News / Ask the expert – lost in World War One

Ask the expert – lost in World War One

Our expert Stephen Rigden answers your questions:

‘My great uncle Tommy Venables was a private in the Cheshire regiment in the First World War. It was stated that he was ‘killed at home’ in November 1916, but no explanation is given, although we believe he drowned. Where can we go to clarify what happened?’ Irene Hartless

Steve says: “Soldiers Died in the Great War shows that Private Thomas Venables died at “Home”. Where the theatre of war is given as “Home”, this usually means that the soldier died either while serving within the UK (for example, in a reserve battalion or in a home service garrison), or else died back in UK of wounds sustained overseas without having been discharged from the army.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website shows that he was buried in Toxteth Park Cemetery. If you have not already visited the memorial there, it is worth doing so in case a headstone gives more detail: however, it has to be said that this is unlikely unless the family met the cost (CWGC headstones are purposely standardised in design). The simplest way to find out the cause of death for a “Home” theatre of war casualty is to purchase a copy of the death certificate using the usual General Register Office (GRO) civil death indexes. Private Venables’ death appears to have been registered in the West Derby district in the March quarter of 1917. This delay (when registration would have been expected in the December quarter of 1916) may indicate that there was an inquest, which would be consistent with accidental death, such as drowning, which would require a coroner’s report. You can buy a copy of the death certificate for £7 online from the GRO’s website or, if you live in Merseyside, you could visit in person the register office, which is located in Liverpool’s Cotton Exchange. The certificate may point you to a coroner’s report (if there was one: try Merseyside Record Office) and that, together with local newspapers, may fill in the background.”

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