We will remember them
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