What did my soldier ancestor do in India?
QSeveral of my wife’s ancestors fought in the First World War and many of them died. In most cases, we have been able to discover more about their service. However, for Albert Thomas (also known as Bertie), we can find very little. My mother-in-law said he was in the Rifle Brigade, died in the war and had a wife, Ada.
We have found him in the 1901 census at home with his parents George and Bethulica in Shoreditch. From this we think he was born about 1891. There is a marriage record for Bertie Thomas and Ada Kerrison in 1911 in Marylebone, London, and there is also a child, Harold, born in 1915 in Lewisham.
We have a photograph of Albert in uniform, which appears to have been taken in India. Could you tell more about it? Stephen and Carol Cousins, by email
AThis photograph shows a British lance corporal in India just before the First World War. It was clearly taken in India as is shown by the photographer’s mark in the bottom-right corner. Bareilly was an important British garrison at that time. The soldier has no medals on his left breast, but this doesn’t rule out service in the earliest years of the 20th century. A very large number of men served in the Boer War (1899-1902), so a medal would be likely. This tends to place the photo after 1908. The cap badge is hard to identify, as I can’t get a clear close-up image. It could be the Rifle Brigade – their 2nd and 4th battalions were there in 1914. Other possible regiments that he may have served in are the Middlesex, Dorsetshire, South Lancs and the Norfolk Regiment all of whom had battalions in India in 1914. Phil Tomaselli
Chevron The chevron on his right arm indicates he’s a lance corporal. All of his tunic badges are detachable so his jacket can be washed regularly. Tunic The tunic is white, but has a curious rounded cut- out at the waist and the trousers are ( presumably) blue – an unusual combination. He may have worked in the mess, though I’d have expected Indian servants there. Crossed rifles On his left arm, he’s wearing crossed rifles, indicating he’s a marksman and below that he’s got a two-year good conduct chevron. Cap badge There’s a laurel wreath surrounding something unidentifiable in the centre. The Rifle Brigade is a possibility, though it doesn’t look like a Maltese Cross. Helmet The helmet is a Wolseley sun helmet, which came into standard use in 1902, so the date of the photo is later.