If you caught the BBC TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? this week then you too were treated to a really interesting story.
It was that of Billy Connolly and in particular his ancestral links back to India.
His maternal great-great-grandfather was a soldier in British India who married the daughter of another British soldier. One who had seen the atrocities of the Indian Mutiny first hand and who himself was married to a young Indian girl at the time.
The Anglo-Indian aspect is another fascinating subject that could be examined in detail, but today I wanted to concentrate on the 1857 Indian Mutiny, as the British called it, or the First War of Indian Independence, as it is known to Indians.
What was good about this episode of the TV series was that it explained a bit about this historical time. There were brutal killings on both sides and it reminded me to go and look in my notes for an inscription that I had once seen on a headstone in one of the old cemeteries here on the other side of the world in Jersey, Channel Islands. There is no connection to Billy Connolly other than it is a person who also witnessed the brutality that his ancestor had in Northern India and the effect that it had on her.
Last year I was looking at some of the old Victorian monuments in Mont A L’Abbe Old Graveyard in Jersey when I came across this one:
Lavinia Fanny Kelly Hicks
Granddaughter of the above Mary Symons and the beloved wife of Captain W.J. Hicks H.M.E.I.S, who died at sea on her homeward voyage on the 28th of April 1858 in the 19th year of her age. Her constitution having been destroyed by the suffering she experienced during the mutiny at Allahabad.
So many other questions spring to mind from this.
This particular headstone can be viewed in its entirety as part of the Diamond subscription of TheGenealogist. This site has published photographs and transcriptions from several churchyards and cemeteries and I am told by my contacts at TheGenealogist that there are more to come in the future months.
Just search for Lavina Hicks and you can see the actual headstone that I was so moved by.
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links used above.
It tells of their most recent release of World War I records and the unique nature of the launch that links records of Soldiers who died in the First World War to their war graves.
These War Office records give full details about a soldier and are linked to where they are buried or commemorated on a memorial.
For the first time it is now possible to find the death record of an ancestor who fought and died in the First World War and with one further mouse-click, discover where they are buried or commemorated through a unique link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website which provides colour images and details on the War Cemetery including exact location, brief history of the regiments involved and the battles fought.
In a matter of seconds it is possible to trace an ancestor and gain an idea of the history of the battle or military importance of the location of where they fell. It really helps speed up your military research.
From 16 year old Private John Parr, who was the first British soldier to be killed in action on the 21st August 1914 on a patrol north east of Mons, to the last British soldier to die, Private George Edwin Ellison, who fought in most of the major World War One battles only to be killed an hour and a half before the Armistice on 11 November 1918 on patrol on the outskirts of Mons. Both John Parr and George Ellison are buried facing each other at the St Symphorien Military Cemetery having fought and died in ironically the same area of the Western Front, only four years apart emphasising the stalemate of the First World War.
The records link through to TheGenealogist’s other unique military records such as Prisoner of War records, casualty lists and war memorials. For instance you can find the record of Harry Topliffe within this new record set, showing us he enlisted with the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) and was living in Stamford Brook, Middlesex.
Harry was posted to Mesopotamia to fight the Turkish Army. A Prisoner of War record shows that he was imprisoned in Kut-El-Amara and a casualty list record shows that he died there, as a Prisoner. Harry is also listed in TheGenealogist’s War Memorial records, on a memorial within the Harrod’s store in London (he was an employee within the removals department). TheGenealogist then uniquely links to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to show that he was buried in the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.
The 650,000 records of the soldiers who died in the First World War provide full details of the serviceman, including full name, where they were born, place of residence, place of enlistment, their rank and service number, cause and date of death and the regiment they served with.
Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist.co.uk, comments: “This latest release adds to our unique military collection. These records are great for those looking into what happened to their ancestor in the First World War. With the direct link from the soldiers who died on to the various other collections we hold, along with a link to where they are commemorated, one click gives you the story behind your ancestor’s military history.”
Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this post.
Ancestry.co.uk has published online the UK, Casualties of the Boer War, 1899-1902, detailing 55,000 British and colonial soldiers who were killed, wounded, captured, or who died of disease during the Second Boer War.
Highlighting for us the horror of the conflict by detailing over 20,000 deaths of British soldiers along with the injury of a further 23,000. Typically each record details the soldierâ€™s name, rank, force, regiment, battalion and date and place of death, injury or capture.
Most of the other records are of capture or disease, which was rife in South Africa during the early 20th century. Dysentery, typhoid fever and intestine infections were among the most common contagions and account for around 12,000 deaths in the collection.
As well as death through sickness and battlefield injuries, the collection reveals some unusual â€˜fatesâ€™ met by soldiers. These include records of 86 British troops who were killed or injured by lightning, including a mysterious case of two soldiers struck dead within moments of each other when a lightning storm swept their base in Stormberg near Cape Town. One soldier is even listed as having been eaten by a crocodile at the Usutu River.
As the number of deaths recorded in this collection correspond with the fatalities noted in other historical sources, this archive can be considered one of the most comprehensive resources of British soldiers in the Second Boer War available.
Anyone trying to find out more about an ancestor who fought in the Second Boer War will find these records invaluable, particularly as most British soldiers who fought in the conflict wonâ€™t appear in the 1901 Census of England and Wales because they were fighting in South Africa.
These include a number of famous men who were awarded with the Victoria Cross, the highest honour for bravery, upon their return from Africa:
Sir Walter Norris Congreve â€“ Congreve was a hero in both the Boer War and WWI, attaining the rank of general by the end of his 30-year military career. He was awarded his Victoria Cross for defending an abandoned gun emplacement during the Battle of Colenso, where he rescued a fallen comrade under heavy fire despite suffering from gunshot wounds
Charles Fitzclarence â€“ Fitzclarence was decorated for three separate actions of gallantry and became known as one of the fiercest soldiers of the Boer conflict. Major-General Baden-Powell himself even remarked on Fitzclarenceâ€™s bravery and importance to the cause. During several sorties Fitzclarence showed â€˜coolness and courageâ€™, defying insurmountable odds to defeat the enemy
Henry William Engleheart â€“ After completing a mission to destroy Boer railways behind enemy lines, Engleheart led the extrication through the Boer defences – even stopping to rescue a fallen comrade despite being outnumbered by more than four to one
Following on from the First Boer War, the Second Boer War was a dispute over territory in South Africa, fought between the British Empire and Dutch settlers (known as â€˜Boersâ€™ â€“ the Dutch word for â€˜farmerâ€™). The catalyst for this secondary conflict was the discovery of gold in the Boer-controlled South African Republic, also known as the Transvaal.
The resulting gold rush encouraged thousands of British settlers (known as uitlanders) to migrate to the republic. Before long the British numbers exceeded those of the Boer, prompting tension around â€˜uitlander rightsâ€™ and which nation should control the gold mining industry. When the British refused to evacuate their forces in 1899, the Boer declared war.
The so-called ‘Boers’ were farmers who were used to riding and hunting for survival and were therefore considerable opponents for the British Army and claimed the lives of around 8,000 British soldiers. The Boer themselves lost 7,000 troops.
In an attempt to cut off supplies to the Boers, a ‘scorched earth policy’ was introduced. This resulted in the destruction of Boer farms and crops, and subsequent introduction of concentration camps where the Boer and African women, children and workers were interned. Thousands of Boers lost their lives here, primarily through malnutrition and disease.
Ancestry.co.uk International Content Director Dan Jones comments:Â â€œThese records are a stark reminder of the atrocities of a conflict that is often eclipsed by wars that took place closer to home. They detail a dark and regrettable period of history, but one that should never be forgotten.