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 postcard clearly demonstrates that John, an agricultural labourer for more than 70 years, was something of a celebrity in Devon a century ago.
It belongs to a family living in Mid Devon – and it may well be the last of its kind.
Talks about my new book, History Maker, have led to numerous first-time meetings with descendants of the grandsons who served in the Great War.
Just recently, I met two daughters of Pte Frank Roberts, who survived after being shot in the head in fierce fighting in Palestine.
Frank was serving with the 16th Devons when he was wounded in an attack on a remote hilltop village near Jerusalem on December 3, 1917.
He endured a 300-mile journey by camel to hospital in Cairo, with the bullet still in his head – and returned to his battalion just a few months later.
After the war, he married Alice May Bending and they had three daughters and a son.
His surviving daughters, aged 93 and 95, live in Devon, and remember him as a very hard working farmer, and a ‘strict’ father.
It was a great privilege to talk to them – two more cousins of mine that I didn’t know existed until the publication of History Maker.
The picture shows how the postcard of John looks.