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Is it pos­si­ble for some­one not to have a death cer­tifi­cate?

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - READER STORY -

QMy friend Roy Tubb, a lo­cal his­to­rian, is re­search­ing the bomb­ing of Thatcham.

Ver­non Watkins Urquhart was the lieu­tenant colonel in charge of the lo­cal or­di­nance de­pot in Thatcham (now a hous­ing es­tate). He was killed by a bomb in 1940 when he was in the front gar­den of his house, near to the en­trance of the de­pot dur­ing the Se­cond World War (his wife sur­vived). The bomb­ing ap­peared in the New­bury Weekly News, but not Urquhart by name. To­day there is a road in the de­pot named af­ter him, he is listed in the UK Army Roll of Hon­our, on the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion web­site and in Shaw Ceme­tery records, and Roy has even vis­ited the grave. He has pro­bate records but is not listed on freeBMD or in the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter Of­fice records, and New­bury Reg­is­ter Of­fice has no record of his death.

Are mil­i­tary deaths held in a dif­fer­ent data­base or could it be that his wife thought the army would reg­is­ter his death and the army thought she would do it? David Clow, by email

AThe rules of regis­tra­tion in Eng­land and Wales are clear that any deaths oc­cur­ring in the area should be reg­is­tered by the regis­trar of the rel­e­vant district – that sug­gests that this death should be in the reg­is­ters of the New­bury Regis­tra­tion District, which cov­ered the Thatcham area at the time. But in the case of Lieu­tenant Colonel Urquhart, the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter Of­fice’s (GRO) in­dexes show no en­try.

Record­ing the deaths of those who died in the armed forces, usu­ally out­side of the UK, was done through reg­i­men­tal reg­is­ters and chap­lains’ re­turns, and these some­times have en­tries for those who died while serv­ing in the UK. Most were later sub­mit­ted to GRO and make up a set of in­dexes that can be searched as part of ‘Bri­tish Na­tion­als Armed Forces Deaths 1796-2005’ on Find­my­past and else­where. Sadly, Lieu­tenant Colonel Urquhart doesn’t ap­pear in those records ei­ther.

I made en­quiries with GRO and they agreed with your sug­ges­tion that this record may have been one that slipped through the gaps in the con­fu­sion of war.

In prac­tice though, the death regis­tra­tion – if it did ex­ist – would give no more in­for­ma­tion than you al­ready have, just con­firm­ing the date and place of death and the in­di­vid­ual’s rank and name – the cause of death for those in the mil­i­tary records be­ing very of­ten a generic “of wounds” or “by en­emy ac­tion”.

The Royal Army Ord­nance Corps (RAOC) is now part of the Royal Lo­gis­tic Corps (RLC) and it has a museum and ar­chive ( roy­al­lo­gis­tic­corps.co.uk/her­itage/museum). The ar­chiv­ists there have con­firmed it doesn’t hold death reg­is­ters, but it may be worth con­tact­ing them for ad­vice.

Wartime news­pa­per re­ports of bomb­ings were of­ten lack­ing in de­tail to pre­vent the en­emy get­ting feed­back on the ef­fect of their raids. Antony Marr

Lieu­tenant Colonel Urquhart’s burial record

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