News / Ask the expert – lost in World War One

Ask the expert – lost in World War One

30 November, 2009

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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  • Ann Bryan

    Tommy Venables is noted as being buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery aged 20/22. If Irene Googles Toxteth Park Cemetery, she will be taken to the sitr where she will be able to type in the surname and scroll down to the bottom of the list where she will find him.

    • Pauline Neil

      Irene might also like to consult the WW1 Service Records. After being stuck for a long time on my great-uncle who died 1918 and is buried locally with a CWGC memorial, but not being able to find his death certificate, I found his service records. What an absolute mine of information – including where he died, cause of death, medical history, those present at the death, etc.

  • Tony Harris

    The answers and comments are very useful, although the Service Records mentioned in Pauline’s note can be sketchy. My father’s (possible) record was a one-liner which did not establish any identity – but he did survive, I’m glad to say.

    Thanks, FMP, for this service.

    • Jean Peall

      I have found that not even the war records are totally accurate. I looked up my mother-in-law’s brother who died in WW2 and found that his parents were named incorrectly. We knew we had the right person because my mother-in-law had remembered his service number and his wife was also named.

  • Margaret Harrison

    My first thought on “killed at home” was that he was killed in the Easter Rising in Dublin. This was known as The Home Front. It took place on Easter Monday 1916. My grandmothers cousin was killed then. His army records say he was killed in the “Home Campaign”

  • Roger Knight

    I have 3 family members who were in WW1 – how do I find their service record number so that I can trace their military service ? My grandfather Thomas William BROWN was killed 26 Aug 1918 and I have a record of his last action but what happened to his brother Charles Brown, born Sudbury, near Wembley, London 1888. I have letters from Tom talking about Charlie who was also in France and one that mentions his death but cannot find any record because I do not have his Army record number. Similarly my Great Uncle, Sergeant Albert John KNIGHT, born Portfield, Sussex June qtr 1876 what is his record number ? He appears in the 1911 census posted with 87com Royal Garrison Artillery, Stonecultures Island, Hong Kong and with his wife, Flora and 4 children. Also my Grandfather William Richard KNIGHT, born Portfield, Sussex, March 20, 1883 who served with the Army Military Police from 1916 to 1919 in Egypt, Salonika & Greece but again how do I trace his service record without his number ? Please advise how I go about finding their sevice records, many thanks, regards, Roger Knight

  • Gill Ping

    A family history website is a good way of finding missing information and relatives too. Thomas Venables is also my husband’s great uncle. His death certificate states that he died on the 18th Nov 1916 in the River Mersey. His body was found in the Sandon Half Tide Dock on Feb 15 1917. Death was by drowning, with insufficient evidence to show how he got into the water. There was an inquest held on the 16th Feb 1917, so the Coroner’s report must be our next port of call. How do we get hold of that please? Hello Irene!

    • Ros Batchelor

      I would not be too optimistic about finding Coroners Reports. When researching a number of deaths in my family in Lancashire which involved inquests, I was told that the Coroners court records had been destroyed. We found lots of information in local papers which reported nearly verbatim, but there may not have been local papers in many areas in the early 19th century.

  • lisa

    I have glass 3d positive slides of world war 1. i am looking to sell them but dont know where to bring them. please help me out

  • http://N/A Raymond Smith

    Good day i recently given a ww1 or 2 Bomb caseing i was wondering if you shed some light on it orighns an maybe it’s value

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