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Help required - trying to solve family mystery and identify this soldier (Yorkshire connection)


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Hi,

I've been given a photograph by my mother which has an interesting backstory and she thinks that it shows the parents of her father - who was born in the West Yorkshire area in 1913. Her father was given up for adoption during the war and he never was able to find his father or find out more information about him. All that he had was this photograph, so I am trying to find out who the man was and identify his regiment, rank and anything else that might give us some clues in order to start putting the pieces (literally in this case), together. Unfortunately, the photograph was damaged (intentionally by my grandfather) and my grandmother who retrieved it, glued it to some card so there isn't an easy way to see if anything is on the back of the photograph.

 

If anyone can help me identify the soldier, we would be very grateful!

 

Regards,

 

PBS

Unidentified.jpg

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Matlock1418

PBS

Welcome to GWF

Rather looks to me like:

Leicestershire Regiment cap badge

Lance Corporal

Signaller

Military Medal recipient

If you can provide a name it would really help us a great deal.

Good luck

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418
corrected the regimental name to Leicestershire
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Thanks for the speedy response M!

 

Unfortunately, my grandfathers adopted name is of no use in resolving the mystery... so hence trying to identify this chap through this photo and his uniform :)

 

PBS

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Good Morning pshelley. Welcome to Great War Forum.

     What an interesting photograph and a tale to tell behind it.  My colleagues on GWF will be delighted with some of the clues in the photograph-the signaller's badge on his arm, lance corporal's stripe, medal ribbon and cap badge- For  medal ribbon and cap badge, I will say nothing as a number of GWF colleagues are absolute experts- they can identify these things at a thousand paces on a foggy day.

    What might help is  a couple of things:

 

1)  The exact birthday if you have it- and, if known, just where in West Yorkshire.  These can be very helpful in pinning down the actual person rather than just being left with a number of possibilities.

2)  His full names-  Down here in London, we have the experience over 2 centuries of The Foundling Hospital- Captain Coram and all that.  Very often "foundlings" were left with some sort of token that would identify them long into the future-the photograph may be that token. Also, very many adoptions are/were not as coldly remote as one might think-so a particular family name may have been continued as the adoptive name. It might also hazard a guess as to religion,which could be a factor in tracking down. 

3)  Any other family folklore-  many "adoptions" are actually within a family and informal in that they never go near the powers-that-be. Even the slightest glimmer of family lore might help.

Edited by Guest
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Hi V,

 

There isn't an awful lot to go on which is extremely frustrating, here's what I can share.

 

1) Birthdate 20/05/1913, Otley W. Yorks.

2) Ronald Smith-Hopton

3) He was told (by his adoptive parents we think), that his father had died in the war and his mother had given him up for adoption. My grandfather had a bad time with his adoptive parents apparently and wanted nothing to do with them so I've not gone down that route of finding out more about them. I suspect that you are right about the token - I've asked my mother and she says that is all he had. She did tell me he tried to track down his parents in later life, but was unsuccessful. 

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Am interesting aspect is that he’s not wearing his uniform trousers.  It looks to me as if he probably travelled to the photographer’s studio in civilian clothes, but carrying jacket, belt and cap that he then donned for the photo. 

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    pshelley- Thank you.  My apologies if this sounds intrusive -It is not intended to be so.  I am in the same position as your grandfather  so I know that whatever extra information may emerge (It's not certain) , then it will cause a degree of relief but also a degree of sorrow as well.  We look back at bad times in families and their problems still haunt our own lives. Please rest assured that in trying to assist , the purpose of work to figure out the story is to illumine - to try and understand what happened.  

    Now -taking the data at face value, then there are  94 men of the Leicestershire Regiment who held the distinction of the Military Medal and who died in the war. I have reduced the list by taking out the officers (Men who won the MM before being commissioned up) and the privates-as the balance of probabilities is that he was unlikely to have been reduced in rank.  One I have eliminated as being too old (44 at death).  It is unlikely that he was one of the Sergeants or Company Sergeant Majors but still a possibility - so left in. That still leaves 54 (Phew!!)

    A feature of the memorials of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is that when the CWGC cemeteries with their white stone markers were laid out, the family could ask (and pay for!!) an inscription-  Some of the 54 do not have this.  Most that do say "Son of......" so we may reasonably infer (though not always for sure) that they were unmarried.  8 of the men on CWGC are listed as  "Husband of..."   Normally, the paperwork for memorial inscriptions would go to Next of Kin-which would still be the widow.  Thus-without any degree of certainty, those 8 may be the first to have a bash at-see who they married,etc.  Alas, the Leicestershire Regiment was pretty homogeneous- the men mostly came from Leicestershire, so there is no memorial inscription that shouts out a link with West Yorkshire-though of course a marriage that happened in West Yorkshire would help-and hence  the request for exact place of birth-In the absence of so many men away at the war, pregnant wives very often went back to mum and dad when the time came- so it could be a further clue.

   Well, in for a penny, in for a pound-  the full list of 54 possibles- let's try and see who are probables:

 

Surname

Forename

Initials

Age

Honours

DATE

ASHMORE

GEORGE

G

29

M M

25/09/1916

ATKINSON

J

0

M M

24/03/1918

BELCHER

 

J

0

M M

08/10/1918

BERRINGTON

ROBERT WILLIAM

R W

23

M M

25/09/1916

BLUNT

ROBERT JAMES

R J

0

M M

21/03/1918

BONAM

CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM

C W

28

M M

11/04/1917

BRIGGS

JOHN WILLIAM

J W

0

D C M, M M

17/10/1917

CLAPHAM

FREDERICK THOMAS

F T

24

M M

01/08/1917

COLLEDGE

EDWARD

E

0

M M

03/05/1917

COOPER

ALFRED PERCEY

A P

23

M M

06/10/1918

COULSON

ALBERT

A

22

M M

27/05/1918

COX

WALTER

W

25

M M

26/03/1918

CURLEY

 

F

31

M M

29/09/1918

DAKIN

PERCY GODFREY

P G

29

M M

25/09/1916

DENNIES

 

T K

32

M M

25/03/1918

DENNIS

 

J

0

M M

25/08/1918

ENSOR

 

R

29

M M

28/10/1918

ESSERY

ALBERT EDWARD

A E

0

M M

01/10/1917

FAULKS

 

J H

0

M M

25/07/1918

FOULDS

 

E

25

M M

21/06/1917

GAMBLE

 

W

20

M M

07/12/1916

GEORGE

WALTER

W

33

M M

23/10/1918

GLEADEN

WILLIAM

W

33

M M

08/10/1918

GOULD

WALTER

W

27

M M

28/04/1918

GROOMS

ALFRED HERBERT

A H

0

M M

24/03/1918

HALFORD

 

J

0

M M

23/10/1918

HALL

JAMES

J

31

M M

23/10/1918

HOLYOAKE

W

31

M M

09/10/1918

JACKSON

SAMUEL

S

0

M M

22/03/1918

JACKSON

CASTOR

C

29

M M

27/05/1918

KENDALL

TOM

T

0

M M

27/09/1916

KENDRICK

REGINALD

R

21

M M

14/07/1916

KIRCHIN

ALBERT ARTHUR

A A

24

M M

27/09/1916

KNOTT

JOHN THOMAS

J T

24

M M

21/11/1917

LOVELL

GEORGE

G

22

M M

15/09/1916

O'GARA

THOMAS

T

26

M M

03/05/1917

PASSMORE

A

32

D C M, M M

05/09/1918

PLATTS

WILLIAM

W

29

M M

26/04/1918

RIDDINGTON

FRED

F

0

M M

15/09/1916

ROBINSON

EDWARD

E

21

M M

25/09/1916

SMITH

 

C

23

M M

28/06/1917

STAPLES

 

G W

22

M M

18/02/1917

STEARN

CHARLES

C

24

M M

12/11/1917

STONE

FREDERICK

F

23

M M

23/10/1918

STONE

 

H W

24

M M

24/09/1918

TAYLOR

SAM WILLIAM

S W

0

M M

29/09/1918

TILLEY

FRANCE OMAR

F O

25

M M

14/12/1917

TOWNEND

JOHN

J

31

M M

13/04/1917

TYERS

ARTHUR

A

25

M M

23/07/1917

WHITTAKER

H

0

M M

05/05/1918

WILD

PETER

P

24

M M

06/11/1918

YOUNG

GEORGE HERBERT

G H

22

M M

03/05/1917

YOUNG

HAROLD WILLIAM

H W

25

M M, Mentioned in Despatches

13/08/1916

 

    The ones I would start with can be narrowed to 8:

BONAM
CLAPHAM
GLEADEN
HALL
PLATTS
STEARN
TOWNEND
TYERS

 

Off we go-  an uncertain "science" .  It would be good if we could figure out any records of those with signallers badges-but that might be as wishful as me winning the next Eurolottery roll-over jackpot. 


   

Edited by Guest
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ilkley remembers

Assuming that your mothers birth father was from Otley West Yorkshire I tries searching on Ancestry, Soldiers Who died using keyword Otley and regiment Leicestershire. This brought back 2 records 46297 Rowland Hall and 41445 Arthur Hatton Skirrow both of whom died in 1918. Of the two only Hall is mentioned on the Otley Roll of Honour, although, I doubt that the list is definitive. I know that volunteers from Otley Museum undertook some research into the men from the town who died in WW1 and may be able to find a candidate who served with the Leicestershire Regiment and won the Military Medal. Their web page is http://ww1otleymuseum.moonfruit.com/service-and-loss/4584654802 They will be closed at the moment but you may be able to get a message to them via their contact page.

 

Adopted relatives are always difficult to search especially pre The Adoptive Childrens Act 1926 when they were subject to formal regulation. As was previously mentioned adoptions were often very informal and frequently children where simply sent to the family of a relative or friend. If the adoption took place sometime after the birth then it would be likely that a birth certificate would have been issued in the birth name rather than in the name of the adopting family. However, many informal adoptions were later formalised after the introduction of the 1926 Act in which case the matter would have gone before the local justices in this case possibly in Otley. The courts sometimes retain these old adoption cases so you could try Leeds Court where the Otley papers have probably been transferred.

 

In the old West Riding there were numerous charities who dealt with and placed children for adoption the records of these institutions are pretty scattered but some are held by the west Yorkshire Archives Service whose catalogue is available here https://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/calmview/

 

 

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I assume that this is his original birth registration. Wharfedale included Otley at that time.  Do you have that Birth Cert and is there anything else on it

 

Re the photo you have. That looks as if it might be a marriage photo. Do you think that he married before his death?

 

Births Jun 1913   (>99%)
Hobson  William R  Denison  Wharfedale  9a 241  btnInfo.gif Scan available - click to view
Ireland  Jessie M  Englebright  Wharfedale  9a 241  btnInfo.gif Scan available - click to view
Rawnsley  Mildred  Taylor  Wharfedale  9a 241  btnInfo.gif Scan available - click to view
Smith  Ronald  Smith  Wharfedale  9a 241  btnInfo.gif Scan available - click to view
Whitehead  Gilbert  Austin  Wharfedale  9a 241  btnInfo.gif Scan available - click to view
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As well as the 2 names above,

46297 Rowland Hall

41445 Arthur Hatton Skirrow

 

CWGC gives

L/C JOHN ROBERT PULLING

Service Number: 18977

 

But as far as I can see none of those three had the MM

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ilkley remembers
25 minutes ago, corisande said:

I assume that this is his original birth registration. Wharfedale included Otley at that time.

I think that this is certainly a possibility as adopted children were sometimes given a hyphenated surname being the amalgamation of the birth and adoptive names. Checking the birth certificate for this entry might resolve the matter

 

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Matlock1418
37 minutes ago, corisande said:

I assume that this is his original birth registration. Wharfedale included Otley at that time. 

 

16 minutes ago, corisande said:

As well as the 2 names above,

46297 Rowland Hall

Interesting - perhaps!

Have been alternatively looking at the WFA Pension cards for "Leicester" & "Otley" and came up with Roland HALL 46297 - Mother Sarah Ann HALL, 7 Danefield Terrace, Otley

There was a birth registration in Qtr D, 1899 for Roland HALL, Wharfdale, Mother's maiden: Norfolk

???

:-) M

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Yes, I thought that Ronald/Rowland Hall could be the man, but I could not get him with an MM. And he was only a Private when he did (OK not conclusive, he could have lost rank)

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A small problem with this is that I was hoping (Of course, unrealistically), that the name of a male born in that quarter would correspond with that of one of the MM winners. Might be worth running the next quarter as well-given the time allowed for registration.

   What mitigates against it would be that Soldier X (even though maybe not in the army then)  and his lady would have to have given a child up for adoption immediately at birth- and then to be together later on (ie photo must be after the introduction of the MM).  

   So my next tasks are to run that quarter and the next for any of the 54 names that match. And to try and find these adoptive parents on the 1939 Register.

Edited by Guest
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Three points from me.

 

The photo does look like a wedding, bride's dress, hat & buttonhole but no ring on the man. Perhaps a sister's wedding?

 

Lance-corporals held the rank of Private, LC being an appointment.

 

The adopting parents may have said the real father had died but maybe he hadn't.

TEW

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Matlock1418
1 hour ago, Matlock1418 said:

There was a birth registration in Qtr D, 1899 for Roland HALL, Wharfdale, Mother's maiden: Norfolk

Doh! - probably unlikely to be having a child in 1913.

Photo looks older than 18/19 [though active service and getting a MM might perhaps do that to you] and Hall 46297 died 1918 [couldn't find a MM for him either]

5 minutes ago, TEW said:

Perhaps a sister's wedding?

I wondered about that too??

:-) M

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4 hours ago, pshelley said:

Thanks for the speedy response M!

 

Unfortunately, my grandfathers adopted name is of no use in resolving the mystery... so hence trying to identify this chap through this photo and his uniform :)

 

PBS

 

Have you considered going down the Ancestry DNA route?...there are no guarantees, but I know from my own experience that sometimes the results can be very interesting.

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I can't see a death record or 1939 entry for Ronald Smith-Hopton born 1913. Some possible variations though. Just wondering if he dropped the Hopton part.

 

This is assuming he could be the Roland Smith born Wharfedale 2nd Qtr. 1913 mother's maiden name Smith.

 

If he is the above then there's no name connection to soldier X at all unless it's on the birth cert (seems unlikely).

 

The 'wedding' photo must be 1915-1919? by which time RS-H had been adopted by the Hoptons?

TEW

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Thanks everyone for your thoughts on our family mystery! 

 

I haven't had chance to run through all the threads properly yet as I'm still working, but I had a quick chat with my mother earlier and told them what you have come up with so far. She is perplexed to say the least about a Leicester connection as like her father, she's a Yorkshire lass as well. One of the comments earlier, from Frogsmile about the civilian trousers was interesting and made us wonder if the uniform could have been borrowed for the photograph... Bit of a long shot but I think you guys would know if this sort of thing ever happened and I would have thought that it would have been frowned upon, especially by the soldier themselves as it would be impersonation and quite improper?

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Keith Brannen

Had some spare time, so did a quick photo restoration. Noticed that he also has a good conduct stripe, might help narrow it down.

 

187860212_Unidentifiedrestored.jpg.fee394f0131dac0d12e04bf3771d6d2b.jpg
 
Edited by Keith Brannen
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Alisonmallen62

Possibly a bridesmaid as groom stands on other side - is there any resemblance at all to your mums father? Also please excuse me if being somewhat dense but if photo looks older than 18/19 as suggested above and he has the MM would he not have other medals too for serving in Ww1?  

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I can’t see him going to a wedding in trousers that are not uniform with his jacket.  They are either civilian trousers, or off-white canvas fatigue trousers. 

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Assuming his 1939 entry is Ronald Hopton - DOB given as 20/5/14. Living at 149, Riddings Road, Huddersfield. Assumed wife Mary A. His occupation is given as assistant stoker. Mary's maiden name is possibly Kilgallon and married late 1938.

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Alisonmallen62

True they do look more of a canvas type and the light dress could be summer attire. 

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Cracking job on the photo, now seamless!

 

Shoulder title mean anything?

 

Not sure what other date was put up. I suggested 1915-1919 for the photo. Don't think he'd have a ribbon bar for the WWI pair before late 1919?

TEW

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  • DavidOwen changed the title to Help required - trying to solve family mystery and identify this soldier (Yorkshire connection)

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