Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Paul Roberts

Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    17
  • comments
    13
  • views
    2,812

About this blog

The power of the Great War Forum: How it helped me to complete a book about my great-great-grandfather, who had 30 grandsons serving King and country in the Great War

Entries in this blog

Devons still fighting in Russia months after war ends

Devons still fighting in Russia months after war ends

A special service is being held at Witheridge Parish Church in Devon at 2pm on Friday, June 28 to commemorate the centenary of the official end of the Great War. Here, in the run-up to the event, I look at how Devon's soldiers were still engaged in fighting in North Russia many months after the end of the Great War. As peace was celebrated across Britain in the summer of 1919, few of the hundreds of thousand revellers in Devon were aware that some of their soldiers were still fighting fo

syd

syd

 

The cost of the Great War – and how millions of British soldiers came home

Many of our soldiers were still serving in three continents as the Great War finally ended on November 11, 1918. A special service marking the centenary of the official end of the war – when a peace treaty was signed in Versailles – is taking place at Witheridge Parish Church on Friday, June 28, 2019. Here, I look at the cost of the war and the challenges of demobilising millions of British officers and men.   When the guns of the Great War finally fell silent, the shocking cost of mor

syd

syd

 

Special service in Devon to mark centenary of official end of Great War

There was jubilation as the guns finally fell silent on the Great War battlefields on November 11, 1918. But the war was not over when the firing stopped. There was still one more battle to fight – for a peace agreement. Many of our soldiers remained ‘on duty’ on the Western Front, in Italy, Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia for months after the Armistice. Countless numbers were still listed as ‘missing in action’ and the fate of many British prisoners of war was unknown as p

syd

syd

 

Killed - while enjoying a mug of hot tea

There were few ‘home comforts’ for British soldiers in the mud-filled trenches of Northern France in the Great War. John Francis ‘Frank’ Roberts, of Rackenford, was enjoying one of them on the morning of September 9, 1916 – a mug of hot tea. He was taking a well-earned break after a series of ferocious encounters with the German army on the Somme. Without warning, a shrapnel shell burst over his trench, firing its lethal load into him. Frank, described by his commandi

syd

syd

 

Family reunion inspired by remarkable Great War story a great success

A family reunion inspired by the remarkable story of John Roberts who had 30 grandsons in the Great War was attended by almost 150 people. It took place at the Waie Inn at Zeal Monachorum in Devon – a village close to where many of the grandsons were born. Those attending included a son and four daughters of three of the 30 grandsons of John Roberts who served in the Great War. Fifteen great-grandchildren of the agricultural labourer, who died aged 90 in 1919, were among those at

syd

syd

 

Mystery over life-saving Great War book solved

A mystery over what happened to a book which saved the life of Devonshire soldier Sam Roberts in the Great War has been solved. Sam, of Rackenford, Devon, was shot in the chest just before Christmas 1914 as he charged at a German trench in northern France. The bullet, fired from an enemy rifle, should have killed him. But he lived to fight another day because a book he kept in his breast pocket took the full force of the blast. Sam, a private in the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire

syd

syd

 

Discovered: a postcard revealing a remarkable family sacrifice

There have been many great discoveries and surprises since I wrote a book about my great-great-grandfather, John Roberts, who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all has come in the smallest of packages – in the shape of an old and fragile postcard. It features a picture of John and the following 20 words: ‘Mr John Roberts, of Witheridge has 30 grandsons on active service. The old man is naturally proud of his boys.’ The postca

syd

syd

 

An extraordinary coincidence

It was a genuinely jaw-dropping moment. I had just finished doing a talk in Devon, when I met for the first time a grand-daughter of a soldier who had a remarkable escape from death in the Great War. She brought a family photograph of her grandfather, Frank Roberts, who survived after being shot in the head in fierce fighting in Palestine. Frank was wounded as his battalion, the 16th Devons, captured a hilltop village near Jerusalem in December 1917. Rescued by fellow

syd

syd

 

Ancestor’s war service revealed – thanks to members of the Great War Forum

The knowledge of members of the Great War Forum – and their willingness to help – never ceases to amaze me. In the past few days, I published a picture on the Forum of someone I believed to be one of my ancestors in his Great War uniform. I had an idea of who he was, but did not know which regiment he was in or where he may have served. I hoped that someone on the Forum would perhaps identify the distinctive uniform and provide clues to the soldier’s war service. Within an ho

syd

syd

 

Why you should never give up on researching a Great War soldier

Never give up. That is the lesson I have learned time after time while researching soldiers who served in the Great War. It took ten years to find and research 20 of the 30 grandsons of John Roberts who served their King and country between 1914 and 1918. Among the great unresolved mysteries was the war service of three of the grandsons – brothers from Sandford, near Crediton in Devon. I spent many long hours perusing old newspapers and looking through military, parish and other r

syd

syd

 

Families united in grief - 25 years after three brothers married three sisters

It was a rare series of weddings – three brothers marrying three sisters in the same village parish church in rural Devon. The brothers, all sons of John and Mary Roberts, wed the daughters of William and Mary Morrish at All Saints Church, Rackenford between 1889 and 1891. John Roberts Jnr, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, married Elizabeth Morrish on March 20, 1889. Samuel Roberts wed Maria Morrish on March 26, 1890. And Thomas Roberts and Mary Ann Morrish were joined in mar

syd

syd

 

A snap shot in time: how one family’s life would change so strikingly after 1911 Census

Official documentation produced three years before the start of the Great War provides a poignant and powerful insight into how lives would change so dramatically in the years ahead. The 1911 Census return for Newland Farm, Witheridge in Devon shows three generations of the Roberts family living under one roof. John Roberts – who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War – was living at Newland. Aged 81 at the time, he was strangely described as a ‘boarder’ and ‘old age pensioner’. He was l

syd

syd

 

The day I came face to face with the son of a WW1 cavalryman

It was an incredible moment. I was preparing to talk about WW1 cavalryman Archie Roberts in a packed hall at Thorverton when I met his son, grand-daughter and other family members for the first time. They were in the audience to hear how Archie, a private in the 13th Hussars, lived through two of the greatest cavalry charges in history, at Lajj and Hadraniya in Mesopotamia, in 1917 and 1918 – and survived the war. Emotions ran high as I attempted to ‘walk’ in Archie’s boots and ride an

syd

syd

 

Getting to know the men who fought and died in the Great War

What do you think and see when you look at your local war memorial? What do the names of the men and women commemorated on it mean to you? When I was growing up in Devon, I looked for soldiers sharing my surname – Roberts – on rural memorials. I found one in my home village, Morchard Bishop, two in Rackenford and one in Cruwys Morchard. I often wondered who they were and how they died. And if they were related to me. Amazingly, it turned out that those men were ancestors

syd

syd

 

The book arrives: a tribute to Great War Forum and all who have helped to make it a reality

It was an emotional moment. The culmination of ten years of research inspired by the chance discovery of an old photograph. The day a book I thought I would never finish finally arrived on my doorstep. It felt as if I had reached the end of an epic journey full of twists and turns, mysteries and surprises. That I had completed a seemingly never-ending project that had eaten up many thousands of hours of my life. All kinds of thoughts raced through my mind today as I opened the boxes co

syd

syd

 

A great mystery solved – thanks to the Great War Forum

Writing a book about a retired farm labourer who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War presented considerable challenges. Many of John Roberts’ grandsons shared the same Christian and surnames – and their service numbers were, in the main, unknown. Seven never made it home. Three were killed on the battlefields of the Western Front, three died from wounds sustained in action in France and Flanders, and one died from heart disease in Mesopotamia. It took more than two years to

syd

syd

 

The power of the Great War Forum: How it helped me to complete a book about my great-great-grandfather, who had 30 grandsons serving King and country in the Great War

Ten years ago, I found a grainy old picture of a John Roberts on a village history archive. At that stage, I didn’t know who he was. But he shared my surname. And, with his bushy sideburns, beard and broad smile, he looked so much like my dad. A caption beneath the image astounded me. It said that John had 30 grandsons serving King and country in the Great War. It inspired me to find out more about the octogenarian and his grandsons. And the truth could not have been more remarkab

syd

syd

Sign in to follow this  
×
×
  • Create New...