Honorary relatives


I'm rehanging pictures in the hallway today. The walls have just been painted (I will avoid telling the year-long story of leaks from the flat upstairs/insurance claims etc) in Lime Explosion which is a brave colour choice from someone who's been stuck in it's-a-wall-paint-it-white mode since about 1964.

I adopted these two chaps as honorary relatives about 30 years ago when I rescued the photographs from a car boot sale. The top one is dated 1918 and that's a Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) flaming grenade cap badge at the bottom of the original copper-covered frame. The bottom photograph has a modern mount and frame; Schofield, Brighton is hand-written below the image.

A little more information


From the ICRC (International Commitee of the Red Cross) Historical Archives, this is Walter's record card while he was a prisoner of war. The PA numbers refer to separate records detailing his time as a prisoner and the R numbers refer to his repatriation. As I thought, he was captured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme; apart from this I'm having trouble deciphering some of the abbreviations on the records.


Yesterday's photo of Walter is a postcard sent to his mother and dated April 25th 1916 (O. A. S. = On Active Service; B. E. F. = British Expeditionary Force).


I've collected old photographs and postcards for years and this one was a present from a friend. Digging through the archives usually turns up one or two nuggets of information but I've been lucky with Walter. I started with census records, searched for Walter plus his mother's surname (Gittens) and found him aged 6 on the 1901 census. On the 1911 census, Walter is 16 and living with his father (Robert), mother (Amy) and sister (Edith) at 31 William Street, Hampstead Road, London.

Then I checked the British Army Service Records 1914-1920 (National Archives) hoping his records hadn't been destroyed during WW2. This is a brief summary of what I found:

Private Walter Robert Gittens, born June 18th 1894, enlisted June 18th 1912, Oxford Street, London, regimental number 1487, 1/9 London Regiment. Later (don't know when) his regimental number changes to 390054.

Military Character: V. Good. Service Record:

Home 5.8.14 - 3.11.14

France 4.11.14 - 30.6.16 (promoted in the field to Lance Corporal 28.1.15, promoted in the field to Corporal 15.3.16)

Prisoner of War 1.7.16 - 25.4.18. GSW (gun shot wound) chest and right shoulder, lost left leg.

Home 26.4.18 - 19.7.18 (Queen Mary's Convalescent Home, Roehampton)

Discharged 19.7.18 No longer fit for War Service.

I still have to check Prisoner of War records to find out where he was held prisoner, but suspect the date indicates that he was captured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme

More information, hopefully, to come.



Second Lieutenant K F Nichol, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force (image from Faces of the First World War - the first 100)

Faces of the First World War is an IWM project to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. They've uploaded 100 previously unseen portraits of those who served in the war to Flickr and will continue to upload images every weekday between now and the anniversary in August 2014.