the lines at Vermelles." His death was recorded in the Biggleswade Chronicle on the 22nd October 1915.

The Soldiers Effects Register notes that the sum of £16, 9 shillings and 8 pence was sent to Alfred's on the 3rd January 1916 mother and she subsequently received a further sum of £7 as a war gratuity on the 26th August 1919.
Alfred Webb is buried in Vermelles British Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the Newport war memorial and, of course, through my blogs. Earlier this year, to mark the 100th anniversary of his death, his family laid poppies at Vermelles. Rest in Peace.
My thanks to Alfred Webb's family for sending me the photos that appear on this post, and also for additional information which has come to light since we last corresponded. Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive.

Drop me a line if you need help with your own family history research. I offer a fast and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and contact me if you think I might be able to help.

Friday 2 October 2015

British Army recruiting, London 1895

There are some cracking publications dealing with army and navy life in Queen Victoria's army, and one of the best - in my opinion - was The Navy and Army Illustrated. First published in 1895 in fortnightly and later weekly instalments, these journals are packed with interesting articles and great photos.
As is suggested by the title, the publication gave equal weighting to the army and the navy. I have a number of original copies, including some still in their advertising wrappers, and also digital copies of the first seven volumes, courtesy of Your Old Books and Maps. If you're quick you can grab yourself a 50% discount and pick up all seven volumes for under twenty quid. Use the discount code YOBMOCT2015 at the checkout but be quick. This offer expires at the end of October.
Issue I, Volume I, published on the 20th December 1895 includes this great article by Lieutenant-Colonel F C Turner, late Recruiting Staff Officer of the London Recruiting District. The article sets the tone both for the quality of articles and photographs that would be published in future editions.
St George's Barracks, Charing Cross, the Depot of the London Recruiting District, is by far our most important centre of Army recruiting. Of course, a great number of recruits are obtained annually through Regimental Depots throughout the country, but as a matter of fact, when a man wants to enlist, he generally leaves his district to do so, the Territorial system notwithstanding. About one quarter of the recruits for the whole Army are actually enlisted at St. George's Barracks, and a considerable proportion of the remainder at Woolwich, Hounslow, and other neighbouring centres.
The machinery at Charing Cross for everything connected with recruiting is, of course, very complete, and attached to the barracks there is a contingent of special recruiters, a number of whom are daily in evidence within a few hundred yards of St. Martin's Church. These men are paid from two and sixpence to five shillings each for every recruit they bring in, the lower sum being the infantry rate while the five shillings is paid for Cavalry, Guards, and Artillery recruits. They get as much as from £2 to £5 for a Life Guardsman. Amongst Londoners the Cavalry, Highlanders (or Scotch Highlanders as the London recruit calls them) and the Rifle Brigade are in particular demand, the hardest recruits to get being those for Garrison Artillery, for which men of exceptional physique are required, while the branch is not particularly popular. With recruits for the Royal Engineers a special course is taken, as they have to be tested in their knowledge of a trade. There are certain workshops in London where this testing is undertaken for a fee, and as, even when a man has undergone this test he may still be rejected at Chatham; it will be seen that it requires genuine knowledge of a trade to become a Royal Engineer. In the case of the Royal Engineer, too, a certificate of character is required, and the same qualification is necessary in regard to the Army Service Corps and the Medical Staff Corps. But-with the line or cavalry recruit, provided there is nothing of a suspicious nature about him, such as a recruiting officer of experience can generally detect at a glance, a character is not considered a sine qua noti.

A good deal is heard from time to time about "special enlistments", that is, of undersized lads who promise to fill out to the required development. Personally, I am in favor of these, for the simple reason, that by taking these "growing lads" you secure recruits of a much better class than you can if you decline to take anyone under a hard and fast standard of measurement. I may mention, too, that many cavalry commanding officers have declared that these "specials" often turn out the best soldiers they have. In London the general rule as regards admitting recruits who do not come exactly up to the standard, is that they should make up in some way for their actual deficiencies. Thus, if a man is under height, he must have a specially good chest measurement, if his chest measurement is not quite what it should be, then both his height and weight must be fully satisfactory. My own rule has been always to attach importance to weight, and in the course of a long and varied experience, both in London and in the country, I have never passed a man whose weight was not what it should be, taking age and other circumstances into consideration.

The greatest drawback to recruiting in this country is undoubtedly the British mother. The average British lad has certainly no repugnance to the Army, and the average British father has very little objection to his son's becoming a soldier, or at any rate to his remaining one if he has already enlisted. But to the British mother—of the lower middle class more especially—it seems to come as a positive blow to find that her boy has not done the great things she expected him to do, and has, as she thinks, sunk to the level of a mere recruit. It seems to her such a terrible waste of the good education which the lad has had given him, and which ought to have produced such infinitely better results. The British mother, accordingly does her best to discourage military ambition, and when her son has taken the matter into his own hands and enlisted in spite of her, she will often try hard to get the lad back to civil life. When I was in charge at St. George's Barracks, I repeatedly had two and three mothers in one day making tearful enquiries after their sons, and begging me to help them to get a discharge. My advice in such cases invariably is, that the lad, if physically fit, should be allowed to give the Service a fair trial. In any case if he sickens of it he can be bought out for £10 within three months, with the certainty that he will never attempt the experiment a second time, while the chances are that if the youngster is worth anything at all, the Army will soon make a real man of him. I have known many cases in which parents have eventually been glad to admit the soundness of this advice and have come to be very proud of their smart soldier sons.

There is no question as to the improvement of late years in recruiting for the Army. Nor is there any doubt as to why this improvement has taken place. The condition of the soldier is altogether different from what it used to be, and the treatment he now receives throughout is whole service is wonderfully kind and considerate. Better food, better opportunities of recreation, a better system even of canteen management, are all advantages calculated to draw young fellows to the Service, that so much is being done to provide reservists and discharged soldiers with employment in civil life, and to remove the scandal caused by reservists tramping from union to union, the prospects of recruiting will continue to improve year by year.

But even now, I repeat, the British Army has little difficulty in getting recruits, and getting them, too, of the right quality.

I offer a fast and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and drop me a line if you think I might be able to help.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Photographic evidence

I'm often asked by people researching their army ancestors if I can locate a photo of the man concerned. Indeed, sometimes that is the sole request. I thought therefore that it might be helpful to note a few tips, pointers and observations on tracing army photos - and I'm talking about the period to the end of the First World War.
1. As a general rule, you stand more chance of finding a photograph of your army ancestor if he was an officer, and a greater chance still if he was a dead officer.
2. Millions of photos must have been taken of soldiers to the end of the First World War. However, the vast majority of those that were published usually do not mention the man by name.
3. Regiments did not routinely photograph soldiers. It was not part of the attestation or enlistment process. Nevertheless, there was certainly not a shortage of commercial photographers at home or abroad, as the military postcard section at any postcard fair will attest. I have owned many studio portraits myself, the vast majority of which are either unnamed or carry a message along the lines of "With fondest love, Harry".
4. If your ancestor was an officer in the Victorian Army, and particularly towards the end of the 19th century, he may appear in publications such as Navy & Army Illustrated. The photos on this page, published in Navy & Army Illustrated, show the polo teams of the 10th Hussars (above) and the 13th Hussars (below). The team members, all officers, are named, although not in order of appearance in the photos, so some detective work is still needed.
5. Boer War publications such as South Africa and The Transvaal War and The Transvaal War Album are also liberally peppered with photos, most of these unnamed, but if you know your ancestor was in a particular regiment during this conflict, the chances of finding him in a group photo must rank fairly high.
6. During the First World War there were very many publications which carried photographs. The Illustrated War News, for instance, published a number of group photos of mostly officers or senior NCOs and helpfully included names as well. This practice stopped when the second series appeared in a portrait rather than landscape series.
7. Regimental journals and chronicles are also well worth a look. The Highland Light Infantry Chronicle, for instance, has a number of sports team photos and others, usually naming the participants.
8. If your ancestor was killed in action or died before between August 1914 and June 1915, a biography, possibly accompanied by a photograph, probably appears in The Bond of Sacrifice publication, recently published as a fully searchable digital version on Findmypast.  Photographs of dead officers and other ranks from the First World War also appear in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour (again on Findmypast and Ancestry).
9. Many newspapers published photographs of soldiers after they had died for King and Country. Check local archives, the British Newspaper Library at Boston Spa in Yorkshire or the BNA archive.
10. Google your ancestor! Forums such as the Great War Forum, have been around for many years and have posted hundreds of thousands of posts. Every day, more and more information is coming on line and every day that passes it becomes easier to research your ancestor. I found portraits for a number of the men in the two photos above, but as officers I knew that I stood a greater chance of success, and I would have been surprised if I had not found anything.
Finally, don't forget that I offer a fast and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and drop me a line if you think I might be able to help.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Police Gazette - Deserters & Absentees

Great to see that Findmypast has published a collection of Police Gazettes from the war years, these in turn courtesy of my old pal Graham Stewart.

The information given varies according to the category of absentees. Some men were deserters, others failed to turn up having attested under the Derby Scheme (or Group Scheme) whilst others refused to present themselves having been conscripted from 1916 onwards.

There are over 13,000 names in this niche collection which can be searched by forename, last name, year of birth, event year, regimental number, regiment or keyword.
Even if you have no personal interest in this particular collection it can be fascinating to browse through, and some of the tattoos described in the marks and remarks column are particularly interesting.
I offer a fast, efficient and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and drop me a line if you think I might be able to help.

Sunday 2 August 2015

New Ancestry User Inter-face

I must say I like the look of the new Ancestry UI which has some very useful features, some of which I've tried to illustrate in the screenshot above.
The option to show the filmstrip is, admittedly, less useful when viewing medal index cards, but extremely helpful when looking at service records, particularly when you are looking for a particular document in a file. Here is the filmstrip from my great uncle's file:
Clicking on an image in the filmstrip brings up the main image, whilst simply hovering over a filmstrip image brings up a larger thumbnail:
So, we can quickly run through images if we need to, skipping those that are of no interest. And for those records that are difficult to read (and WO 363 is a challenging series at times) we can choose the option to view the image in negative which will often help pick out faded text and make it more legible.
Having discovered our ancestor's record, we can also choose to share our excitement on social media or send the image as an email. I tested this on Facebook last week. The only text I wrote was "Testing". 
Furthermore, Ancestry's method of delivering images has certainly improved. Gone are the tiles which you saw building on the screen before you. Now the images are delivered quickly and in one hit. It all makes for quite a slick service which is important if you know your way around the series and want to pop in an out quickly records, only selecting the images you want.
I offer a fast, efficient and cost-effective military research service. Have a look at my military research page and drop me a line if you think I might be able to help.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Maps - National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland has published some wonderful maps (120,000 of them) which give great street-level detail over a number of years.  I've spent a number of happy hours going through these and I include this resource on this blog as using these maps can not only pinpoint home addresses for soldier ancestors but also identify where a man fought.
First things first. The website address is and the site is highly usable. Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to know that trench maps for France and Belgium from the First World War are also included on the site, as well as British War Office maps for Belgium covering the period 1942-1944. What's more, you can overlay these maps on a modern Google or Bing map which in turn could prove invaluable when tramping the muddy fields of France and Belgium.

In the images above, from the top, we see a map of Ypres in June 1917, then a satellite view of Ypres today, and finally a combination of the two. It's really very clever. Go and play.
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