I have a threadbare wallet containing photographs of some of my grandfather’s military comrades in the Great War. Most of these photos are either studio photographs or informal group photographs taken in military hospitals. On the reverse of each, my grandfather, Percy, pencilled the names and regiments of those in the photos.
At the time the Imperial War Museum’s project Faces of the First World War was first announced, I read that, after the war, when families were asked (presumably by the War Office) to provide a photo of the deceased soldier, some families gave the only photo they had. The thought of the loss of these ‘sole photos’ dismayed me. But it shouldn’t really have surprised me since, in the course of my war memorial projects, where I’ve been able to contact relatives, it is rare indeed to find someone, apart from direct descendants, who has ever seen a photo of their relative.
So many of those who went to war were young and unmarried, leaving grieving parents, siblings and young widows, but no direct descendants. Indeed, I’ve not yet come across a photo of my grandmother’s first husband, who died in 1915. From time to time, I’ve made attempts to locate relatives of some of the men in Percy’s photos, particularly those on the CWGC database of those who did not survive the conflict.
A friend, who has a ‘dedicated’ scanner, has allowed me to use it to make superior scans of Percy’s photos, making it easy to provide a digital copy to any interested surviving relatives. My most recent such reunion of relative and photo provided a studio photograph of a man killed in 1918 to his half-brother’s son, a man not born until the end of the Second World War.
What follows is a list of the men whose relatives have not yet been located. Apart from one Canadian, all served in either the South African or the Australian forces. Given the superior surviving records for the Australian forces—I have sung the praises of the AWM elsewhere, more than once—I am hopeful that I will eventually reunite copies of these photos with interested relatives.
By publishing their names here, at some point, preferably during my lifetime, a relative researching them may come across this post. Most of the men on this list did survive the war.
Group of three soldiers with a nurse
In pencil on the reverse of the postcard:
4340, Sgt L Buckley, A Company, 30th Battalion, A. I. F.
Pte G Fox, No. 1 Section, 9th F. A., A.I.F.
Trooper J. H. Nash, 13th A. L. H., A.I.F.
Three soldiers, signatures on photos
R.G. Patrick, C.W. Medlin, A. Willison
Reverse of card, pencilled:
Pte Patrick, S.A. Scottish;
Pte C.W. Medlin, 3rd S.A. Infantry;
Sgt. Willison, 5th Canadians.
Three soldiers, posing in Williams Pioneer Studios Ltd (Holloway)
Sgt G.A. Leak, 1st Regiment, Killed Delville Wood, July 1916
F (or T?) Horsley (or Hawsley?), 4th Regiment.
Photo of man in black tie, taken at the Parisian Studios, 27 Church Street, Liverpool
6050 Sgt Spud Murphy, S.A. Scottish
Photo of three men standing behind a nurse
Percy is the man in the middle. On the reverse is written:
2nd London Gen. Hospital
Chelsea Hut I
With best wishes
J.A. Mitchell, 7th Battalion, A.I.F.
Home address: Queensborough, Victoria, Australia
On the right (in the space for the address):
P. A. Groves, 1st S.A.I., Abroad.
Very young soldier (head and shoulders)
Signed below portrait: Yours sincerely, Reg. L. Huckett, 11th October 1917