Family link to cover
The cover of August’s WDYTYA? Magazine was of great interest to me. I recognised the photograph of the young girls standing at a graveside as being part of a series of images that related to the burials of victims of the Folkestone air raid of 25 May 1917.
A single bomb that dropped on Tontine Street accounted for 71 deaths [The reported number of deaths ranges from 61 to 71]. My mother, who was aged three at the time, survived the bomb blast although her brother Ernie McGuire, aged six, and my grandmother Charlotte, were injured. Ernie died shortly afterwards from his wounds.
The series of images was formerly part of the Hulton photograph archive but are now owned by Getty Images. One of the photos on Getty’s website is the rather grim image of the burial of a small child (shown above right). The photograph is dated 29 May 1917, which is the same day that Ernie McGuire was buried, so I felt compelled to investigate further.
The location of the grave in the photo certainly looks similar to that of Ernie’s. One of the mourners, the short lady on the right of the picture, has some resemblance to my grandmother, too. Unfortunately, I could not make a positive identification due to the veil obscuring her face. The taller lady to her left could possibly have been my great grandmother as there is also some resemblance. I tried to focus in on the message on the wreath and on the paper held in the left hand of the shorter lady. I could just about make out what looks like writing, but the detail remains elusive.
My next step was to contact the local council to check the burial records for the cemetery in Folkestone where he was buried for 29 May 1917.
The records show that there was only one child buried that day and that it was Ernie McGuire. So, given the date of the image, the size of the coffin, and the apparent location within the cemetery, I can only conclude that it must be the burial of my mother’s brother portrayed in the photograph.
In total, there were 96 victims of the Folkestone air raid. Hopefully, as we approach its centenary, further information will emerge, which will add to our knowledge of this relatively little-known event. Richard Willcocks, by email Editor replies: It is good to be reminded that the images we use in the magazine are of real people with real family stories. Thank you for sharing this with us Richard and well done with your detective work.
Richard Willcocks believes this photo shows the burial of Ernie McGuire following his death in the Folkestone air raid