An Illustrated Family History Archive


Note: This blog constitutes just the family history category entries from my main blog, which you can visit here.

Afghan War

Friday 2 May 2008
This will be a bit out of the way from the usual comics subject matter, but I just wanted to mention that my Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80) website is favourably reviewed in the May 2008 edition of the BBC 'Who Do You Think You Are?' magazine.

In fact, it was given 4.5 stars (out of 5), which is jolly nice - the National Army Museum website only got 3 stars. They even sent me a complimentary copy, which doesn't always happen with this kind of thing. Not sure about the "disastrous march from Kabul to Kandahar" - they obviously didn't have time to read my site too deeply, as it was actually considered a great military success.

They seemed particularly impressed with my links page, which I have always felt needs to be much more comprehensive, actually. (You know, it always surprises me when comics creators don't link to other creators from their blogs and comic sites - Google likes you if you're well-connected! - not that that's the only reason for linking to friends and acquaintances).

Back to the magazine - I must agree with their Star Site - The Long Long Trail, especially its invaluable Great War Forum - probably the best World War I resource on the net. Another star site would have been, which has sadly gone off-line recently, probably for good.

posted 02.05.08 at 12:05 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Remembrance Sunday IV

Sunday 11 November 2007
This is my fourth 'Remembrance Sunday' entry. Previous years' entries can be read here: Walter Cameron of the Scots Guards, Charles Hodgkins of the North Staffordshire Regiment, and Mark William Cameron of the Royal Navy. This year I will write a little about my two great-great uncles, David and John Bruce Ewing.

David and John were brothers, both born in Dundee to David Ewing, who worked as a lemonade maker in Magdelene Yard Road, and Jane Gray, who came from Errol in Perthshire. David was the eldest, born in 1886, and John was born 1892. They had two elder brothers as well - James (a school teacher) and George (who followed his father in to the lemonade business). There had also been a middle brother, Alexander born in 1888, but he died of meningitis aged just six years old.

When the First World War broke out, David (a book keeper at Keillers) and John enlisted together at Dundee on 5th November 1914, David being given the number 1692, and John 1695, and both going in to the Royal Army Medical Corps. While I know David was placed with the 3rd Highland Field Ambulance, I am less certain about John as less paperwork has survived, and while it is possible they went in to the same unit, they have different embarkation dates: David on 4 May 1915, and John 1 May 1915.

The 3rd Highland Field Ambulance, as part of the 51st Division, saw action at Festubert in June 1915, the Somme in July 1916, and Beaumont Hamel in November 1916. It was also at Ypres late in 1917, but in February of that year David had been discharged as medically unfit due to dysentery. John, who had also served in France, was discharged in March 1919, suffering a 'broken denture'.

At the moment, I know little about the brothers' lives after the war. Neither of them ever married, and in fact I believe they lived together sharing a flat in Dundee for the rest of their lives - John dying around 1957 (no date for David as yet). Almost exactly a year ago I happened to get in touch with a medal collector who had one each of David and John's WWI medals. He generously offered to give me first refusal should he ever wish to sell them, which he very recently decided to do, and they arrived just a few days ago... a timely acquisition for Remembrance Day.

I did have another great-great uncle who served in the 3rd Highland Field Ambulance, not related to the Ewings, but also from Dundee - Robert Leishman Cameron. He was captured by the Germans and was kept as a prisoner of war at Stammlager Parchim and Stammlager Friedrichsfeld... but that is a story for another day.

Above: John and David Ewing with their mother, Jane, sometime in the 1930s, and David's 1914-15 Star with John's Victory Medal (their other WWI medals are missing).

posted 11.11.07 at 11:00 am | permalink at Webbledegook |

Remembrance Sunday III

Saturday 11 November 2006
It is quite surprising, I think, that many people do not know what their grandparents or great-grandparents got up to in the First World War. I had no direct ancestors killed in action, but have written before of my cousin killed at Jutland, and my great-grandfather who died a few years after his service at Gallipoli.

Today I will write a little of my gg-uncle Walter Cameron, who served in the Scots Guards in France.

Walter was born in Glasgow in 1891, and by the time the Great War broke out, he was working as a carter in Dundee (his family had moved there when he was 8 or 9 years old). In January 1915 he joined the Scots Guards, and was sent to France to join the 2nd Battalion in late October. The next few months saw him in the trenches around Ypres until July 1916 when the Guards Division was moved towards the Somme. On the 10th September his battalion was sent to Bernafay Wood and Ginchy where they assisted in the capture of the orchard and took over 70 German prisoners after advancing through shelling and machine-gun fire. It was most likely in this action that Walter was wounded by a gun shot to the chest and shoulder, and was sent back as a casualty. Walter was back in England a month and a half later, and served with the 3rd Battalion until he was finally discharged in London in February 1919. In September 1918 he had married a Brighton girl, Louise Miller.

Walter had never liked the fact that he didn't have a middle name (as most of his brothers and sisters did), as it meant his initials were W.C. His marriage certificate displays the mysterious appearance of the middle name of 'Ronald', the only time it was ever used. My great-uncle Peter told me that in his later years, Walter kept a secret whiskey bottle in the garden shed, where he would escape to when Lu got on his nerves a little too much! Walter and Lu never had any children, and Walter died in 1971, aged 80.

Of Walter's brothers, Peter (my g-grandfather) and David Cameron served as drivers in the Royal Army Service Corps, while Robert Cameron served in the Army Medical Corps - probably also as a driver (ambulance) - and was taken a prisoner by the Germans.

posted 11.11.06 at 10:44 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Romany routes

Monday 6 March 2006
One thousand years ago, or thereabouts, some of my ancestors left India and spent 500 years crossing Europe, and reached England roughly in the 1500s, where they were known as 'Little Egyptians', soon shortened to Gyptians, then Gypsies (and some were hanged for it, too). I remember my mum making vague references to her dark hair coming from a "true Romany" strain of the family, but I only learned its truth about five years ago when I started researching my family history for myself.

My ancestors in this line stopped travelling and settled in about the 1860s, and most of the facts about them had been forgotten by the time I started looking into it, but I wrote an article about what I did discover and it has just appeared in the latest issue of the excellent Romany Routes, the magazine of the Romany & Traveller Family History Society (Vol. 7 No. 6, Mar 2006). It's a much more detailed version of a brief online piece I wrote here.

posted 06.03.06 at 6:04 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Remembrance Sunday II

Sunday 13 November 2005
This time last year I wrote about a cousin of mine, Mark Cameron, who was killed at Jutland in 1916. This year I will detail someone closer in the family, my great-grandfather Charles Hodgkins.

Charles was born in 1891 in Uttoxeter and had worked as a labourer before enlisting on the last day of August 1914. He was assigned to the 4th North Staffordshire Regiment and sent to Guernsey for training. Almost a year later he was finally sent on active duty when he was drafted into the 7th Battalion and ordered to Gallipoli. Earlier in the month the 7th had seen fierce fighting at Hill 'Q' which was "one of the fiercest fights of Gallipoli. Every inch of ground was disputed with bayonet and bomb." By the time Charlie arrived they had moved forward to Sulajik where a long period of trench warfare commenced, most of the work consisting of digging forward, wiring and patrol work. Captain Missen records that "heat, sand and flies accounted for nearly as many lives as did the bullets and shells of the enemy". During this month Charlie got pneumonia and was sent to Malta for convalesence, then finally back to England by December where he was sent to Lichfield Military Hospital at Whittington to recover. It was here, sometime in 1916, that he met his future wife, Minnie, a local farm girl who brought eggs for the soldiers there. Charlie was lucky, in a way. A month after he left the 7th Battalion were subject to lots of trench flooding when icy water would sweep through with no chance of escape for the men, many of whom were drowned. The trenches remained waist-deep in water for some time.

Charlie was discharged from the army as he was no longer fit for service. He became a baker's boy in Lichfield, married and had two daughters. But his strength was always diminished, and in 1925 he died when an oral infection got the better of him, aged just 34.

posted 13.11.05 at 7:40 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Things my mother told me

Wednesday 1 June 2005
Once, when I was about 12, I started peeling an orange and then proceeded to take off all the excess pith. "Don't do that", my mum said, "you need your vitamin P". So, since then, I've tended to leave the pith on my oranges and satsumas, and eaten it, thinking "ah... getting some vitamin P".

A few years ago I noticed my wife doing the same thing, peeling off the pith. "Don't do that", I said, "you need your vitamin P". After a couple of minutes of her laughing her head off and casting grave doubt on the existence vitamin P, she went back to de-pithing her fruit. "But my mother told me", I protested, "it must be true!". Ellie replied, "she must have been pulling your leg...".

When I was much younger, about 7 or 8, I asked my mum what 'shampoo' meant. "Well", she began, "it means 'not-real-poo'. Anything's that's a 'sham' means it's not real, and you know what poo is!". I was in my twenties before I actually thought about this and realised I may have been a bit gullible there (in fact, I believe the word is Indian in origin, an import along with verandah and bungalow etc..).

Anyway - I just decided to look up vitamin P (finally)... and it does exist! It is a bioflavonoid:

"Bioflavonoids are found in the white material just beneath citrus peel, as well as in peppers, grapes, pine bark, onions, garlic, blue and red berries, green tea as well as buckwheat."

So she was right on that one, but mum had quite a sense of humour, and I do wonder what other things she told me that might not have been the exact truth. I'm off to eat some pine bark.

posted 01.06.05 at 5:45 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Remembrance Sunday

Sunday 14 November 2004
Mark William Cameron was born at Parkhurst Barracks at the beginning of 1884, his father being a Sergeant in the Seaforth Highlanders, stationed there after seeing service in Egypt and Afghanistan. His mother was only 18 at the time, and had married his father just five days before he was born.

Mark joined the Royal Navy, possibly inspired by his father's tales of campaigning in exotic lands for the British Empire, and perhaps also by distant tales of his great-grandfather, who had battled Napoleon's forces at Waterloo. As the new century began, he found himself as a Boy, 1st Class, aboard H.M.S San Pariel after stints on the Caledonia, Minotaur and Agincourt. In 1910 he married his cousin Margaret, daughter of his uncle Donald who had served abroad with his father in the Seaforths. In 1913, with the British and German Navys trying to outbuild each other as European tensions grew, he was in the Gunnery School aboard H.M.S Excellent, before joining H.M.S Invincible - the world's first battlecrusier - at its commissioning on 3 August 1914.

"The First World War had begun. In the northern mists the Grand Fleet (21 dreadnoughts, 8 predreadnoughts, 4 battlecruisers, 21 cruisers and 42 destroyers) was at its war base in Scapa Flow, under the command of Admiral Jellicoe. Diagonally across the North Sea the German High Seas Fleet (13 dreadnoughts, 16 predreadnoughts, 4 battlecruisers, 18 cruisers and 88 destroyers) were assembling in the River Jade under the command of Admiral Von Ingenohl." - V. E. Tarrant.

Invincible was involved in three actions. It had a small part to play at Heligoland Bight later in August, and then in December was involved in a naval battle against Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee at the Falkland Islands. But the Invincible will be forever associated with the Battle of Jutland, on the last day of May in 1916, when at 6.34 p.m a salvo from the Derfflinger penetrated the 7-inch armour and causing explosions in the gun-house, turret and the magazine, rent the Invincible in two, sinking it and killing 1,019 men. There were only six survivors, and Mark Cameron was not amongst them.

To boys who had grown up with the heroic deeds of their grandfathers, fathers and uncles, or the gallant officer adventurers in the novels of G. A. Henty, who had read of the brave thin red or khaki lines defending outposts against Zulus at Rorke's Drift, or Afghans at Kam Dakka, and where casualties rarely exceeded 50 on a bad day, or 800 on a disastrous day, the Great War will have come as a shock. Over 21,000 Britons killed in the first day at the Somme in 1916, and 6,000 Britons and 2,500 Germans lost to a watery grave at Jutland is a severe lesson indeed. Today's remembrance focussed at the Cenotaph, 'that mass of national emotion frozen in stone', I always find poignant, but no lesson has actually been learned, it seems.

posted 14.11.04 at 8:32 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Dial 'M' for Mitochondrial

Friday 23 April 2004
One day last week I suddenly realised that my maternal line - as far back as I know it (5 generations) - all had christian names that began with the letter 'M'. I mean, I've known their names for a while, but the realisation was only recent. My mum's name was Margaret, my grannie's name was May. Her mother was called Minnie, and Minnie's mother was called Myra. Myra's mother was Mary. These are the providers of my mitochondrial DNA.

Another slightly, possibly, odd thing, is that when I was 13 and 14 I really liked the name 'James', for no obvious reason, and changed my middle name from Cameron to James. All my school work in those two years bore the name of Garen James Ewing. I soon missed Cameron so took it back. It's only been in the past couple of years I've learned that, with only two exceptions, all the first born sons of the Ewing line were named James Ewing (at least back to 1824). My father and I are the two exceptions.

It's of no consequence, but there you go...

posted 23.04.04 at 8:28 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |

Ewing Tragedies!

Wednesday 10 December 2003
After many months I have decided to republish my family history research webpages. I took them down when my interest waned somewhat, but things are picking up again a little, though I will take things slowly for the next few months (not least because it can be expensive!). I have edited and rewritten most of the pages and was reminded of some of my Ewing family tragic deaths!

My four-times great grandfather, James Ewing, fell off the edge of a cliff one foggy night in 1883 and was discovered the next morning, sprawled on the rocks. Ten years later his son, Alexander, placed his head on the tracks in front of an express train and was decapitated. Another twenty years on, Alexander's niece, Mary, picked up the lodger's shotgun in the kitchen and it accidentally fired into her chest. She staggered into her husband's arms and then died... (a few months later, the same gun went off, again accidentally, and killed the lodger too).

posted 10.12.03 at 6:21 pm | permalink at Webbledegook |
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