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petwes

Soldiers Wills

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petwes

My Great, Great Uncle Henry Horsman served with 8th Devons and was killed 20/7/1916. 

I have just obtained a copy of his will and was surprised to note it was dated 18/7/1916, just two days before his death.  I have been assuming that he was with the 8th Battalion on 1st July and presumably would have written his will before then.   Am I reading too much into this or does it indicate he only moved into the front line on the 18th?  Did soldiers change their wills and could he have rewritten this one? 

As an aside this is the first time I have looked at a soldier's will.  I note the official page at the front bears the same two reference numbers as the ledger entry of Soldier's effects.  Also it is dated a couple of days before the soldier's effects entry was made.  Would I be correct in drawing the conclusion that part of the process of sorting out effects would be first for the informal will to "proved" if that is the correct word and then forwarded on to those administratively responsible for paying monies owed to next of kin/ legatee(s)?

I wonder if there was an index card system in use with these records at some time?

 

Peter

 

Edited by petwes

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petwes

David

Many thanks.  I will have a good read later.  Unfortunately the website is blocked at work because it could apparently be used to download games!!!

Peter

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DavidOwen

Welcome as always Peter.

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ss002d6252
2 hours ago, petwes said:

My Great, Great Uncle Henry Horsman served with 8th Devons and was killed 20/7/1916. 

I have just obtained a copy of his will and was surprised to note it was dated 18/7/1916, just two days before his death.  I have been assuming that he was with the 8th Battalion on 1st July and presumably would have written his will before then.   Am I reading too much into this or does it indicate he only moved into the front line on the 18th?  Did soldiers change their wills and could he have rewritten this one? 

As an aside this is the first time I have looked at a soldier's will.  I note the official page at the front bears the same two reference numbers as the ledger entry of Soldier's effects.  Also it is dated a couple of days before the soldier's effects entry was made.  Would I be correct in drawing the conclusion that part of the process of sorting out effects would be first for the informal will to "proved" if that is the correct word and then forwarded on to those administratively responsible for paying monies owed to next of kin/ legatee(s)?

I wonder if there was an index card system in use with these records at some time?

 

Peter

 

I believe there was card index system but I have not been able to prove it fully as yet.

 

I have notes I collected from looking in to the war gratuity :

Quote


Section 21 of the Regimental Debts Act 1893 required that a copy of the soldier’s will, or a declaration of intestacy, be lodged with the appropriate body[1] in the country where it appeared they were domiciled.


[1] High Court of Ireland in Dublin, the Court of England in London and the Commissary Court of Edinburgh for Scotland..

 

 

Craig

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petwes

I'm thinking of checking the records in Soldier's effects for July 1916 using 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment to see if there is a correlation between the use of the term Legatee in the column "to whom authorised" and the existence of a will in the index of probate records. Would this lead to a reliable estimate of the proportion of Soldiers during this period who left Wills?  Is this well ploughed ground and do less amateur statistics already exist for the percentage of men who wrote wills?

 

Peter

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petwes

Thanks Craig

It'll take a while but I will probably pursue it. I've just looked at one this evening, "to whom authorised" is the man's widow. There is no probate record. I wonder from this sample of one! whether the presumption for married men was that his effects would automatically pass to the widow?

 

Peter

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David Tattersfield
12 hours ago, petwes said:

Is this well ploughed ground and do less amateur statistics already exist for the percentage of men who wrote wills?

Hello Peter. The article on the link below may be of interest 

 

http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/articles/in-the-event-of-my-death-an-analysis-of-what-can-be-gleaned-from-soldiers-wills/

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petwes

Probably bad form but I will reply to my own topic.

I found the following article very informative and now know quite a bit more about Wills (thank you David T.).

http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/articles/in-the-event-of-my-death-an-analysis-of-what-can-be-gleaned-from-soldiers-wills/

 

From my GG Uncle's point of view I now know that his Will was made out on page 13 of his paybook and follows the proforma supplied. Unless he had received a new paybook it would probably be his original and only Will.

He is remembered at Thiepval so I had assumed his body was never recovered, however it looks as if his paybook was recovered at some point and the Will removed.  Could he be buried as an unknown or was his paybook taken from his body as the surviving members of his company withdrew?  Something to ponder. 

I will progress the analysis of the July casualties to see if my stats match those quoted in the WFA article.

Peter

 

Edited by petwes

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ss002d6252
19 hours ago, petwes said:

Thanks Craig

It'll take a while but I will probably pursue it. I've just looked at one this evening, "to whom authorised" is the man's widow. There is no probate record. I wonder from this sample of one! whether the presumption for married men was that his effects would automatically pass to the widow?

 

Peter

Certainly with the war gratuity the war office were clear that it was a payment made at their discretion and they would pay it as they wished although they would try and follow any will - that allowed them to protect the money in many cases where there were children and there was doubt over the use of the monies.

 

You will likely find s7, 8 and 9 of the regimental debts act 1893 of interest - Regimental_Debts_Act_1893_(1893_c_5).pdf 

(Unfortunately it is has been amended over the year but the annotations under each section will assist on that)

 

Craig

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petwes

Craig

Thanks again I'll read the pdf a bit later.

Would I be correct in saying that most payments in the Effects register are in two blocks? Firstly the "effects" as laid down in FSR's, (as linked earlier), which seem to be paid roughly in 3 to 12 months after death, depending on how well it was confirmed and documented and then the War gratuity which was processed post war?

Peter

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ss002d6252
5 minutes ago, petwes said:

Craig

Thanks again I'll read the pdf a bit later.

Would I be correct in saying that most payments in the Effects register are in two blocks? Firstly the "effects" as laid down in FSR's, (as linked earlier), which seem to be paid roughly in 3 to 12 months after death, depending on how well it was confirmed and documented and then the War gratuity which was processed post war?

Peter

Pretty much - the original payment (in blue) is wages and service gratuity, this was paid relatively quickly. Recording these was the original aim of the register so, when the war gratuity was introduced in early 1919, they went back through the older entries and added the war gratuity payment (in red).


For deaths processed after the war gratuity was introduced they were made as one inclusive payment in most cases.

Craig

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David Tattersfield
On 13/02/2019 at 17:32, petwes said:

I will progress the analysis of the July casualties to see if my stats match those quoted in the WFA article.

 

That would be good, as the article (mentioned above) was based on a narrow study.

Edited by David Tattersfield

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ss002d6252

I looked at 35 effects records - 13 had 'sole leg' and of these 11 had a corresponding will. 2 men had  'sole leg' but no obvious will.

 

At worst were looking at 11/35 effects entries, so 31%, of those who died who have indication of a will- if we adjust for the 2 sole leg men with no obvious will (if we assume they're just badly indexed) then that gives us 13/35 effects entries indicate a will, so 37%.

 

As a cross check,

Looking at the General Annual Report of the British Army for 1914-19 it can be seen that 86% of UK recruited soldiers were in England & Wales (for these purposes we'll assume recruited in England means domiciled, for the most case).

 

There were 705,000 UK deaths in WW1 (LLT). Assuming the deaths were relatively random then we can assume 86% of these would be from those recruited in England & wales, so 606,000.

 

There are 229,481 soldiers wills held by the probate office then this would suggest that circa 38% (229,481 / 606,000) of all English & welsh dead have a soldiers will at the probate office.

 

 

Only a smallish sample but it suggest that the Wills likely accurately reflect the number of men who are noted as 'sole leg' in the effects register.  The next question is why 62% of men don't have a 'sole leg' entry or a will.

 

Craig

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petwes

Thanks David and Craig

I haven't had much time this week but from 25 Soldiers effects for 8th Devon's on 20/7/1916 I have 8 Sole Legs. I've 12 more to go plus cross checking the wills. I've been recording the registry numbers and the dates between death and record entry as well which takes a bit longer. I think there is a pattern here but it will need a lot more data.

One of the hypotheses I was thinking of looking at was whether more men in the Battalion wrote a will after 1st July than before. 

Peter

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petwes

I have finished checking through the men of the 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment listed by CWGC as having died on 20 July 1916.  I have only counted Other Ranks and men who either died in action or are presumed dead.

There are 37 records.  10 Have the notation Sole Leg. Of these 10 I have been unable to find a will for 3 on the probatesearch website. However 27% of the men had wills based on Soldiers effects.

17 of the men are recorded as presumed dead. 20 are recorded as died In Action. Three of the men with a probable will are listed as presumed dead; (this prompts the question of where the will came from).

Another minor statistic is that on average there is a period of 15 weeks between a man being reported Killed In Action and the entry being made in Soldiers Effects but a longer period, 39 weeks, where a man is presumed dead.  Was this perhaps because the paybook was available?

 

If I just look at men Killed in action the proportion of wills is 39%.  Could it be that to have death recorded as In Action there is a good probability the paybook was recovered and any will in it found?  Some of the men who were presumed dead might well have written wills but as their bodies and effects were not recovered the Wills were never found?

 

The sample data used is very selective and I can think of many reasons for Will forms not being filled out.  Did the rate of completion vary through the course of the war? Did it depend on regional or class attitudes? Was marital status a factor? Would one see a difference between Regular, Territorial and New Army Battalions?

For those with a statistical bent I have compared the results I obtained (10/37) with those found by Craig (13/37). I used a Chi-Square test for Association. From the test there is not enough evidence to conclude that there are differences among the outcome percentage profiles at the 0.05 level of significance. 

 

Peter

 

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ss002d6252
Quote

If I just look at men Killed in action the proportion of wills is 39%.  Could it be that to have death recorded as In Action there is a good probability the paybook was recovered and any will in it found?  Some of the men who were presumed dead might well have written wills but as their bodies and effects were not recovered the Wills were never found? 

I suspect that may be one of the key factors - men could make a will in the paybook or have made it elsewhere, by other means - if the majority of men used the paybook and that was with them then the only copy would be lost in many cases. The missing 60% or so would then be a combination of unrecoverable wills and men who chose not to make one in writing.

 

Many men marked as KiA would not always have had their bodies recovered - if they could be seen to have fallen and were known to be dead on the battlefield then there may have been no time (or enough left of them) for the paybooks to be recovered. I would agree that for missing men the chance of a pay-book being recovered was virtually nil.
 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252

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David Tattersfield
Just now, ss002d6252 said:

I suspect that may be one of the key factors - men could make a will in the paybook or have made it elsewhere, by other means - if the majority of men used the paybook and that was with them then the only copy would be lost in many cases. The missing 60% or so would then be a combination of unrecoverable wills and men who chose not to make one in writing.

 

I agree. This was one of the conclusions of the piece here...

 

 

http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/articles/in-the-event-of-my-death-an-analysis-of-what-can-be-gleaned-from-soldiers-wills/

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petwes

I have completed looking through Soldiers Effects for men of the 8th Devons.  I have chosen 3 significant days in July 1916; 1st, 14th and 20th when casualties were high. I have also taken David's figure based on the Ravensthorpe War memorial and the numbers provided by Craig in post 14.

Comparing them statistically the results are as follows:

 

image.png.aed516f8d102ddaa512421ba5d0024fc.png

 

The differences can be seen in each group compared with the overall average. The 14th of July and the 20th July seem to show significant differences in the proportion of those with or without Wills.

 

Of course this is based on a very small sample. I checked what margin of error could be expected only making an estimate from 239 results:

Sample Size for Estimation

Method

Parameter                 Proportion

Distribution               Binomial

Proportion                0.44

Confidence level        95%

Confidence interval    Two-sided

Results

Sample Size       Margin of Error (Lower Bound)          Margin of Error (Upper Bound)

239                   0.064                                                0.065

 

I think this indicates, that based on this sample, the average of men who died whose wills passed to the authorities was about 44% plus or minus 6.5%

 

Peter

 

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Derek Black
On 13/02/2019 at 17:32, petwes said:

He is remembered at Thiepval so I had assumed his body was never recovered, however it looks as if his paybook was recovered at some point and the Will removed.  Could he be buried as an unknown or was his paybook taken from his body as the surviving members of his company withdrew?  Something to ponder.


With regard to recovered Paybook Wills.

 

Of those that exist for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 4th/5th, 6th and 7th battalions of the Black Watch on Scotlands People:

38% are for men with no known grave.

 

Cheers,
Derek.

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petwes

Derek

Thanks.

As a general question.

Of the 8th Devons who died on 14/7/1916 23 are remembered at Thiepval. 16 of them would have appear to have left Wills i.e. 70%. 

Were their wills recovered and then the bodies subsequently lost? I have been working on the assumption that men were expected to carry their paybooks with them at all times (I believe trench raids were a specific exception). Have I got this wrong and would their paybooks be left with other belongings during action?

Peter

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ss002d6252
2 hours ago, petwes said:

Derek

Thanks.

As a general question.

Of the 8th Devons who died on 14/7/1916 23 are remembered at Thiepval. 16 of them would have appear to have left Wills i.e. 70%. 

Were their wills recovered and then the bodies subsequently lost? I have been working on the assumption that men were expected to carry their paybooks with them at all times (I believe trench raids were a specific exception). Have I got this wrong and would their paybooks be left with other belongings during action?

Peter

As far as I know men would usually carry their paybook but I suppose that they may have made sure they were stored in a safe place rather than taking them in to the trenches. Different battalions may have had different working practices.

 

Some of the men may also have made wills by other means (verbally or via one of the campaigns, such as the Salvation Army's, to lodge a will before going on service).

 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252

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rolt968
1 hour ago, ss002d6252 said:

As far as I know men would usually carry their paybook but I suppose that they may have made sure they were stored in a safe place rather than taking them in to the trenches. Different battalions may have had different working practices.

 

Some of the men may also have made wills by other means (verbally or via one of the campaigns, such as the Salvation Army's, to lodge a will before going on service).

 

Craig

Some men left wills with their families.

I have found at least one holograph will left with the family. Also some men made conventional wills in the UK.

It is interesting. In one case of a will presented at the local sheriff court the recipient of the gratuity changed for the second payment - the War Office presumably having found out that there was a will and hence a legatee.

 

I think the wills of Guardsmen were kept with their records at the depot.

 

RM

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Derek Black
6 hours ago, petwes said:

Derek

Thanks.

As a general question.

Of the 8th Devons who died on 14/7/1916 23 are remembered at Thiepval. 16 of them would have appear to have left Wills i.e. 70%. 

Were their wills recovered and then the bodies subsequently lost? I have been working on the assumption that men were expected to carry their paybooks with them at all times (I believe trench raids were a specific exception). Have I got this wrong and would their paybooks be left with other belongings during action?

Peter


Many bodies of men were recovered and identified only for their locations to be later lost as a result of shelling, trench lines moving or them being buried where they fell for convenience.

There's plenty newspaper articles of mens paybooks being recovered on the battlefield, from their bodies or even dead Germans, who had themselves taken them.

A former active forum poster once stated that they were left behind when the men went into action, however there's plenty evidence to show this was not always the case.

 

So no definitive answer, sometimes they had them, other times, such a big attack, they may not have.

 

Derek.

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ss002d6252

Just looked through my copy of the mobilization regs which add that;

 

In respect of regulars and special reservists the OC will send, for safekeeping with the OC i/c Records, any wills not held in a AB64 if requested by the soldier.

 

In respect of territorials the OC will send, for safekeeping with the OC i/c Territorial Records, any wills not held in a AB64 if requested by the soldier. There is an additional point which suggests that, for those who hadn't signed the ISO, the AB64 could be sent to the records office if the soldier wanted that will held.

 

Craig

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