Tag Archives: first world war

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.

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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.

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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.

Ambrose DRIVER and the day Sussex died

17 Aug

Today I was doing some sorting out of the photos I took last May over at Framfield, Sussex. I have been meaning to get all the gravestones sorted out, transcribed and where possible integrated into Family Historian. As I was separating the gravestone photos from general photos of the church and churchyard I took a closer look at the war memorial inside the church.

Framfield War Memorial (inside the church)

Framfield War Memorial (inside the church)

I hadn’t really paid much attention to it before, I think I checked for HEMSLEYs when I was there but there weren’t any, as I looked down the list I noticed the name Ambrose DRIVER. That name rang a bell and I was certain he was in my family tree.

I checked my family tree and sure enough I had an Ambrose DRIVER, my 2x great uncle. I checked the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and there he was at the top of the search results, and he was listed as the son of Thomas and Ellen DRIVER my 2x great grandparents. No doubt about it.

I did the usual searches on ancestry.co.uk for a medal roll index card, service record and Soldiers Died in the Great War, picking up bits and pieces here and there. There appears to be no surviving service record (which is not surprising) but I now have a basic outline of his details, and perhaps I can find more with a search in the local newspapers. The Royal Sussex Living History Group website even has a photo of Ambrose’s gravestone at Bethune Town Cemetery, which is not really a substitute for going and visiting in person, but is probably the closest I will get for the time being.

Not only that but I also have a pretty good idea of the action in which he was wounded and which lead to his death. It appears the he would have been part of the Battle of the Boar’s Head on the 30th June 1916. This little known action has been overshadowed by the Battle of the Somme, but it became known as “the day Sussex died” because of the huge loss of life amongst the three battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment that were involved.

His battalion’s war diary is available online through The National Archives DocumentsOnline service, so I will probably be downloading a copy of that shortly, as well as checking in my local library for the regimental history.

In those famous words, whether it is in a church on Armistice Day, at a cemetery in some foreign field, in our hearts or in our family trees, “we will remember them”.

Framfield War Memorial

Framfield War Memorial

Work begins at Fromelles to recover the remains of WW1 soldiers

5 May

The BBC news website today features several reports on the work beginning near the French village of Fromelles to recover the bodies of hundreds of Australian and British soldiers killed during the First World War.

There are several videos showing the ceremony marking the beginning of the excavation work, following trial excavations last year which confirmed the presence of human remains.

After examination the remains will be carefully stored until they can be re-buried in individual graves in a newly built Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, to be known as the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. There is a very detailed Questions and Answers section on the CWGC’s remembering fromelles website concerning the plans for the new cemetery and the excavation itself.

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