Blog28 Mar 2012
Our resident military expert Paul Nixon, pictured below, offers advice on how to solve your military family history mysteries.
From Martyn Newell:
‘James William Jeffs was born in 1884/86 in Hackney. He enlisted in the army in 1904 and served for seven years. In the 1911 census his occupation was ‘gas stoker’ and he lived at an address in East Ham. In 1914 he was recalled to the 2nd Battalion the Border Regiment as a reservist at the outbreak of the Great War.
He saw plenty of action before suffering with trench foot in the winter of 1914/15 and he was wounded – a gunshot wound to the arm – in the battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915. He was sent home to recover before returning to join the 1st Border Regiment at the start of April 1916 on the Somme. He was killed on 6 April 1916 in a German bombardment that preceded a trench raid on the British front line. He was buried in the nearest location to where he fell and he lies with 12 other men of his unit in Auchnonvillers Communal Cemetery.
My question: the family have never found a photograph of James William Jeffs, although older family members said that one did exist. We wonder where we could look for a photo and how to go about it. We have made contact with people who have actually bought the house next to the cemetery where the soldiers are buried in France and they do battlefield tours – they would like to keep the memory of James and his unit alive and a photo would help them too. I have never found an entire military record for Private 7340 JW Jeffs to fill a few gaps that the family have, so any help would be fantastic.’
‘You have a great of information about this man already so you’re doing well! You may well have tried these potential sources but if you haven’t done so, now’s the time to tick these off:
- Post this self-same query on the Great War Forum and the Border Regiment forum
- Check the local newspaper/s for East Ham between 1914 and 1916. Newspapers are a greatly overlooked resource and while some are already online – and indeed brightsolid, findmypast.co.uk’s parent company, has a huge ongoing project with the British Library, the British Newspaper Archive – the majority are not. Check with Newham Archives to see if they hold copies on film, firstname.lastname@example.org, and check with the British Newspaper Library
- Drop a line to the East of London Family History Society
- Find Living Relatives on findmypast.co.uk
- Consider looking at the photographic archive held by the Imperial War Museum in London and the Border Regiment Museum
Finally, start a blog and write about your relative; get some information online and let the search engines do the rest. You may be surprised at how many people contact you.’
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