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FAO Terry Denham


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Northern Soul

Terry,

Some time ago I posted about a local soldier called John Bullas who was reported to have been killed on 1.11.14 while serving with the R.G.A. The newspaper was very specific about the date, unit, rank etc. but I could never identify this man. The closest I could get was a "John Spencer" commemorated on the Menin Gate with the same rank, unit and date of death but it was all a bit circumstantial.

To cut a long story short, I have found a Roll of Honour ledger in the local archive office which gives John Bullas' Service Number and it mastches that quoted by the CWGC for 'John Spencer.' Thus, for whatever reason, John Bullas served under the alias 'John Spencer' and this deception does not appear to have been detected.

Couple of questions:

What needs to be done/supplied to the CWGC to rectify(?) this?

What would have been the contemporary ramifications of such a deception - would his wife have received a pension, would there have been any other implications?

Cheers.

Andy.

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Andy

Just supply all the evidence you have.

Your task will be to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are one and the same man. The same service number on its own will not be sufficient as many men had the same number - though not at the same time in the same unit!

If you convince CWGC that there is a strong possibility, they will check the pension records to see if there is any supporting evidence there.

No 'Bullas' fitting your details appears in the GRO overseas death index.

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Andy

FreeBMD lists a couple of John Bullas' getting married at Barrow. One in 1890, the other in 1910. Might be worth you coughing up for the marriage certificate to see if there's any clue about the name Spencer. He might have been raised by a family member with that name and, so, was generally known as Spencer.

Of course, it may be that he just did a runner on the missus.

John

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I have an opinion, but no supporting numbers, that werving under an alias was more common in Australian forces than others.

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Northern Soul

Terry/John - thanks for the replies.

I'll (slowly) gather the evidence together and send it on. It is fairly conclusive now so should get a "result."

I have tried to trace out his family tree and it is a bit confusing. I know his birth was registered in the St. Olave registration district in March 1/4 1885 - as 'John Timmins Bullas.' He also appears on the 1901 Census, aged 17, still called Bullas and living with his parents. I think I have identified the births of a couple of his children too. There is no mention of the use of any other surname in newspaper reports or of him having been raised by other than his natural parents.

I do know that he was a reservist and maybe he had originally joined up under an assumed name, and when recalled, simply had to continue the ruse. Soldiers Died gives his place of birth as Belfast too whereas the Census says London. The strange thing is, the newspaper report states that he sent and received regular letters from his wife. I'd love to know how they were addressed!

His brother was in the 1/KORLR and died of wounds in early 1915, at Boulogne, but he served under his correct name.

I'll be in touch.

Andy.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi there.

Just stumbled across the post regarding John Timmins Bullas in this forum. 99.9% sure that John was my great-great uncle based on the information that you provided. He was the only child (that I know of) out of at least 7 who was born in Bermondsey - the remainder were all born in and around Barrow-in-Furness. Quite why he was born there is unclear. The Timmins part of the name is a real curiosity, it seems to have been adopted as a "family name" some time in the 18th or 19th centuries and makes searching census and BMD records a real pain. There is a possibility that a Timmins married into the Bullas's in the Dudley area but that is yet to be proven. What information do you have about John and his untimely demise? You also mention his brother dying at Boulogne in 1915? Which brother would that be? There were at least 4 - one of whom, Edward (my great-grandfather) survived into the 1940s or early 1950s.

Many thanks in advance,

Trevor

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Hi Trevor,

Here is some info for you:

TWO BARROW BROTHERS KILLED

The above are portraits of two brave Barrow soldiers who have fallen in the war. The first is that of John Bullas, who was killed in action on November 1st last year. He belonged to the Garrison Artillery. He leaves a widow and two young children. The second is that of James Bullas, of 90, Blake-street. He was in the Lancaster King's Own, and went up as a reservist at the beginning of the war. He was wounded on May 13th, and died in hospital jut a week later on the 20th. Prior to being called up he was a crane-driver at the Steelworks. He was married as recently as Easter Monday. Thus in a very short time has a Barrow family lost two promising sons.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, June 5, 1915; page 10. (the photos are rather poor I'm afraid)

From the CWGC database:

BULLAS, JAMES TIMMINS

Initials: J T

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment/Service: King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)

Unit Text: 1st Bn.

Date of Death: 20/05/1915

Service No: 1292

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: VIII. D. 23.

Cemetery: BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY

SPENCER, JOHN

Initials: J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Acting Bombardier

Regiment/Service: Royal Garrison Artillery

Unit Text: 111th Heavy Bty.

Date of Death: 01/11/1914

Service No: 20815

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 9.

Memorial: YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL

Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19

Name James Bullass

Rank Private

Service Number 1292

Regiment/Corps King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

Battalion/Unit 1st

Born Barrow-in-Furness

Enlisted Barrow-in-Furness

Lived -

Date of death 20/5/15

Nature of death Died of wounds

Theatre France and Flanders

Previous service -

Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19

Name John Spencer

Rank Acting Bombardier

Service Number 22018

Regiment/Corps Royal Garrison Artillery

Battalion/Unit -

Born Belfast

Enlisted Singapore

Lived Capetown, S.A.

Date of death 1/11/14

Nature of death Killed in action

Theatre France and Flanders

Previous service -

ROLL OF HONOUR.

MORE BARROVIANS KILLED.

HINDPOOL FAMILY'S BEREAVEMENT.

Barrow's contribution to the brave men who must of necessity fall in the great battle continues to be rapidly supplemented. This week, the wife of Gunner Bullas, at 300D, Duke-street, was notified of the death in action of her husband who was serving with the British Artillery. He was only 29 years of age, but this was not his first service with the colours. For seven years he was on foreign duty, and served in India, South Africa and China. Mobilised at the commencement of hostilities, he was early fighting on the Continent, from where he regularly wrote his wife. The last letter she received from him, dated 29th October, represented him to be in good health, and so far, immune from the effects of the enemy's fire. By the time the cheering letter had reached its destination, four days after the date of writing, its author had been laid low, a fact which came to be known on Wednesday by the authorities’ communication which briefly intimated that Gunner Bullas had been killed on November 1st. Among the Steelworks employees the late soldier was well-known. He has another brother, James, in the King’s Forces, and at present at home on sick leave. Gunner Bullas, in addition to a widow, leaves two children, one of whom was not born when he went away. The deepest sympathy goes out to such families, who in a particularly poignant way are the victims of this terrible conflict.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, November 21, 1914; page 5.

For some reason John chose to serve as 'John Spencer' - as I said in the other posts I have confirmed to my own satisfaction that they are the same man (although I have not passed this to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission yet as I was hoping to find some absolute proof).

Best wishes.

Andy.

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Andy,

Many thanks for that - I'll go into the library and get copies of the pages that you quote next time I'm up in the Barrow area (bit of a hike from Hampshire, but I try and manage it once a year).

All the best,

Trevor

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  • 1 month later...
Hi there.

Just stumbled across the post regarding John Timmins Bullas in this forum. 99.9% sure that John was my great-great uncle based on the information that you provided. He was the only child (that I know of) out of at least 7 who was born in Bermondsey - the remainder were all born in and around Barrow-in-Furness. Quite why he was born there is unclear. The Timmins part of the name is a real curiosity, it seems to have been adopted as a "family name" some time in the 18th or 19th centuries and makes searching census and BMD records a real pain. There is a possibility that a Timmins married into the Bullas's in the Dudley area but that is yet to be proven. What information do you have about John and his untimely demise? You also mention his brother dying at Boulogne in 1915? Which brother would that be? There were at least 4 - one of whom, Edward (my great-grandfather) survived into the 1940s or early 1950s.

Many thanks in advance,

Trevor

Without casting any aspersions, often the middle name would reflect the surname of the father of an illigitimate child. On my paternal side is the Poll family and Payne is incorporated into the names of one generation - the marriage between Poll and Payne that shut the stable door coming after a good few horses had bolted. Perhaps a Timmins fathered some family members?

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Andy

Your task will be to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are one and the same man.

Terry,

The commission should always work using the legal test "On the balance of probability" this is the legal test for ALL civil matters.

The "Beyond reasonable doubt" legal test should only ever be used in criminal proceedings.

If they apply the wrong test then this will result in unjust adjudications and decisions. I know it's only words but the two tests are completely different...

Neil

LL.B

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Without casting any aspersions, often the middle name would reflect the surname of the father of an illigitimate child. On my paternal side is the Poll family and Payne is incorporated into the names of one generation - the marriage between Poll and Payne that shut the stable door coming after a good few horses had bolted. Perhaps a Timmins fathered some family members?

Mark,

Yes we have one or two of those in the family tree. However since my original post, I have tracked down the marriage between a Bullas and a Timmins in the 1830s which obviously gave rise to the name. Part of the confusion with this particular name is that it is not used consistently; some family members only ever referred to themselves as Bullas's; others always as Timmins Bullas; still others it seems to depend on what particular mood they were in! ...and then one confuses it all by being a Spencer in his spare time! Exasperating!

Many thanks,

Trev

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  • 13 years later...

Hi all , just had a read through this feed and its blown me away, iv just recently started looking into my family’s history and I believe you’re talking about them , Trevor , you mentioned that Edward Bullas is your Great Grandfather, his son by the same name is my Great Grandfather who’s son my grandfather is still with us , his name is Brian Heggie, after his stepfather, my grandfather never meet his real father as he died during ww2 in the evacuation of Greece in 1941 , my grandfather’s sister who resides in Australia has just sent me a package full of documents/letters and her findings 

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elefriendly has not been on the forum for 9 years. you could try and send him  pm.

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