When Britain entered World War I in August 1914, William Henton was a young man of 23, newly married and with an infant son, living in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. With newspapers publishing appeals to join the armed services, hundreds of thousands of men joined within just a few months, and William was one of them. On 4 September 1914, William joined the ranks of the South Lancashire Regiment, 7th Battalion.
As I read through William’s service record, I was surprised to read that within 5 months of his attestation, having never left the country, he was discharged as medically unfit.… Continue reading
There are many men in my family tree named Benjamin Clarke. The one I’m writing about now is my great-uncle Benjamin, born 25 July 1879 in Palgrave, Suffolk. He was the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather, Hugh James Clarke, who I have written about previously.
When I began researching my family history, I was told that Benjamin had lost a leg in the Boer War. As with many family stories, this one had some truth to it, but was not entirely accurate. Benjamin did serve in the Boer War, and he did lose a leg, but not in the Boer War.… Continue reading
Do you have a British ancestor who suddenly seems to have vanished? If he worked on the seas, or perhaps even if he did not, he may have been pressed into service by the Royal Navy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Royal Navy used press gangs, as they were commonly known, to forcibly seize sailors, both from other vessels while at sea, and from docks, pubs, and homes while ashore.
Why did the navy’s impress service employ such tactics? During times of war, there was a need for greater recruitment for the navy. Legislation allowed for both voluntary enlistment and forcible service.… Continue reading
Not all service records from WWI survive. Of those that do survive, some are available for free. For example, those for Canada are currently being digitised and placed online by Library and Archives Canada. Fire destroyed some of the service records for the United Kingdom; those that remain are available through subscription websites such as Ancestry and findmypast. Fire was also responsible for the loss of many service records in the United States.
Fortunately, many towns, counties, schools, and companies created biographical directories to honour those who served in WWI. Local libraries often hold some of these in their collections.… Continue reading