Lives of the First World War

Lives of the First World WarTo help commemorate the First World War, the Imperial War Museum (IWM) has launched a digital memorial to record the life of every person who served in uniform or worked on the home front during World War One.

During the next five years the “Lives of the First World War” will become the permanent digital memorial to over 8 million men and women. This memorial is still a work in progress; not all of the records are yet online and more will be added over the coming months.

Over the coming months, millions of additional new records will be added to Lives of the First World War – from the Royal Flying Corp/Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Forces along with the records of almost 17,000 conscientious objectors. IWM is also seeking to include the Indian Army, Home Front workers and all others who made a contribution from across the British Empire.

Lives of the First World War will continue to evolve over the First World War Centenary and new functionality will be added so that people can easily share and discuss who they are remembering online.

The “Lives of the First World War” is a project that anyone can contribute to by adding to the records, perhaps by uploading a picture, sharing a family story or connecting to official records that will help build up a picture of what happened to someone who served during the war.

You might recall I wrote about my great uncle who served in the RAMC during the war. His name was Harry Jefferson and I found a record for that name. The record has no other details against it so I wasn’t sure if it was the right Harry Jefferson. We have a medal with his name on the edge which my grandfather (Harry’s brother) gave to me when I was a child. I had given the medal to my dad and he kept it with his own service medal.

A couple of weeks ago my Mum and I had a little trip down memory lane by way of looking through dad’s bedside box of trinkets and cufflinks etc. I found a medal but not the one I was expecting to find (which I hope will turn up eventually). Luckily, the medal I found was Harry’s British War Medal, 1914-18 which has his service number, rank and name engraved on the side.

I was therefore able to establish that the digital memorial record I had found was his. I will be taking part in the project by adding the few things I know about him to his individual memorial record.

A Family History Tragedy

A Family History Tragedy

You might recall that one of my interests is genealogy and researching my family tree.  I shared the mystery regarding my maternal grandmother’s family.  I will now share a tragedy that took place in my paternal line.

My grandfather’s brother served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW1, serving some time in Egypt.  Within his line of duty, he treated casualties from both sides. It is difficult to comprehend the atrocities he would have encountered and been forced to deal with on a daily basis. He became friends with one of his German patients, who out of gratitude gave him his field binoculars.

During WW2 whilst carrying out his duties as a member of the home guard he was shot in the face with blanks which blinded him for a time.  In 1942 he shot his wife before shooting himself; my aunt still remembers the day the news came to the rest of the family.  There was an inquest which concluded that his being shot in the face had caused blood clots which led to the actions he took.

Unlike his brother, my grandfather didn’t serve in WW1 although he did try to join the Navy on two occasions.  On the first occasion he did join up and received the ‘King’s shilling’ only to be told by his mother to take it back.  The second time he tried to join up his boss persuaded him against it.  He was in a reserved occupation and therefore not obliged to sign up and take part in the conflict.

Some years ago the German field binoculars were passed on to me along with a pair of my grandfather’s binoculars.  The binoculars that belonged to my great uncle are a poignant reminder of the futility of war and the consequences of power and greed but most importantly they remind me of man’s humanity to his fellow men.

When I went to get the binoculars out of the cupboard to take the photograph to go with this post I got both pairs of binoculars out and it was only then that I realised that the second pair were English Army issue from WW1 and that they must have belonged to my great uncle before my grandfather.

A Family History Mystery

For a number of years I have been interested in Genealogy and in researching my family history.  I have amassed I lot of information regarding my various family threads.

One of the threads that I am particularly interested in is my maternal grandmother’s family but that thread seems to have reached a dead end (at least for now). This branch of my family tree is especially difficult to investigate because both her parents died when she was very young so there is little information known about them.

My grandmother was born in 1903 and her father died of Brights Disease (now known as Nephritis) in 1916 when she was only 13.  Her mother had died a few years earlier in 1908 in unfortunate circumstances at St. Mary’s Hospital Manchester. St. Mary’s was the hospital specialising in diseases of women and children.  My great grandmother’s death certificate states:

“Misadventure whilst under chloroform properly and skillfully administered and undergoing a necessary surgical operation at St Mary’s Hospital on 7th December 1908. Certificate received from Ernest A Gibson Coroner for Manchester. Inquest held 10 December 1908.”

My great grandmother’s mother was thought to be Irish and a Catholic and her father a Protestant.  The difference in religious denominations meant that their families would have nothing to do with them after the marriage, although the marriage certificate shows names of family members. My grandmother had memories of servants and trips out to Sunday tea in a pony and trap. This makes it sound like they were wealthy, but my great grandfather’s occupations (book keeper, clerk, law stationer’s assistant) indicate otherwise. The 1901 census shows that my grandmother’s mother was born in Manchester and her father was born in Dublin, which is the opposite of what was originally thought.

Each document I track down for the family has a different address listed for them, making the threads even more difficult to tie up. When I checked out the birth indices I was unable to locate any of my grandmother’s siblings apart from one who died aged five. As more and more indices come on line, it becomes easier to look things up. Every now and then I find a little gem and the jigsaw slowly builds up.

I need to find time to do a little more digging around and to check the 1911 census and hopefully tease out some more puzzle pieces to unravel some more of the mystery…

A Busy Weekend

P1040689I had intended that my Easter weekend would be relaxing but even the best laid plans are subject to change.

Over the weekend my Mum became a lady of a “certain age”.  Originally we planned to take her out for the day to Hardwick Hall so that we could meet up with my brother and after the visit return home to enjoy a nice evening meal with her.  Plans changed ten days before the event. Mum decided she wanted to stop overnight which meant that I had to work out somewhere we could stay that served a good evening meal because she wanted to dine in the hotel.

There were some difficulties working out if the hotel meal arrangements were suitable.  The hotel did not have their evening menu on line and booking through a website came back with “you are booked” followed by another email saying “sorry there are no rooms available!”

A quick phone call made to the hotel itself was transferred to the central booking line for the hotel chain. The two rooms were booked and so was with the restaurant (including places for the extra family members that were not staying in the hotel overnight).

Once the plans were finalised we could relax and so we decided to have a couple of friends round on Good Friday afternoon to play board games in the afternoon expecting them to leave in the early evening to enable us to have a good night’s sleep before the grand day out and an early morning departure.

Unfortunately one friend was running behind schedule and phoned up to let us know that he would be an hour late.  The rest of us chatted long past his expected ETA wondering where he had got to!  He eventually turned up almost two hours late!!  On his arrival he said ‘Have you played a game’?  Ermm ‘No we were waiting for you’.  If we had known that he was going to be quite that late we would have played a game.

The late game meant a late dinner and another unexpected problem.  The scallops that looked enough for four when raw reduced to a two person meal when cooked. Mr C was head chef and he beckoned me into his domain.  I advised him against cooking extra ‘frozen’ scallops, but had a brainwave. I remembered we had some salmon in the freezer.  This when added to the stock that the scallops had been cooked in, thawed slowly and cooked to perfection (thankfully).

The late arrival and late meal obviously led to a late departure.  At one stage I had them rounded up and they were about to depart after I said we would have a long day tomorrow.  Then Mr C got them talking again…  Eventually I got to bed.

 I didn’t feel at my best on my journey to Hardwick Hall but I perked up after a bit of lunch and we enjoyed both our visit and the celebratory evening meal. We had to remember to put the clocks forward to BST before going to sleep; we didn’t want to miss breakfast.  We had lunch with my brother before departing for home and cooking and sharing Easter dinner with my Mum.

Needless to say I was rather tired on Monday…

A Game or Two

For as long as I can remember, my family was always into board and card games.  Following Sunday dinner (which was in the evening) we would sit down and play a game, that is if we weren’t going out for a walk which we did in the summer months.  Each Christmas I got a new game that always entertained us over the Christmas period and beyond.  After I left home, I continued the tradition of getting a new game to play each Christmas.

A few years ago, I found that the games on offer in the local shops had no new ideas or challenges and were uninteresting.  I wanted something slightly different so I did a bit of browsing on the internet and came across a website called the Board Game Geek’.  A board gamers dream!  This introduced me to a game called ‘The Settlers of Catan’ which I really enjoyed playing.  I went on to buy a couple more games that I discovered on the site, leading to a slight board game addiction and to me amassing a sizeable collection of games.

There are many types of board game including family games, educational games, strategy games, war games, “roll the dice” chance games and many more.  Out of all the genres my favourite type of board game is a strategy game, although I do like crazy family games too.  All of the games I choose to play finish in less than two hours.

At the same time as I was introduced to the ‘Board Game Geek’ I started to host regular board game evenings for my friends who, to their surprise, also loved the unusual games.  Some of those friends are gamers and others had never played games before.   We all had great fun and enjoyed the social gatherings.

The evenings have become less regular now and less people turn up at any one time, but we still have fun when we get together and reminisce with a smile those past wins and defeats, whilst looking forward to the next challenge.

When we first started playing I always seemed to beat the regular gamers which gave them a bit of a challenge.  I think this was because they are used to playing war games but I use different strategies when I play games.  One of my friends has made it a particular challenge to try and beat me and this is a standing joke (between us) no matter who wins.

Although most of my games don’t have them (too random for me), the urge to play board games together can be summed up with this regular comment from one of my friends,  ‘I always welcome the chance to rattle the bones’ (roll the dice).

A New Year’s Eve Toast

New Years Eve is often a time for family and friends to get together so that they can see out the old year and greet the new one.

As midnight approaches it is not uncommon for a bottle of champagne to be opened to toast in the New Year, usually accompanied by Jules Holland’s Hootenanny on the BBC.  I am reminded of a bottle of Champagne that has been resting in my wine rack since 2005.  It is a remnant of one of my formerly annual coach trips to the continent which usually occurred in early November around the time of my birthday.  In 2005 we visited the historic town of Rheims and one of the excursions was to Maison Ruinart.

Maison Ruinart was established in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart and is the oldest established champagne house.  We were taken on a tour of the cellars and were told of the fine art of producing champagne.    As the wine ferments and matures it is housed in underground “Crayères”.  These are chalk tunnels from former Gallo-Roman chalk quarries underneath the city of Rheims that were acquired by Ruinart in 1768.  Their depth is up to 38 metres and there are 8 kilometres of galleries on three levels.  The Crayères offer the benefits of a stable temperature, no vibrations and perfect humidity to allow the wine to ferment and slowly mature.  The wine bottles are painstakingly turned a quarter of a turn periodically by hand.

The tour ended with a generous tasting of three different types of Ruinart champagne.  I was particularly taken with their Rose champagne, so I indulged and came away with two bottles.  One was opened on Christmas day that year and the other was saved for a special occasion.  The last few years have had their ups and downs so those special occasions didn’t happen in the way they perhaps should have.  My becoming a lady of a certain age, last November would have been the perfect occasion but due to being away in Bruges I completely forgot about the champagne.

I know our time zones are all different so midnight will bring in the New Year at different times for each of us but what better occasion than tonight, ‘New Years Eve’, to crack the bottle open as midnight turns in the UK.   I will raise my glass to friends, old and new, and of course not forgetting absent friends.

CHEERS!!  I raise my glass to you.  Thank you for sharing life’s journey with me, I hope that any troubles from 2011 will fade into distant memory and I wish you, your family and friends a happy, healthy and peaceful 2012.