Our experts unravel your riddles
QMy grandfather, Walter Henry Howell was born in Westminster on 4 March 1899, and lived in Pimlico in 1911. According to one of my uncles (now deceased), he served on the Somme – although I can’t prove this. His occupation on my father’s 1921 birth certificate is ‘General Labourer ( Ex Army)’.
I have a Medal Record Card for a Walter H Howell (which also shows ‘Labour Corps’). How do I prove this is my grandfather? Bryan Howell, by email
AThe Medal Card is for a Walter ‘H’ Howell, so firstly we should check the middle name. Though these don’t always appear on the Medal Index Cards (available online at Ancestry and TheGenealogist), when you search the Medal Rolls at The National Archives it definitely shows it’s the card for Walter Henry Howell. It also confirms he served with the Royal Fusiliers (RF), regimental number of 77057, before serving in the Labour Corps.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your grandfather though. The 1911 census lists three Walter Henry Howells who can’t be totally ruled out as they’re within the right age range; it’ ’s also possible WalterW might h ave enlisted u nder just his fi rst name. I doubtd the fact he wasw later a generalg labourer iss relevant to his armya service.
The medal rollr for the card you’vey found doesn’td say which RF battalion the man served with, so I’ve done some research on Findmypast. Using the search terms ‘Royal Fusiliers’, and the number 770* it’s possible to find service records for three soldiers whose numbers are close to 77057. They’re Frank Pursell, 77074; Sydney Harold West, 77032; and Frederick Cecil Yeates, 77040. All were born in 1899, conscripted in July 1917, trained with 102 Training Reserve Battalion, transferred to 209th Infantry Battalion in November and posted to J Depot (at Etaples) on 6 April 1918, then to 24th battalion, RF, on 8 April 1918.
As Walter Henry Howell sits neatly between these men, it looks like he was part of a group conscripted and trained together and posted to the same battalion from the Base Depot. Given you think he served on The Somme, the 24th RF were part of 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, which had been fighting almost continuously since March against the massive German Somme offensive and suffered huge casualties. They fought in later Somme battles in August and September.
The Labour Corps number (655755) is very high, suggesting he transferred to them very late, possibly after being injured. All of this presupposes it is actually your grandfather; this we may never know for certain. Does anyone in the family have a photo or more information? Phil Tomaselli
Walter Henry Howell’s Medal Card. But is this Bryan’s ancestor who served on the Somme?
Walter Henry Howell, Bryan’s grandfather, and family