Tag Archives: world war one

Finding Frank: who lived at 2 Oxford Place, Brighton, Sussex?

15 Nov

One of the few pieces of information I was able to gather about the Frank TROWER whose name is recorded on the Brighton War Memorial was that Frank was the brother of J TROWER of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton.

Apart from his age and date of death this is the only other piece of genealogical evidence that I have to try place Frank within my family tree, but frustratingly I have been unable to tie the address to any of the TROWER family.

Last Saturday I made a quick visit to Brighton History Centre and tried to get some more information on who was living at 2 Oxford Place. Every piece of evidence I looked at points to the residents being the BROWN family without a trace of TROWER anywhere.

I had previously found the BROWNs living at 2 Oxford Place in the 1911 census, with a widowed Jane as the head of the household living with daughter Annie and sons Percy and Albert Ernest.

The Brighton directories I checked covering the period just before the First World War through to the end of the First World War all gave Miss A Brown as living there, as did the 1918 Voters List. Not a TROWER in sight.

I know directories are notoriously inaccurate but the consistency across all the sources suggests that it was the BROWN family that were resident at 2 Oxford Place and not the TROWERs. I suspect that the evidence from the CWGC website is correct, J TROWER did live there, but only as a lodger and as such make it into any of the records.

There is a possibility the there was a family connection between the BROWNs and the TROWERs. Jane is almost certainly too old to be the sister of Frank, even if she had started out as a TROWER.

There are of course other records that might give an address for J TROWER regardless of whether he was a property owner or lodger. A marriage certificate or perhaps the birth or baptism record for a child should give a specific address. This would be costly and I wouldn’t know where to start, assuming that the J TROWER at 2 Oxford Place did in fact get married and have children.

Of course there could be an employment record somewhere. Perhaps he worked for the Post Office or the railway, or maybe a military service record somewhere that would have an address, but that really would be searching for a needle in a haystack, if not in a field full of haystacks.

Finding Frank: his death certificate

27 Oct

One of the key pieces of information missing from the limited information available about the F TROWER recorded on the Brighton War Memorial was how old he was when he died.

It was fairly obvious that in the absence of helpful genealogical information (other than the name and address of his brother) that finding out when he was born was going to be especially crucial if I was going to place him in my family tree.

The most obvious way of finding this out was to order a copy of his death certificate. Yes, you can get death certificates for men who died during the First World War, they are not that different from a normal death certificate and can be ordered from the GRO website in a similar manner and for the same cost.

They don’t tell you a great deal more than what is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and in Soldiers Died in the Great War, but in my case Frank’s age was missing from both of these sources.

For Frank the following information was recorded, and as you can see there wasn’t really any new information other than his age:

Rgtl. or Army number: G/15980
Rank: Pte.
Name in Full (Surname First): TROWER Frank (13th Bn.)
Age: 36
Country of Birth: England
Date of Death: 19:6:1917
Place of Death: France
Cause of Death: Killed in action

So Frank was 36 years old when he died on the 19th June 1917, which in theory means that he was born between the 20th June 1880 (if he died on the day before his 37th birthday) and the 19th June 1881 (if he died on his 36th birthday) if my maths is correct. This fits quite nicely with the census information that I have which starts with a one year old Frank in 1881.

Unfortunately this doesn’t fits quite so well with the most likely Frank TROWER in the GRO Birth Indexes. The most promising match is a birth registered in Steyning Registration District (which included the parish of Hove) in Q4 1879. The next registration in the index is also in Steyning Registration District, but in Q2 1883 which is perhaps a little too late.

So although I have a good match with the census information, I don’t have a good match for his birth registration. I am not sure whether this is really a problem or not, we have to accept that things don’t always tie-up quite as neatly as we would like sometimes.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Finding Frank: some census searching

18 Oct

Based on what little information I could glean from military records I have been searching the 1911 census to see if I can find any likely candidates for the Frank TROWER whose sacrifice is remembered on the Brighton War Memorial.

The 1911 census on findmypast.co.uk only brings up four Frank TROWERs in Sussex, two of which are children and can probably be ruled out at this stage (one would have been only ten in 1917 when Frank died and the other fifteen).

This leaves us with two possibilities, one of whom is already in my family tree whilst the other isn’t. According to the 1911 census they are both the same age (29 years) although further research would suggest that there is about three years age difference between them.

One of the pieces of information I was able to gather was that Frank was the brother of J TROWER of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton. I checked 2 Oxford Place and there were no TROWERs living there in 1911, so this is not a great deal of help in my search. I need to fast forward a few years with some directories and see who was living there in 1917.

The other thing that is not a great help in my search is that both of the Frank TROWERs I am looking at were brothers of a J TROWER, one a Joseph Charles TROWER and the other a Jane Elizabeth TROWER. I haven’t established whether Jane had married before the First World War, in which case she probably wouldn’t be a TROWER any more, that is something else I need to do.

There is one distinguishing factor between the two Franks in the 1911 census and that is that one is married and the other isn’t. I think it likely that the Frank I am looking for is the unmarried one, otherwise there would have been some mention of his widow, rather than a brother in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.

The unmarried Frank is the one who is not in my family tree but it didn’t take long to place him, by working back through the census it seems that he was the grandson of George TROWER who is in my family tree (according to my software he is my 1st cousin 5 times removed, but that doesn’t sound quite rigth). I never really did much work on George and his wife Mary because they are on the extremes of my family tree, but this is a perfect excuse to extend that branch a little further.

I still can’t say for certain that this is the correct Frank TROWER, there are two things I would like to confirm before I make that assumption. Firstly how old was Frank when he died and secondly which J TROWER was living at 2 Oxford Place?

Finding Frank: some basic information

13 Oct

Although the Brighton War Memorial simply records him as F TROWER the Roll of Honour website has  identified him as Frank TROWER, and this does seem to be a reasonable assumption based on the available evidence, which it has to be said is pretty limited.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website only has two entries for an F TROWER, one of whom is named Fred Edward TROWER and is buried in Norfolk, which makes him an unlikely candidate for a man on the Brighton War Memorial, so it seems like the other one must be my man.

According to the website F TROWER was a Private in the 13th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (regimental number G/15980). He died on the 19th June 1917 and is buried at the Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery in Belgium.

As far as genealogical information goes details are sparse. One critical piece of evidence is missing and that is his age. What we do have instead is the fact that he was the brother of J. Trower of 2 Oxford Place, Brighton”.

The first name of Frank is given in Soldiers Died in the Great War, which also gives a couple of other scraps of information, namely that he was born in Hove and also enlisted in Hove, but it doesn’t really add a lot to the story other than that he was Killed in Action. I am certain this is the same man because the service number, regiment and battalion all match up.

His medal index card adds a little bit more to the story, with the addition of a previous regimental number (3719) and an indication that he had probably served in a different battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment before joining the 13th Battalion. He received the British War Medal and Victory Medal, but there is no further details of where these were sent or even that he died.

Unfortunately his service record doesn’t seem to have survived, that would have answered a lot of questions, so initially that is pretty much all I have to go on. I can dig a little deeper into military records and try to uncover some more details, for instance the actual medal roll to which the index card refers may tell me which battalion he was with before joining the 13th Battalion. It would also be interesting to check the war diary for the 13th battalion to find out what they were up to and it might be worth a search of the local newspaper, although this would be rather time-consuming.

As for finding out if and how he is related to me, the biggest clue I have is the details of his brother. I need to try to find out what the J stood for, and hopefully the address of 2 Oxford Place should help me do this if I can lay my hands on a street directory of the time.

I would really like to find out how old he was when he died, otherwise I am never really going to be 100% certain that I have the right man, and I guess I am going to need a death certificate for that.

For now though I can start my search in the 1911 census, hopefully I can find a J and Frank TROWER who are siblings or a J TROWER living at 2 Oxford Place, Brighton.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Remembrance: Ernest Arthur TROWER (part three)

10 Nov

Ernest Arthur TROWER (small)This handsome looking young man is my 2x great-uncle Ernest Arthur TROWER. He was the son of Ebenezer and Annie TROWER, who was born in Sayers Common, Sussex in 1895. He was baptised in the parish church at Sayers Common on the 13th October 1895. His life was tragically cut short when he was killed in action in France on the 23rd September 1917, aged 22 years old.

With such a shortage of official information on the military service of Ernest I had to seek the smallest of clues wherever I could find them, including any surviving family documents. Fortunately there were two items which provided further information, which may seem quite trivial, but anything might help in the search to learn more.

The first is the picture at the top left of this post. The front of the photo gives us some collaborating evidence about his regiment, the badge of his left shoulder (you won’t be able to make it out even if you click on the photo to enlarge it, you’ll just have to take my word for it) reads CYCLIST. In this case however the back of the photo is more helpful. Although the photo was actually printed with a postcard back, it was obviously never used as such.

Ernest Arthur TROWER (reverse)

I suspect the handwriting is that of Ernest’s brother Percy, and the information contained matches with what is already known from other records, with the exception of one piece which doesn’t appear to be recorded elsewhere. The item in question is the fact that Ernest was in ‘C’ Company. This may seem trivial, but from reading the battalion war diary it is clear that the different companies were engaged in different activities on the 23rd September 1917 when Ernest was killed.

Another possible avenue of research comes from the details on the left hand edge of the card. It may be worth trying to find out if any records survive from the photographer, W. Dennis Moss of Cirencester, possibly (but very unlikely) some of his records may have survived and by checking the number 2492 I might be able to find out when Ernest was in Cirencester getting his photo taken.

The second piece of evidence is another postcard, this was sent by Ernest to his sister Mabel. Given that the subject of the card is a view of the village of Chiseldon, and although the postmark is not complete it was probably sent from Chiseldon Camp in Wiltshire. Fortunately the date on the postmark is clearer, 22nd October 1916. Given that the Army Cyclist Corps trained at Chiseldon Camp, it seems quite likely that Ernest was still in training on the 22nd October 1916.

Chiseldon (back)

The message itself reads: Dearest Mabel. Thanks for letter, sorry you could not get home I had a grand time, excuse p. card but have got behind with letter writing, so will write when I get time, they are very well at home. Edie got off all the time I was home with love. From Ernest. Edie was another sister, and home was presumably the family home at Sayers Common, Sussex.

So I have a couple of other clues, not much to go on, but at least I know that Ernest was still in England on the 22nd October 1916, and this may help identify when he actually joined the Durham Light Infantry over in France or Belgium.

See Also:

Remembrance: Ernest Arthur TROWER (part one)

8 Nov

Ernest Arthur TROWER (small)This handsome looking young man is my 2x great-uncle Ernest Arthur TROWER. He was the son of Ebenezer and Annie TROWER, who was born in Sayers Common, Sussex in 1895. He was baptised in the parish church at Sayers Common on the 13th October 1895. His life was tragically cut short when he was killed in action in France on the 23rd September 1917, aged 22 years old.

I first became aware of Ernest Arthur TROWER many years before my interest in family history began. Before family history and local history one of my interests was military history and militaria. My father encouraged this interest by giving me various items, some with family connections and some without.

One of these items was a memorial plaque for Ernest Arthur TROWER. Whilst I knew the significance of the memorial plaque I had very little concept of family history beyond first cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. So I didn’t actually know who Ernest was and how he was related to me.

E A TROWER memorial plaque

As well as the memorial plaque I was also given the medals which Ernest had been awarded. These gave me the first clues to Ernest’s military service, inscribed on the edge of each medal is 52700 PTE. E. A. TROWER. DURH. L. I.

E A TROWER medals

I knew that the information was his service number, rank, name and regiment, but this was in the days before widespread internet access, in fact probably even before I had ever seen a computer in real life. I had no idea where I could find out more about Ernest, no idea of the existence of medal index cards, service records or any of the records and publications that I take for granted these days.

I knew DURH. L. I. was the Durham Light Infantry, which is probably why there is a Durham Light Infantry cap badge in my collection. The medals are not in brilliant condition, they have obviously been kept on display as the colour of the ribbons has faded quite a bit. I would imagine that they once formed part of display or shrine in memory of Ernest Arthur TROWER.

See Also:

British Army WW1 Service Records now complete on Ancestry.co.uk

6 Nov

Yesterday Ancestry.co.uk announced the completion of the British Army WW1 Service Records. Records relating for surnames from A to N were previously available on the website, but now the collection is complete.

These records are known as the “burnt documents” because 60% of the original records were destroyed by enemy action during the Second World War. Previously they were only available to view on microfilm at the National Archives (series WO363).

The contents of each service record varies greatly, as does the legibility of some of the pages, many of which show clear signs of fire damage. According to Ancestry the service records “contain a variety of information concerning all aspects of the army careers of those who completed their duty or were either killed in action or executed, including the soldier’s name, date and place of birth, address, next-of-kin, former occupation, marital status, medical records, service history, regiment number, locations of service and discharge papers“.

It is not just military service information that you can find in these records, it was in the service record of William James GASSON that I first discovered that his father (and my 2x great-grandfather) George Thomas GASSON had been admitted to a lunatic asylum.

I had a quick look last night, and it looks like the only close relation is William Henry TROWER (my 1st cousin 3 times removed) and their doesn’t seem to be anything unusual contained within his documents. I am sure other relations will come to light once I carry out a more thorough search.

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