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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

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