Your Grandfather’s War.
Just the sepia photo?
Just a few dusty medals in a box?
‘Yes, grandfather did fight in The First World War but he didn’t say a lot about it.’
Newly released Great War personnel documents have resulted in much interest and excitement in the families of infantry soldiers who fought on the Western Front. These families know that grandfather went to war but many have limited knowledge of where he fought, the hardships he experienced, and if he died - then where, when, how? They want to learn about his war.
Is the sepia photo your only memory of your Great War hero?
Using these new records alongside the numerous existing ones when coupled with my many years of research experience means that I can bring your grandfather’s story to life for you today and for you to pass on to tomorrow’s generations.
Over the years it has been a privilege and an enjoyment for me to have undertaken researches for numerous families whose relatives have been of all ranks, have fought, have survived, have fallen, and maybe have won gallantry awards.
Let me research for you.
Recent family research projects include:
- Piper Whitehead who joined up at the outbreak of war in 1914 and was demobilised in 1919. Yes- how unusual, that a vulnerable piper should survive the whole of the war. He served unscathed with the Cameron Highlanders fighting in all their major battles, piping the men over the top missing the bullets and the shells.
- Solicitor Ealand who left behind his wife and children to volunteer to drive an ambulance for a private military hospital in Le Touquet. He then joined the newly created Royal Air Force in 1918 only to be killed at Dunkirk on a training flight. I discovered his crash site to which I took his family; we then offered our respects at his grave in Dunkirk Town Cemetery on a remembrance tour.
- Three officer brothers -in- law serving in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who each won a Military Cross. They survived the war and went onto serve in WW2. What action they saw. It’s all in the family’s eighty page report.
- Private Wright, 1st battalion Middlesex Regiment ( ‘The Diehards’), who went to France at the outbreak of war in August 1914, fought in the first battles of WW1 at Mons, Le Cateau, participated in the great retreat , fought at Nery and witnessed the start of the construction of the trench system near to the River Marne. He fought throughout the war and was demobilised in 1919. His son and grandsons today are so very proud of the record of his service for king and country.
With the use of digitised trench maps and war diaries today it is often possible to identify where grandfather went over the top, where his gallantry award was won, or sadly where he or his best mate fell. Research will also tell of the tedious, hum drum aspect of his war, the endless work parties and the fear of the stray German gas or explosive shell landing in his trench with ‘2 Lt Jones wounded; 2 OR killed’ recorded that day in the war diary.
Trench map showing where Pt Victor Saints of South Lancs Regiment went over the top and was killed at Thiepval during the Battle of The Somme, July 1916.
He lies in the Connaught CWGC with eleven members from his D company killed alongside him that morning.
So many more soldiers’ stories I’ve unearthed, so many stones lifted, so many actions which the relatives were not aware of. The sepia photos have now been moved to a place of pride at home with the medals now eye catchingly positioned along side.
How I undertake my research:
1. I will ask you to send me any information you currently have about your soldier. See ‘Requirements’ below.
2. I will explore the relevant, necessary and available sources including: medal rolls, index cards, pension records, service records, Official History, war diaries, battalion histories, London Gazette, gallantry medal citations, prisoner of war records, Western Front trench maps, casualty lists, masonic records, digitised local newspapers, Army Lists, civilian records, Rolls of Honour, CWGC burial and memorialisation records, and other records to enable me to build up as full a military picture of your relative as I can. Most of my work is desk research but there may be a need to visit The National Archives when investigating officers’ histories or to view war diaries present there which have not been digitised. There may be some records that have been destroyed and are unavailable.
3. This information is composed into a bespoke narrative in electronic format and could include photos, maps and diagrams.
4. I will let you know when this document is ready for transmission to you and request my fee. Once funds have been cleared I will email the report to you. A bound hard copy, and/or memory stick, can be produced and posted for which I will give you a separate cost.
Requirements - your help
Information that may be currently in your family can aid my research. Please let me have details of any of the following which you may have:
Your relative’s full name
Date of birth
Date of death
His service number
Any campaign/gallantry medals
Any thing else that you think might help
For undertaking conscientious research of your relative incorporating the above relevant sources and then the composing of a narrative report: £75.
Where it is necessary to visit and research records that have not been digitised, such as officers’ histories and some war diaries, at The National Archives then one additional fee of £60/soldier will apply. Payment in sterling please and preferably by bank transfer.
I will aim to complete your research within 28 days but, should it be likely to take longer, I will let you know.
Your Next Step
Please contact me with as much information that you have of your relative. On acknowledged receipt, our contract commences and I will start the research.
Barrie Friend MBA MA ( First World War Studies)
Member of The Western Front Association and of The International Guild of Battle Field Guides.
Please use the contact form on the website or call me on 07796 633 516.