Friday, 25 November 2011

Sutton woman finds mystery photographs

A lady from Sutton has stumbled across a wealth of mystery photographs from the 1930’s and 40’s.

Dorothy Reynolds, 62, accidently picked up the photographs a few years ago in a charity shop.
The photos were in a box amongst various things she picked up and she said: “They have been sitting on my shelf for years but they must mean something to someone.”

Unfortunately, Mrs Reynolds cannot remember which charity shop she bought them in; however, the photos themselves give us a few clues.

Among the stash there is a wedding photo dated April 1938. The couple featured in many of photos have a small son who looks around two-years-old in a photo titled “Pier - Hastings 1950”.

 There are also a lot of summer holiday snaps from Winchelsea, 1949 and Felixstowe.

One photo bears the name Arthur Hill, Beech Drive, Maidstone and it would appear the young boy is called Tony.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Seeing An Old Photo Through New Eyes On My First Real Veterans Day

I had passed the photo in the hallway showing the smiling handsome young Naval officer in uniform literally thousands of times over the years, occasionally pausing to marvel at the fact that this was my Dad when he was in his late teens. He had told me many times of his story of being able to study at Penn's engineering school because of the Navy's V-12 Program, and how he had served on a ship in Pearl Harbor after the attack. But frankly I never had any real perspective on that part of his life because I just could never relate to it. What did I know about military service? With the exception of a few people, most people of my generation had not served and we had little or no direct relationship with the military.
As many people figured out (probably only when they went to try to retrieve their mail or make a deposit at the bank), this past Friday, November 11, was Veterans Day. Other than the practical annoyances it created, I readily admit that, like most others I know, I had planned to go about my Veterans Day much like I had always done, acknowledging this Federal holiday with the usual detachment and with mere passing interest gleaned from stories in the various news media. But this Veterans Day turned out quite different than I ever expected as the result of some experiences I was fortunate to have had over the past several weeks. And I have to say, it was a real eye opener for me on many levels.
In late October, I attended the Coach K Leadership Summit at the Fuqua School of Business at my alma mater Duke University, a unique gathering of a couple dozen high-level execs and business leaders. This year's Summit included not only people like AOL Founder Steve Case, David Gergen and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, but top U.S. Military leaders General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Bob Brown, the Commanding General of the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. Surprisingly, I realized that these men were the only currently active military people I had ever really come in direct contact with in any meaningful way.
What struck me immediately (aside from the fact that both Generals were whip smart, engaging, funny and accessible) was their clear and deep commitment to lifelong service in pursuit of a greater good. These men didn't just talk the talk; they had dedicated their entire lives to the service of our country in ways that to most of us would be unfathomable. It struck me that the vast majority of people in the upper socioeconomic bracket of our country have become almost completely removed from any significant connection to or contact with the military. And it also seemed to me that this was symptomatic of a much larger issue.
About a week later back in LA, my wife and I were invited to a group dinner where we got to know Kaj Larsen, a CNN investigative correspondent whom we had previously heard about from our daughter after he had spoken at her high school last year. During the evening, Kaj and several of his friends were introduced and asked to speak to the group about an organization they had formed called Team Rubicon. It turns out that Kaj and the friends accompanying him at the dinner were, unbeknownst to us until that moment, ex-Navy Seals, Black Hawk helicopter rescue pilots, and Special Ops who had come together after retiring from the service to volunteer as the first responders in disaster situations.
Realizing they could use their unique and highly developed skills and discipline for a different kind of mission, these courageous young men had thrown on their backpacks and hiked into the epicenter of the Haiti earthquake where they rescued babies from the rubble, performed over 180 amputations using only Motrin and saved countless lives in the precious hours of the immediate aftermath of the event before the Red Cross and the Israelis could set up operations. And from that mission, Team Rubicon was born. And in speaking with these men after the dinner, you couldn't help but consider them the coolest, smartest, most regular, humble and able people we had ever met (and according to my wife they were also so good looking they could have made up a calendar). We were so impressed with these men and what they were doing that it made us want to help support them in any way we could and spread the word about their incredible service organization. And it also gave us a completely different perspective on who and what "veterans" were.
Last week Kaj invited me to be his guest at the Veterans Day ceremony at the Reagan Library to meet his best friend, Eric Greitens, another Duke grad and ex-Navy Seal whom he had trained and served with (and with whom he had co-founded "The Mission Continues" organization). Eric, a Rhodes scholar and the author of the NY Times best-selling book The Heart and the Fist , would be giving the keynote speech at the event.
I arrived at the Library and walked in among a couple hundred veterans of all ages and racial mixes along with their families, amidst Revolutionary and Civil War re-enactments and displays of flags and military gear of all shapes and sizes. After witnessing a ceremonial flyover directly overhead, I took my seat in the auditorium where a fantastic orchestra and choir from the Southern California Baptist University performed rousing renditions of our national and military anthems. We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance before a military Color Guard presenting arms and colors, and Eric then gave an impressive, impassioned, inspired speech (note: he is really someone to watch as a future leader).
After Eric's remarks, the veterans in attendance from the various military branches were all asked to stand when the orchestra played their branch's respective anthem. It was pretty hard not to be moved and feel proud and patriotic. But most of all, I felt a little shame for not previously seriously comprehending the kind of commitment and service these great men and women gave and continue to give for all of us. And I asked myself, why is it that, despite a lot of lip service, so many of us in this country take the military and those that serve for granted? And how is it that we have become so desensitized to the loss of life and limb these people sacrifice to defend our freedom?

To read more go to:



Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Uncover your familys military roots

Researching a family's military history used to be a real challenge, but as more and more paper archives go digital and are transferred to the internet, it's becoming possible for anyone to leaf out a family tree in surprising detail by using a few tricks and knowing where to look.
"The biggest thing that's changed is the ability to find digitized documents through simple things like Google and search tools specific to military family histories," says Alex Herd, lead researcher for the Historica-Dominion Institute Memory Project in Toronto that aims to increase the public's knowledge of Canadian history.
"There almost seems to be some prestige involved with finding an ancestor who served in the military and particularly in any wars, and a lot of information that was difficult to get before has become available," adds Jeannine Powell of Duncan, B.C. Her day job is with a secretarial company, but an "18-year obsession" with genealogy has made her an expert (her nickname is GenQueen, a play on her name), and she's involved with groups ranging from Genealogy Helplist Canada, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' Family History Centre, to an array of historical websites.
"Two of the highest things people use the internet [to search] for are pornography and family ancestry. One will tear a family apart, the other will build it up," she says with a laugh.

There's a growing collection of personal military minutiae available through paid websites that cater to people researching their family trees.
One of the biggest subscription sites is, which has been adding databases and buying up other genealogy portals such as (which it renamed and gave an even stronger military focus). The monthly charge for, its Canadian portal, starts at $10 and the archival collections for Canada and other countries include burial and war grave registers, records of war dead, copies of attestation papers, and lists of deserters, dischargees and POWs.
" is the first and No. 1 thing that a lot of people have been using for this kind of research," says Herd.
Paid sites generally have extensive records that are slickly organized and easy to use.
" does much of the searching for you and will automatically use what you enter in your tree to search the billions of historical records in its database for likely matches," says genealogist Lesley Anderson.
"We have a number of [types of] military content available to users at," she said, adding that the online records are available to the public for free until Nov. 13 in honour of Remembrance Day.
Besides their centralized search capabilities, subscription-based sites also offer access to some material that isn't readily available elsewhere.
"In terms of World War II, for example, it's just recently that more records have started to become available, and many of those are on the big commercial websites," Powell says.
But paid sites aren't the only research option, and they only contain a portion of the information that's available. There's an enormous amount of information published free through government and educational sites, and shared by genealogy hobbyists.
Library and Archives Canada and other government and educational agencies are steadily digitizing their free paper records, Herd says, and they date back to conflicts such as the War of 1812 and the rebellions of 1837 and 1885. "In the last few years they've become an important link for family members interested in finding veterans in their broader family tree."



Friday, 11 November 2011

Imperial War Museum commemorates Armistice Day by releasing photos of WWI dead

Private Tickle, Captain Percy Ernest Bass, Private Thomas Newton. The fading names we read on war memorials are by turns familiar, distant or even comical, but it’s sometimes hard to picture the real people that lie behind these poignant reminders of the First World War.

Now the Imperial War Museum has launched a new initiative through the social networking and photo sharing site Flickr, aiming to put faces to some of these names.

To mark Armistice Day 11.11.11, and the coming centenary of the Great War's outbreak in 1914, the IWM has made 100 portraits of people who served available through their Faces of the First World War project on Flickr Commons.

The photographs were acquired by the museum betwenn 1917 and 1920 as part of its mission to record experiences of the war and offer a personal and poignant record of its impact.

In some cases bereaved families donated their only photograph. Some of them have only a name, rank and unit - others are accompanied by detailed letters and biographies. Britain and the Commonwealth are represented, as are the range of military ranks and services.

More portraits with biographical details will be added to the site every weekday until August 2014, the 100th anniversary of the war's outbreak.

The aim is to help the public discover the life stories of the people in the photographs by adding comments, information, links or text to the photos. It is hoped people may find an ancestor or make a connection to a name on a local war memorial or from a local regiment.

"The First World War Centenary is a landmark anniversary for Britain and the world," says IWM Director General Diane Lees. "The war was a turning point in world history. It claimed the lives of more than 16 million people across the globe and affected the lives of millions more."

Lees says that, despite the intervening century, everybody in the world "still has a connection" to the First World War, "either through their own family history, links to their local community or because of its long term impact on the world we live in today."

Faces of the First World War is part of IWM’s preparations to mark the First World War Centenary in 2014-2018 by leading an ambitious four-year programme of cultural activities across the country, including the opening of brand new First World War galleries at IWM London in 2014. See more at
By Richard Moss


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Help heroic Pals march into history

TOWNSFOLK are being invited to join a trailblazing local history project backed by lottery cash to help highlight the sacrifices and stories of relatives who fought in the First World War.
The St Helens Townships Family History Society has been awarded a £40,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to research the history of the heroic St Helens Pals.
Pals battalions were special units of the British Army for men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives - with the promise of serving alongside their friends instead of being sent to serve in regular army regiments.
The name St Helens Pals tended to be applied to all men from St Helens who fought in the army, but the project will concentrate on the 11th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment - raised by Lord Derby - which became known as The St Helens Pals.
The research is being led by military historians Dave Risley and Richard Waring, but it is local people who will hold the key to unearthing much of the material.
Local historian and Project Manager, Peter Harvey explained: Everyone can take part - by finding out about members of their family who served in the First World War.
Anyone who has any papers, information, photographs or a family story can go along to the Archive Library in the Gamble Building, Victoria Square, where we will set up a contact register for people to be involved throughout this exciting project.”
The grant award was helped with advice from experts at St Helens Council.


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Unclaimed portraits of lost Diggers sent home

HUNDREDS of unclaimed portraits of World War I Diggers taken in London before they left to fight on the Western Front will be added to the National Archives collection today.
The 500 black and white portraits were found among 1600 photographs of Allied soldiers collected by the Imperial War Museum, London, after the war. The 500 are significant because they are not known to exist anywhere else, mainly because soldiers never returned from battle to collect them.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs historical researcher Courtney Page-Allen said the studio portraits were valuable because they were about the individual. ''The most important thing is that it reminds you that every one of these men was a real man with a life and a family,'' she said.

''Over the years I have seen literally millions of photographs from public and private collections. But these are different. They are not photos taken in the trenches or on the frontline where the story was the battle. These are about the individual.''
In contrast, Ms Page-Allen pointed to servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who are remembered as individuals - mainly possible because modern-day fatalities are comparatively low. But this was not possible during the First World War because the numbers were so overwhelming.
Among the portraits is Ballarat engineer William Robert Allen, who was killed in France in February 1917, six months after being promoted to lieutenant.

Also found was a photograph of Queensland farmer Irvine Barton, who was 19 when he joined the Second Lighthorse Regiment in 1914.
He died in France of wounds in April 1918 after being awarded the military cross for his ''coolness, dash and military judgment of the highest order'' a month earlier.
According to a report in the London Gazette, he was on patrol behind enemy lines when he allowed eight German soldiers to come within a few feet of his concealed position. After calling on the enemy to surrender, Barton was wounded in the gunfight. Within a month he had returned to the frontline, where he was fatally shot.