Friday 30 January 2015

The Great War Medal Collectors' Companion - Vol 3

Great War Medal Collectors' Companion Volume 3

Good old Howard. Here's Volume 3 of The Great War Medal Collectors Companion from one of the good guys - and he knows a thing or two about medals and militaria too. These are well-produced, lavishly illustrated books and jam packed full of information.

The contents of Volume 3 of The Great War Medal Collectors' Companion are as follows: The First Chapter (Ch 9) gives a short history of the 76 British Army Divisions (plus Cavalry and Guards Divisions) alongside the dates and Battles in which they were engaged (82 pages). The Second Chapter (Ch 10), Locations of British Regiments shows the locations of each battalion of the Line Regiments (plus Guards, Cavalry and Yeomanry Units) throughout the War. Each entry gives Brigade and Division and date of entry to the theatres of war. All changes of Brigade, Division and Theatre of War are noted (200 pages). The Third Chapter (Ch 11) is the OMRS Gold Medal Winning study of the Royal Engineer Units in the Great War. This includes locations, dates, battle honours, refined regimental numbers from Volume II, general duties and many contemporary photographs. An outstanding study (250 pages). The Fourth Chapter (Ch 12) is a study of the Machine Gun Corps in the Great War. It gives all unit locations and the Brigade and Division attached. In addition, there are a number of photographs and a section on the equipment and tactics employed (45 pages). Awarded OMRS Silver Medal 2014. The Fifth Chapter (Ch 13) is a study of the Army Cyclist Corps in the Great War and covers notes on their units, equipment and duties. This study was awarded an OMRS Silver Medal at the 2014 Convention.
These books are essential resources and will be much sought-after in years to come. Naval and Military Press also has copies of Volume 1 and Volume 2. Click on the links on this page to order these essential reference works.

Saturday 24 January 2015

From Recruit to Staff Sergeant - Nathaniel Washington Bancroft

Nathaniel Washington Bancroft - Bengal Artillery
Nathaniel Washington Bancroft served for over 35 years with the Honourable East India Company's Bengal Artillery and latterly the Royal Horse Artillery, taking part in the Sutlej campaign of 1845-6 where he was badly wounded, and later in the Indian Mutiny campaign. Like Edwin Mole of the 14th (King's) Hussars who recorded his army experiences some years later, Bancroft's account is full of fascinating and rich detail about his time in India; something which I personally find fascinating. Like Mole too, Bancroft has numerous records that survive and which have been digitised by Findmypast.  Here are some examples:
Nathaniel Bancroft's birth in 1823
Above, birth and baptism record from the British India Office births and baptisms collection showing that Nathaniel Bancroft's father was also an artilleryman. Image extract copyright of the British Library Board.
Nathaniel Bancroft's service record in WO 97
Detail from Nathaniel Bancroft's British Army pension record in WO 97. The image is Crown Copyright The National Archives.
Nathaniel Bancroft's marriage in 1845
Marriage of Nathaniel Bancroft and Mary Ann Nunan at Umballa in 1845. Mary was a widow when Bancroft married her. She very nearly became a widow for a second time when he narrowly missed being fatally struck by cannon balls at Ferozeshah. Image from the British India Office marriages collection; copyright of the British Library Board.
Nathaniel Bancroft's baptism in 1849
Birth (1848) and baptism (1849) of Nathaniel Bancroft's son, also called Nathaniel Washington Bancroft. This was something of a family tradition as Nathaniel Bancroft Snr's father was also called... Nathaniel Bancroft. Image from the British India Office births and baptisms collection,  copyright of the British Library Board.
Nathaniel Bancroft's death in 1908
Death of Nathaniel Bancroft at Subathu on the 25th April 1908. He was buried the same day. Image from the British India Office deaths and burials collection copyright of the British Library Board.
It took me no more than ten minutes to find these documents, helped by an unusual name which in turn helps to narrow down the field (other Nathaniel Bancrofts returned in results are either his father or son).
There is plenty more research work that could be done here as well. Who was Mary Ann/Anne Bancroft's first husband? When did she die and what was the cause? Were there other children? Who did Nathaniel Bancroft re-marry? All of these answers will be found within the British India Office collection.  Click on the links above to explore this for yourself - and do buy a copy of Bancroft's very readable memoir, which I started and finished on the daily train commute this week, and which is easily available through abebooks for a few pounds.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

1871 Worldwide British Army Index

Recruiting sergeants outside a Westminster pub.
Here's a useful database from Findmypast. If you can't find your ancestor on the 1871 census, could he have been serving overseas in the British Army? The 1871 Worldwide British Army Index is effectively a census surrogate which lists over 200,000 officers and men serving in Her Majesty's army. My old favourite, Edwin Mole, is there, serving as a private in the 14th (King's Hussars) who, at the time, were stationed at Cahir and Ballincollig in Ireland. Over 30,000 of these entries contain additional information such as date or year and place of birth. Well worth investigating if you have come up against a brick wall or two.

Friday 16 January 2015

Soldiers' effects 1901-1929

All that was left of him: Jack Nixon's effects 1918
Ancestry, in partnership with the National Army Museum, has today published registers of soldiers effects between 1901 and 1929. The following text appears on
"This database contains records detailing the money owed to soldiers of the British Army who died in service from 1901 to 1929. A small percentage of soldiers who were discharged as ‘insane’ are also listed here. Records typically include the name of the soldier, his next of kin and their relationship, the date of death and sometimes the place, plus other details. In cases where the soldier was discharged as insane, the place and date of discharge are often recorded in the place and date of death field.... Early records also list a soldier’s trade before enlistment. Payments went first to widows, or, if the soldier wasn’t married, to a parent (often a mother) or siblings."

This is another good resource from Ancestry, albeit probably not giving a huge amount of new or useful detail in the majority of cases.  The image above shows the entry for my great uncle, John Fredrick Nixon, who was killed in action on the 3rd October 1918 and appears to show that his father, my great grandfather, was paid a total of £26, 3s and 11d; a combination of back pay and war gratuity. I'm sure he would have much preferred to have had his son back.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Bond of Sacrifice - First World War officer casualties

Bond of Sacrifice, Findmypast, WW1, First World War

Recently published on Findmypast, the two Bond of Sacrifice volumes which list officer casualties for 1914 and the first six months of 1915. (There are also a handful of 1916 casualties). Some very valuable information, not to mention portraits of many of the officers, are to be found within these pages.

Sunday 11 January 2015

The secret wife of Edwin Mole aged 35

I've just finished reading "The King's Hussar" by Edwin Mole; a very readable and fascinating account of a cavalryman's lot during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Mole is a good research candidate because of his relatively unusual name and, furthermore, he has surviving service papers in WO 97 which, for the most part, tie in perfectly with his narrative.

Edwin Mole seems, from his own account, to be a reasonable man. He received a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1888 and his narrative contains fascinating insights into army life. I was particularly interested in his account of his time in Bangalore in India, a city I also lived in for a number of years.

He was obviously very fond of his first wife who died during childbirth in India in 1878 but he makes no mention at all of his second wife, Agnes Manley Morton, whom he married in 1881. She was a good deal younger than Edwin but, for whatever reason, does not warrant a single mention (whereas his house-boy, Harry, rescued from the side of the road, gets many glowing and affectionate references).

It would appear from surviving paperwork which picks up where his army narrative leaves off, that Edwin Mole had a somewhat troubled later life which included spells in various asylums. He married for a third time in May 1891 (although note that the census taken a month earlier, records Edwin and Fanny Mole as husband and wife). Fanny was 18 when he married her, although her age is over-stated as 26 on the 1891 census return.

Edwin Mole lived to a ripe old age, dying on 3rd August 1937 aged 90. He left his estate to the surviving daughter from his first marriage. Details from his long life, gathered from a variety of sources, are noted below.

I thoroughly recommend this memoir (easily available on Amazon) which, in many ways, reminded me of Frank Richards' Old Soldier Sahib and the British Army in India a couple of decades after Edwin Mole left the country.

Edwin Mole's army papers survive in WO 97 and can be accessed online through Findmypast.

Born. “My father [John Mole] was formerly a small farmer at Dudley in Worcestershire, but in 1852, when I was about seven years old, he left the country and came up to London…” He was probably born in 1847 according to subsequent census returns
1851 [1851 census return, 26 Cross Street, Dudley, Worcs]
Three year old son of John Mole, 28-year-old baker, and Sarah Mole, 30-year-old domestic. Also a sister, Annie Maria aged 1.
1861 [1861 census return, 7 Rose Gardens, Hammersmith]
13-year-old son of John Mole, 39-year-old labourer, and Sarah Mole, 40-year-old laundress. Edwin is a butcher, 11-year-old Annie Maria, 9-year-old Moses, 7-year-old Simeon, 3-year-old Sarah Jane.
27th July 1865 [Service record, WO 97]
Home. Attests aged 18 years
5th-6th Nov 1866 [Service record, WO 97]
1st-2nd March 1866 [Service record, WO 97]
31st July 1868 [Service record, WO 97]
Good Conduct Pay at 1d
31st July 1871 [Service record, WO 97]
Good Conduct Pay at 2d
8th November 1871 [Service record, WO 97]
2nd Class Certificate of Education
12th October 1872 [Service record, WO 97]
Promoted Corporal
18th March 1874 [Service record, WO 97]
Promoted Sergeant
1875 [Irish Marriages – FamilySearch]
Marriage to Margaret McAvoy in Dublin North
4th January 1876 [Service record, WO 97]
1st April 1876 [Service record, WO 97]
Commenced Deferred Pay
29th December 1876 [British in India baptism record]
Daughter, May Elizabeth Mole, born
1st February 1877 [British in India baptism record]
Baptism of daughter May Elizabeth Mole at Holy Trinity Church, Bangalore
[May Mole later married Horace William Pettman in 1905. Appears on 1911 census with husband (aged 32) two sons, George Horace Pettman (1907-1986) aged 4 and Margaret Mary Pettman (1910-1992), aged 8 months. Husband, Horace W Pettman died in 1914. Re-married Martin R Dunn in 1918. May Elizabeth Dunn, nee Mole, died 1960 in Bromley. Daughter married Charles R Gaunt 1931. ]
31st July 1877 [Service record, WO 97]
Good Conduct Pay at 3d
1st-4th October 1878 [Service record, WO 97]
Tried and reduced [to] Private. Sentence remitted.
5th October 1878 [Service record, WO 97]
Forfeited 1d GC Pay
14th October 1878 [Service record, WO 97]
Birth of second daughter. “Ten days after my court martial my wife presented me with another little daughter…” [Page 161]
14th October 1878 [British in India burial record]
Death of first wife, Margaret Mole, aged 25 years and 4 months, from acute mania, Bangalore.
15th October 1878 [British in India burial record]
Burial of Margaret Mole at Bangalore Trinity Church
October 1878 [The King's Hussar, Page 162]
Death of new-born daughter “… the infant following its mother very soon afterwards, I sent my little daughter home to England, where I knew she would be happy and well cared for with her aunt…” [Daughter’s birth and death not found in British in India records.]
5th October 1879 [Service record, WO 97]
Restored 3d Good Conduct Pay
26th June 1880 [Service record, WO 97]
Appointed Troop Sergeant Major
27th January 1881 [Service record, WO 97]
Marriage to Agnes Manley Morton [aged 20, daughter of Edward Evans Morton], Trinity Church, Bangalore. [Agnes born 24 Dec 1860 at Black Town, Kamptee, daughter of Inspector Edward Morton and Emma Rosa Morton. Died Edmonton, Middlesex in 1937]
26th February 1881 [Service record, WO 97]
South Africa
1st December 1881 [Service record, WO 97]
1883 [Service record, WO 97]
Musketry, Secunderabad
3rd January 1884 [Service record, WO 97]
31st July 1886 [Service record, WO 97]
Entitled to 4d Good Conduct Pay
1st September 1886 [Service record, WO 97]
Transferred Suffolk Yeomanry – Permanent Staff
13th September 1886 [Service record, WO 97]
Permitted to extend his service beyond 21 years
3rd February 1888 [The Ipswich Journal, British Newspaper Archive]
Henry Manby of Church Farm, Burgh, summoned by Edwin Mole, sergeant major of the Ipswich troop of the Loyal Suffolk Hussars for not paying 26s. fine… Bench orders payment of fine and 10s. costs.
17th May 1888 [Service record, WO 97]
Awarded LSGC with gratuity
1st July 1888 – 24th July 1888 [Service record, WO 97]
Further service
5th April 1891 [1891 census, Liberal Club, Wiltshire]
Aged 42, club steward. Husband of Fanny [Luxton] Dean, aged 26. George Dean, a 16-year-old billiard marker, and 49-year-old Harry Stevens, a widowed cloth worker, are also at the same address. Note that Edwin and Fanny did not actually marry until the following month.
17th May 1891 [LMA records]
Marriage to Fanny Luxton Dean, aged 18. Fanny’s birth registered 4th quarter 1872 at Dartford. Died 1947, Kensington, London.
16th September 1893 [Bedfordshire Times and Independent]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
30th December 1893 [Leicester Chronicle]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
4th January 1894 [York Herald, British Newspaper Archive]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
20th January 1894 [Sheffield Evening Telegraph, British Newspaper Archive]
Extensive and positive review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
22nd January 1894 [Birmingham Post, British Newspaper Archive]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
24th January 1894 [Derby Mercury, British Newspaper Archive]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
27th January 1894 [Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, British Newpaper Archive]
Review of the recently published, “A King’s Hussar”.
1901 [1901 census. Cold Storage, Purfleet Wharf, St Ann, Blackfriars]
Aged 53. Clerk and caretaker; also Fanny Mole aged 28, housekeeper, born Swanley, Kent.
18th January 1904 [Baptisms, St Mary’s, Spital Square, Middlesex]
Birth of daughter, Minnie Ellaline Mole.
1905 [Electoral Register]
9 Norton Folgate, dwelling house, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets
31st August 1908 [UK lunacy patients, admission registers]
Admitted to Napsby Asylum
21st November 1908 [UK lunacy patients, admission registers]
Discharged from Napsby Asylum
24th August 1910 [UK lunacy patients, admission registers]
Admitted to Essex Asylum
9th December 1910 [UK lunacy patients, admission registers]
Discharged from Essex Asylum
Admitted to London Asylum
1911 [1911 census return]
Aged 70, married. Patient, City of London Lunatic asylum and Still House; Stone, near Dartford; formerly house decorator
18th December 1913 [UK lunacy patients, admission registers]
Discharged from London Asylum
1915 [Electoral Register]
Dwelling house, Westminster, Marylebone West
8th February 1917 [Central Criminal Court. Calendars of Prisoners]
Edwin Kempson Mole, poultry farmer aged 70, charged with “Marrying Fanny Luxton Dean, his wife being then alive.” Found not guilty and discharged.
3rd August 1937 [National Probate Calendar]
Death of Edwin Kempson Mole “of 175 High Street, Harlesden, Willesden, Middlesex”. Died at “Twyford Lodge, Willesden. Administration London 13th January to May Elizabeth Dunn (wife of Richard Martin Dunn). Effects £410 5s. 6d.”

The original edition of "The King's Hussar", published in 1893, carries a portrait of Edwin Mole, above. The undated photo I have used at the top of this post shows 14th Hussars on the march and probably dates to the early 1900s. 

Do you have an Edwin Mole in your family? I offer a fast and cost-effective military history and British Army research service and would be happy to assist. Click on the Research tab (or this link) to contact me directly.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO

There's  a nice piece on the multi-wounded, Belgian-born Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart on the BBC's website today. The nursing home in Park Lane where he went on several occasions to recuperate even kept his own pyjamas ready for his next visit. I've borrowed this image from the BBC post.

Friday 2 January 2015

Edwin Mole - The King's Hussar

The King's Hussar - Troop Sergeant Major Edwin Mole

When, some thirty-four years ago, I started building my library of First World War literature, I did so by using the bibliography in Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory as my starting point. It was a wise strategy and I still have most of those books that I acquired from various booksellers in the UK.

These days, despite the advent of the internet, I still favour the bibliographic approach and recently acquired The King's Hussar by Edwin Mole who served with the 14th (King's) Hussars and latterly the Suffolk Yeomanry between 1865 and 1888. I came across Edwin Mole thanks to the Marquess of Anglesey who quotes him extensively in volume three of his A History of the British Cavalry. I haven't finished reading Mole's account yet but it starts off promisingly enough and includes an account of Mole and some school chums attempting to re-enact actions from the recently ended Crimean War.

According to the author, a pupil at the Latymer School, Hammersmith, it was his idea to re-enact the blowing up of the Redan at the newly constructed Church of St John the Evangelist. Not for Mole and his chums simple play-acting, rather each of them saving their pocket money to buy gun-powder and ultimately an explosion that fortunately did not cause long-lasting damage to life and limb (or St John's church).

Edwin Mole's papers survive in the army pension series WO 97 (accessible on Findmypast) but the richness of his military career is contained within the pages of The King's Hussar. After attempting to blow up the local church, the army was probably the best place for him to go.