We will re­mem­ber them

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - LETTERS -

I started do­ing fam­ily re­search af­ter watch­ing the WDYTYA? episode with Robert Lind­say. His grand­fa­ther fer­ried sol­diers from the war­ships to the shore at Gal­lipoli. My grand­fa­ther was one of those sol­diers in one of those boats.

Early in 2015 I was shown an old black and white photo by the son of a friend of mine. It was a First World War Scot­tish sol­dier in dress uni­form with tar­tan trews and a Glen­garry cap. His gran had given him the photo. She had found it many years pre­vi­ously in her mother’s house af­ter she had passed away and thought it might have been her fa­ther who had passed away ear­lier.

My job was to iden­tify the sol­dier from a photo and a pos­si­ble name, which was luck­ily quite un­usual. His en­list­ment record had not sur­vived the Blitz but the Medal Record Card was avail­able and it said that he was a mo­torised trans­port driver in the Army Ser­vice Corps. This was a break­through as the ASC wore stan­dard Bri­tish Army uni­form – not the trews and Glen­garry of a Scot­tish reg­i­ment. So the name I had been given could not be the sol­dier in the photo. By now it was March 2015 and the e WDYTYA? Live show was com­ing up so I headed for Birm­ing­ham with the photo. And that’s where e the next break­throughs hap­pened. First, I showed the photo to the First World War ex­perts and the opin­ion was that t the cap badge in the photo was High­land Light In­fantry. On the last day of the show, I at­tended a talk on ge­neal­ogy brick walls. The main thing I took from that talk was not to as­sume that in­for­ma­tion was un­avail­able, just be­cause it wasn’t on­line.

The next day I went to the Mitchell Li­brary in Glas­gow. Who­ever kept that photo must have been close to the sol­dier, so I worked up a fam­ily his­tory from the records and worked out that it wasn’t Alexan­der’s gran’s fa­ther – it was her un­cle. I found a High­land Light In­fantry sol­dier who had been killed in ac­tion at the Somme in Septem­ber 1916. I was pretty sure I had the right man but I had to be ab­so­lutely sure be­fore I went to the fam­ily. And that’s where the tip from the WDYTYA? Live talk kicked in – don’t rely on on­line records as your only source of in­for­ma­tion.

I knew where the sol­dier was born so I went to the li­brary there and asked if they had news­pa­per ar­chives for the First World War. They did, and I started trawl­ing through mi­cro­fiche. It took a while and then up came a page with a pho­to­graph of a sol­dier killed in ac­tion at the Somme in Septem­ber 1916, it was the sol­dier in the orig­i­nal pho­to­graph. The ar­ti­cle gave the name and ad­dress of his mother, which tied in with the 1911 cen­sus records I had found at the Mitchell Li­brary.

I passed on all that I had learned to the fam­ily. It was an emo­tional meet­ing, but I’d never have got there with­out the in­for­ma­tion that I picked up at the WDYTYA? show.

RIP Pri­vate Wal­ter Pater­son. Jim Thom­son, by email Ed­i­tor replies: Your help­ful­ness and per­se­ver­ance de­serves our star let­ter prize this month. I hope you can make it to WDYTYA? Live again next April. It feels par­tic­u­larly fit­ting to re­mem­ber Pri­vate Wal­ter Pater­son in Novem­ber.

The pho­to­graph that sent Jim on his fas­ci­nat­ing quest for the truth

JimJi got t use­fulf ld ad­vi­cei fromf theth mil­i­taryilit pho­toh t ex­perts at WDYTYA? Live in Birm­ing­ham

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