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WWI stories: James Parker Gilmour
Tuesday 16 September 2014
One hundred years ago today James Parker Gilmour was killed at the first Battle of the Aisne.
He was born 21st June 1893 in Loan Street, Anstruther Easter, in Fife, the fourth child of an eventual nine to James Parker Gilmour (1861-1934), a slater, and Mary Henderson Borthwick (1865-1929). In his teenage years he became an apprentice watchmaker, and on 5th September 1913 he enlisted with the 1st Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) at Dundee.

Attached to C Company, James landed in France on 13th August 1914, and a month later he was crossing the Aisne as part of the follow-up offensive against von Kluck's German First Army and von Bulow's Second Army. As the two sides faced each other across low-lying open ground the British started to dig ditches for cover, and these soon deepened and lengthened to become the first trenches of the war.

The Black Watch saw particularly heavy action on 14th September at Vendresse, losing 18 officers and 450 men, including their Lieutenant-Colonel. The 15th, 16th and 17th saw heavy shelling of the British positions.

A newspaper listing of 17th November 1914 reports 2567 Private J P Gilmour as missing, and almost a year later, in August 1915, his parents were still appealing in the press for any news of him, stating he had been reported missing on 14th September, though his death was eventually recorded as 16th September 1914.

He is remembered on the Anstruther war memorial, the memorial at the Anstruther Fisheries Museum, and at the cemetery at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre, Seine-et-Marne, on the memorial for missing men with no known grave. He was 21 years old and the first WWI casualty from Anstruther.

See my family war memorial here and war archive here.

posted 16.09.14 at 11:22 am in Family History | permalink | |


Remembrance Sunday VIII
Sunday 10 November 2013
A short one this year - just a link to my family war memorial page which I have updated with brief biographies and photographs (where I have them) of relatives killed in World War I.

For previous years' Remembrance Sunday entries see 2012, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004.

posted 10.11.13 at 11:11 pm in Family History | permalink | 2 |


Welcome, Felix
Tuesday 30 April 2013
Not much blogging recently - I've been very busy with the new Julius Chancer strip. Even bigger news, for me anyway, is that on Sunday Elyssa gave birth to a little boy. His name is Felix James Howell Ewing.

We both love the name Felix - it means 'lucky', and we both feel incredibly lucky to have been able to have a second child (our first was two years ago). James is a Ewing family name - it was my grandad's name, my g-granddad's name, my ggg-granddad's name, my gggg-granddad's name, and my ggggg-granddad's name. And Howell was Elyssa's gramp's name and gg-grandfather's name.

So, please excuse me if I'm a little slower than usual with emails, work and book orders for a while - I'll try not to be!

posted 30.04.13 at 8:57 pm in Family History | permalink | 11 |


Remembrance Sunday VII
Sunday 11 November 2012
The First World War is generally the main focus of Remembrance Sunday, despite the fact that, unlike the Second World War - seen as a war of justice, it was basically a war of Empire. But then perhaps that is what really lends an extra layer of sentiment to the dead of the Great War - the fact that so many men were sacrificed for the games played by their heads of state.
Whatever, they are seen as 'our glorious dead', heroes revered and venerated at village memorials across the land. Indeed, I have identified thirteen members (so far) of my own family to have died in the conflict of 1914-18, and every one is a tragic tale of a life cut short.

But how about when it's not so clear-cut? This year I will tell the story of one of my distant cousins who died on the first dreadful day of the battle of the Somme, but who - when you know the full tale - you would find hard to fully revere.

His name was Thomas Sherriff, and he was born some time around 1885 to a family of Romany Gypsies, his parents being Hope (aka 'Gypsy Jack') and Trinity (aka Hetty, Genti, Trenetty or even Franette) Sherriff. He'd already served in the Sherwood Foresters alongside his father around the time of the Boer War. I don't yet know whether he saw service in that conflict, but I do know he was imprisoned for seven days for violently attacking a family rival in the marketplace at Wirksworth, in February 1900.

A far more serious offence occurred in January 1903 when Tom was arrested for his involvement in the killing of a policeman. PC William Price had gone to the Sherriff Gypsy camp to investigate the theft of three ferrets from a nearby farm. Things turned nasty and a fight broke out between PC Price and three of the Sherriff brothers, Tom, John and Joseph. Their father, Hope, and a fellow traveller, Arkless Holland (married to Tom's sister, Raini) were also implicated. During the fight, the constable was struck on the head with his own truncheon and the three brothers bolted. Price later died from his wounds and a murder hunt ensued.

After a few days on the run, and two more policemen injured while trying to arrest them, the Sherriffs were caught. Hope and Arkless, held earlier, were acquitted, but Tom, John and Joseph were found guilty of manslaughter and were given fifteen years penal servitude. The brothers never revealed who struck the actual devastating blow to PC Price, but the family story points most strongly at Tom. They were lucky - had the verdict been murder then they would have all hanged.

Joseph died in prison in about 1907. Tom and John can both be seen on the 1911 census as inmates of Portland Prison in Dorset. But, with the First World War raging, it seems they were released early, or perhaps volunteered, into the hands of the army, John into the Coldstream Guards and Tom, at first into the Notts and Derby Regiment, and then the Lancashire Fusiliers. It was with this regiment he found himself on the front line of the Somme on 1st July 1916. At 7.20 am a huge mine was exploded under the Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt and the Lancashires charged, only to come under severe German machine gunning and artillery. The regiment lost seven officers and 156 other ranks in the attack - including Tom Sherriff, a small portion of the 20,000 dead the British suffered on that first day alone.


Lancashire Fusiliers at Beaumont Hamel, July 1916.

For the past two years I have been invited by the Romany and Traveller Family History Society to join a delegation at the Cenotaph memorial in London, helping to represent Romanies who served. Sadly I have not been able to make it, and I do always think of the conflicting feelings that surround the sad story of Thomas Sherriff. Tom is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in Picardy, and also on the village memorial at Newbold, Chesterfield. (Out of interest, Tom wasn't the only less-than-pristine family member to serve... another distant cousin, James Veevers, has a war record that brims with notes about drinking, housebreaking and disorderly conduct, all of which eventually landed him in prison for a while.)

Still, as well as Tom's fellow convict, John, other Romanies of my family served in the First War: another Sherriff brother, Uriah, served with the Notts and Derby Regiment and was wounded in 1917; Henry Holland, also with the Notts & Derby Regiment, was wounded on eight occasions in France, the final time, in Sep 1916, seeing him invalided to England before he died at home, in Aug 1918, from complications connected to his wounds; Charles Duffield (aka Hodgkins) was with the North Staffordshires and died at Ypres in July 1916; Perrin Dennett served with the Notts and Derby Regiment in 1918, though stayed in England.

Although my direct Romany-related line had ended their travelling ways in the 1870s or 80s, several descendants also fought in the war - my great-grandfather, Charles Hodgkins fought with the North Staffordshires in Gallipoli (see his story here); his brother Edward was also with the regiment (though a different battalion); their cousin Ernest Sherriff served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and then the Royal Garrison Artillery; and his brother, Horace, joined the Durham Light Infantry (though did not fight abroad).

This has been my seventh Remembrance Sunday post, though the first for two years. You can see the previous entries here: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004. My family war archive can be found here, and my online family war memorial here.

posted 11.11.12 at 1:44 pm in Family History | permalink | 2 |


Post Christmas
Friday 13 January 2012
A little late, perhaps, for a post-Christmas blog entry, but January has got off to a busy start, workwise, so finding the time to write has not been easy (same old story!).
I had a nice quietish Christmas and took some days completely off for the first time in, oh, a long time. I decided to do some family history research, which I haven't spent any proper time on for at least a couple of years or more, and I found some good stuff and cracked a research mystery that has been something of a brick wall for twelve years.

When I mention I enjoy researching my family history a common reaction is surprise that someone so young (ahem) should be interested in a hobby that is generally regarded as the preserve of the retired. I love history, and I love doing research, but the catalyst in this case was a postcard album that my mum inherited from her mother when she died. It had belonged to my great-grandmother, and looking through it mum and I agreed that it might be fun to research some of the people the cards were written to, many of them long-forgotten and now unknown family members. Sadly, my mum died not long after, and the postcard album ended up with me permanently.

A few years later I decided to begin researching my family history and started gathering information from various relatives. At that time a lot of research still had be done by going to the Family Records Centre in Islington (for birth, marriage and death records and census returns) and the National Archives at Kew (most commonly for military service papers). I spent a lot of time with index cards, microfiche readers and gazettes, searching through lists and taking notes. Things are so much easier now! All those indexes and, indeed, many of the original records, are available and searchable online - what a difference. It's great that it's easier, and you can do so much more with database searches, but I must admit the sense of discovery is somewhat lessened when you're not 'out in the field', and you miss sights such as the American lady I saw at the FRC once, who had come to England especially to search the 19th century census returns, and sat at the microfilm reader in full Victorian dress to get into the part.


My gg-grandfather, Andrew Phillip (1843-1931), a stone mason, and his family in about 1888.

Discovering and learning about my family history has been a revelation. There are some who just can't understand the fascination, but I find it odd that many people just about know who their grandparents were but nothing beyond that. Knowing the story of how I came to be here, both genetically and geographically, having a 'history-map' of the people and movements that combined to put me, my brother and my parents on the earth, and knowing not just the depth of my background, but the width as well (6th cousins!). It's a big picture that I'm glad to be aware of and I've been able to find the truth behind some well-worn family stories as well as learning a lot about life in the past in general

In my family I've discovered tinkers, tailors, soldiers, sailors, nurses, firemen, artists, Gypsies, actresses, musicians, thieves, murderers, paupers, servants to publicans and peers, teachers, footballers, chimney sweeps, farmers, labourers, coal miners, clerks, shopkeepers, makers of cities, roads, ships, shoes, hats and fancy boxes, drivers of trains, trams, taxis and horse-drawn carts, preachers, vicars and, I'm sorry to say, one less than admirable Catholic Priest (very distantly related, I stress!).

One resource that has opened up relatively recently are newspaper archives. With this you can delve into the actual detail of life, beyond names, dates and occupations. Unfortunately, it's usually the bad news that gets reported - deaths and criminal activity especially, but they do, it has to be said, make for some of the most fascinating stories.


My g-grandmother Minnie Alice Lees (1887-1943, centre - it was her postcard album that started all this off) at Blackpool with her best friend Millie Norman and Millie's sister, c.1912.

This Christmas I learned what had happened to a gggg-uncle, Robert Ewing, who had previously disappeared from the records as a 10-year old flax winder in Dysart. It turns out he went on to become the captain of his own ship and ended up being thrown into a stormy ocean and drowning off the coast of Syria when he was 32. Another one to add the the tragic Ewing family deaths.

The wife of another gggg-uncle, Henry Higson, I knew had died at age 37, but I had no idea how until a fairly lurid newspaper article revealed that she cut her own throat in front of her children at breakfast one morning - very shocking stuff. The fact that her brother was in an insane asylum was enough, it seems, to explain her tragic actions at the inquest. Knowing this sad story has made me want to now find out what became of the three daughters who witnessed it and were 12, 10 and 4 years old at the time.

The most 'sensational' story was the 1903 murder of a policeman committed by three Gypsy brothers who each received fifteen years in prison. One of them came out to fight in World War One and was killed at the Somme.


My ggg-uncle Donald Cameron (far left, 1852-1926), a piper with the 72nd Highlanders with whom he marched from Kabul to Kandahar in 1880.

My most exciting find is far less sensational and more personal - and would no doubt bore you to death if I explained it in any detail! Since 2000, when I started, I've been trying to break through a wall to discover who the parents were of my ggg-grandmother, Eliza Sherriff. I have finally found the answer. It's been a long and torturous route to make the discovery - but that's what makes it so rewarding; finding the clues, one here one year, one there another year, until a door is finally unlocked and a whole pile of new questions and puzzles is revealed. It's hugely enjoyable.

This link will show you the family history category blog entries on this blog, and this link will take you to my little family history website.

posted 13.01.12 at 3:28 am in Family History | permalink | 7 |


Admired Miranda!
Wednesday 30 March 2011
One week ago my wife, Elyssa, gave birth to a little girl who we have named Miranda Carys Margaret Ewing.

Miranda is from Shakespeare's The Tempest, a play we both love and of which I did a comic strip adaptation back in 1994 (I based the look of Miranda a little on Elyssa). I was also keen on using the letter M as my maternal line as far back as I know all have names that begin with M (Mary, Myra, Minnie, May and Margaret) - I have written about this before.

Carys is from the Welsh word for 'love' and is in honour of Ellie's grandfather and his Welsh roots. Margaret was my mum's name, and also the name of my paternal grandmother.

So if I'm a little slower with emails, if work takes a little longer over the next few weeks, and if I'm a little behind in getting orders out, I hope you'll understand why. Thanks, as ever, for your patience and support!

P.S. I've just noticed that this is my 500th post (on this incarnation of the blog, anyway).

posted 30.03.11 at 7:51 pm in Family History | permalink | 12 |


Remembrance Sunday VI
Wednesday 11 November 2009
Well, this is being posted on actual Armistice Day rather than Remembrance Sunday, but it's here to keep up the tradition. Unfortunately I have no time to research and write-up a new post this year, so I'll just link to the previous years' entries for those who haven't seen them before.
In 2004 I did a write-up of Mark Cameron, killed at the Battle of Jutland. In 2005 it was Charles Hodgkins, who served at Gallipoli. In 2006 I wrote about Walter Cameron, wounded in France with the Scots Guards, and in 2007 it was brothers David and John Ewing, both of the Royal Army Medical Corps. For the 90th Anniversary, in 2008, I wrote about MC-winning Andrew Stewart, and also presented a memorial list of my nine known relatives who were killed in the Great War.

From The Rainbow Orchid volume II, Julius Chancer in the trenches at Gallipoli, partly based on the experiences of my own great-grandfather, Charles Hodgkins.

posted 11.11.09 at 10:19 pm in Family History | permalink | |


Ninety years
Tuesday 11 November 2008
As it's the 90-year Armistice anniversary, I thought I'd do one more little WWI remembrance entry.

The above postcard was written from my great grandfather while he was on service in Germany in 1919 as a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps. He was writing to my gran (second from the right) when she was 6 - she died just last year, aged 93. He addressed it to "My Bonnie wee auburn haired lassie, Maggie" and says:

"Well my Hen, can you read yet? Have you learned anymore songs? If so I'll be needing you to let me hear them all when Daddy gets home. You'll be having rare fun now. No lessons and play all day. Ta ta xxx Daddy."

Peter McDougall Cameron returned to civilian life later that year to work as a chauffeur in Dundee. Sadly he died only four years later when a routine operation on his appendix went wrong. His last son, David, was born a few months later.

posted 11.11.08 at 11:00 am in Family History | permalink | |


Remembrance Sunday V
Sunday 9 November 2008
If I were to make a little war memorial dedicated to those from my family who died in the First World War (that I am currently aware of - I know there are others as yet unconfirmed), it would look like this...

CAMERON, Mark William
HMS Invincible - 31 May 1916 age 32

EWING, Alexander
14th Bttn. Black Watch - 4 Dec 1917 age 21

EWING, James
3rd Bttn. Seaforth Highlanders - 2 Mar 1917 age 32

HOLLAND, Henry
5th Leicestershire Rgt. - 29 Aug 1918 age 32

PHILLIP, William
8th Bttn. Black Watch - 19 Jul 1918 age 23

PHILLIP, Alexander
205th Field Company Royal Engineers - 17 Dec 1917

SHERRIFF, Thomas
2nd Bttn. Lancashire Fusiliers - 1 Jul 1916 age 24

STEWART, Henry Walter Betsworth
5th Bttn. Highland Light Infantry - 14 Jul 1915 age 20

STEWART, Andrew Phillip, MC
9th King's Own Scottish Borderers - 2 Jun 1918 age 21

You can see a page dedicated on my website here, with Commonwealth War Graves Commission links for each name. Not all of these men have been fully researched yet, but one of the latest I have learned about is the last on that alphabetical list, Andrew Phillip Stewart, who was the second eldest son of my gg-aunt Betsy. He is also the only relative I know of (so far) who won a gallantry award, the Military Cross.

Andrew was born in Glasgow in June 1896 to Samuel Stewart (a gymnastics instructor and teacher) and Betsy Phillip (who had worked in her father's home-run market garden store before getting married). When the war came he was already a Private in the 5th Scottish Rifles, and after joining the Expeditionary Force worked his way up to Lieutenant in the 9th King's Own Scottish Borderers. As far as his MC goes, I have found the citation in a supplement to the London Gazette from July 1918, but as yet have no real context (or date) for the action...*

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in a difficult rearguard action, when his tactical handling of men caused the enemy to suffer heavy casualties and enabled his own men to withdraw with a minimum of loss. He was wounded just as the last remnant of his command had reached safety."

*Edit: I have since discovered this event took place at Combles on 24 March 1918 and the MC was awarded posthumously.

Andrew was invalided home, and after his recovery he made his way to Ireland where he accidentally drowned while bathing in Loch Corrib on 2nd June 1918. He is buried in the Western Necropolis of Glasgow Cemetery. There is a great photograph of Andrew that I came across in my late great-auntie Jean's photo album, which I saw for the first time a few months ago, showing him wearing one of the emergency issue winter goat-skin coats (also known as 'woolly bears') that were first issued in the winter of 1914-15. His cap badge shows this was taken when he was with the Scottish Rifles.

Through researching Andrew, I discovered that his elder brother, Henry (known as Harry) also died in the war, being killed at Gallipoli, while serving with the 5th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, on 14 July 1915.

This is my fifth annual Remembrance Sunday post, you can see the previous years' entries from 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004.

posted 09.11.08 at 10:28 am in Family History | permalink | |


About the name Garen
Wednesday 10 September 2008
As you may have noticed, I have a fairly unusual name, and I'm asked the question about where it comes from on a regular basis, with most people postulating that it has Welsh origins due to the way it sounds (it's hasn't, though I probably do have a little Welsh ancestry back in the 1700s by way of some Pritchards).
My mum always told me that she liked the first half of 'Gareth', but not the second, and the second half of 'Darren', but not the first, so she put the two together to come up with Garen (this was 1969). Very recently my aunt told me a different story, that my mum scrambled the letters of her own name (Margaret Anne) and picked out five, producing Garen. Whichever story is true (I think the first) - she made the name up.


From a 1990 letterhead

I like my name. It's got five letters to match my surname and has a pleasing stamp. Up until I got on the Internet, I thought it was pretty much unique, though someone told me early on that Elvis Presley's twin brother was called Garen (actually his second name and not the same spelling, Jesse Garon Presely, he was sadly still-born).

When I did get on to the internet (in 1997) I found there were other Garens out there and I experienced something of the feeling that all Johns, Daves and Mikes must constantly have... that my name is shared. Most Garens the world over have an Armenian surname, and this does seem to be where its roots lie, although a number of more recent baby-name websites declare it as French, and that it comes from the word 'guard' (erm, which is garde). A friend of mine who recently had a baby, owned a mammoth book of 40,000 baby names, including Garen, of which it said it was English. I can't help but wonder if they got that from typing the name into Google and coming up with my website and looking at where I lived!

I do know of another Garen native to the British Isles. In the late 1990s I did some illustration work assisting comic artist Tony O'Donnell, and when he had a son around that time, he and his wife decided they liked the name Garen, so it became his too. He's not named "after me", as such (I've only actually met Tony once in person), but I feel honoured, all the same, that my name was the origin.

Update: I have since done a little research into the first name Garen, and here are some stats - from 1837-2005 there were 46 Garen births registered in England, Wales and Scotland; the first was in 1952; there were 4 in the 50s, 8 in the 60s (including me), 12 in the 70s, 7 in the 80s and 11 in the 90s. 33 were in England, 11 in Wales, and 2 in Scotland; 10 of those belonged to people with a non-UK heritage (going by surname), of which 5 were Armenian (the others Turkish, Arabian, Latin American, Punjabi and Hindu).


The signature I use on my artwork - it hasn't changed much in 20 years...

Garen is one of those names people never believe the first time they hear it, so I've always got the script ready to say "it's like Darren but with a G instead of a D", though sometimes I won't bother, and will endure being called Darren, Gary, Gareth or Geraint and on one amusing occasion, Garden. One chap I worked with for a few months even took to calling me Dave because my name just did not compute in his world. The most common mis-spelling is to give it two rs, and it is still sometimes mis-spelt by friends and even family. If I say my own name, Garen Ewing, too quickly, people tend to think my name is that of automobile-songster and pop-pilot, Gary Numan.

One popular use of the name Garen appears to be for fantasy characters in online fiction, as it lends itself to that random interlocking of syllable parts that I know so well from my role-playing game days when I did much the same thing (ah, Dorin Sharpesword, where are you now?) In fact, at the time of writing, the number one Google return is for Garen Muln, a human male Jedi master who "lived during the final decades of the Galactic Republic". Number two is for Garen Boyajian, a Canadian actor (with an Armenian surname) whose "dedication, drive and defiant pursuit of superstardom" I immediately support due to our invisible unusual-name bond (coincidentally, he also works to help raise awareness for Ewing's Sarcoma). As for me, I come in at number four, just after Tarot mistress, Nancy Garen (but I'm not counting the surname). I've seen one female Garen - Garen Thomas, an African-American children's editor and author.

Update: as of Sep 2013 I now come in at number seven, with all the first six (and several after) being for a character called Garen ("The Might of Demacia") from a game called League of Legends.

Despite being one of those names you'll never find on a name-key-ring display in a tacky gift shop, there are a couple of places called Garen. It's the name of a ghost-town to be found on Highway 61 south of Forest Lake, Minnesota, founded in the 1890s. What I find intriguing about this place is that it was born of flame (a cattle-train stop built to placate the local farmers who were the victims of fires started by sparks from passing trains) and it pretty much died by flame (when the old school building burnt down in the 1930s, leaving only a roadside tavern into the 1940s). Garen is also a small town just outside Lindern, Germany ('garen' means 'cook' in German, apparently).

So there you go... though the name has a Western Armenian heritage, in my case my mum just made it up in 1969. Well... you do keep asking!

You can read another blog post about names right here.


My parents and grandparents at my naming ceremony.
posted 10.09.08 at 10:08 am in Family History | permalink | 4 |


Exhibition of work by Edyth Higson
Thursday 28 August 2008
Currently running at Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is a small exhibition of art by my great auntie Edyth, this being the centenary of her birth (she died in 1980). I believe it is to run until the end of the year.
Edyth was the eldest child of a coal miner, and when her talent and ambition became evident, the family put their financial resources into sending her to the Royal College of Art in London - indeed, she was the first girl from Doncaster to go there. In the 1940s she ended up in Shrewsbury and married into an artistic family, the Coles. Her husband's uncle Edwin was quite a famous local artist, and I have mentioned him before, with a gallery of his postcards here. Her husband disappeared one day (it is thought he took his own life when the family business foundered), and she lived the rest of her life struggling to make a living, but did survive thanks to her art.

Detail from a theatre scene and a street scene (Doncaster market)

The only work I have of hers is a pencil portrait of her brother, my grandfather, which must date from the 1930s. My grandparents used to have a large oil painting over their fire-place that was by Edyth - a forest and river scene, if I remember correctly, and I was always fascinated at how dark and brooding it seemed. The Doncaster Museums Officer very kindly sent me some photographs of some of the work on show, which includes some of the glass etching she did later on in life. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood in the next few months, why not drop in and take a look?


Edyth (c.1924) and her portrait of my grandfather, Ben.
posted 28.08.08 at 2:34 pm in Family History | permalink | |


Edwin Cole
Wednesday 4 June 2008
I have created a quick page to display my small collection of Edwin Cole art - mostly in the form of postcards of Shrewsbury as published by Longforth Wilding & Sons.
My great auntie Edith married Edwin's nephew, Duncan. Edith was an artist herself, attending the Royal College of Art in the 1920s, a financial stretch for her parents which necessitated her brother (my grandfather) having to abandon his dreams of becoming a chemist to join his father in the coal pits. Instead, he ran away from home and joined the army, eventually becoming a Major, and resulting in my mum seeing her school days in places such as Tripoli, Libya and Egypt. Artists, eh!?

posted 04.06.08 at 11:16 pm in Family History | permalink | |


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 regiments.org, which has sadly gone off-line recently, probably for good.

posted 02.05.08 at 12:05 pm in Family History | permalink | |


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 in Family History | permalink | |


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 in Family History | permalink | |


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