When No 1 Son was starting to learn about the First World War at school he came home one day with the inevitable question: “did we have any family members who fought in the War, Mum?”
I knew, of course, that neither of my grandfathers had fought in the First World War because they were too young; but what I did know from my work on the paternal side of our family tree was that there was a possibility that some of our male ancestors may have fought in the First World War. Unfortunately there was no one for me to ask – and this is why the internet is SO awesome, because by doing some googling I discovered that there’s a site called the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. And on here, you can type in the names of relatives and if there’s a record of them having died in the First or Second World War, it will find them – and tell you where and when they died, and where they’re buried (or marked on a memorial).
So what No 1 Son and I discovered was that we had not one, but two relatives, cousins of my paternal grandmother’s, who died in the First World War. One, Harold Clinkard, died near Ypres in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, serving in the Canadian Infantry (this led me to discover that he had been a ‘British Home Child’, one of the children who were shipped overseas supposedly for a better life, but often with disastrous results). He was 21 when he was killed, and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
Discovering these stories (along with Horrible Histories, of course) helped bring the First World War to life for our son; and then his dad decided to take him to both Thiepval and Lijssenthoek so they could find our relatives’ names and pay their respects. They both said it was an incredibly moving experience and one they will remember always.