Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A family mystery from the Great War

Now this metal notebook holder has been in the family for as long as I can remember.

It is small but quite heavy and  I am ashamed to say has suffered from being in the cellar.

Its metal exterior has been attacked by rust and I am looking at how best to restore it.

It carries the German Imperial Cross with the letter W and the date 1914, and given that my grandmother was German I assumed it belonged to one of her family.

But now I am not so sure.
The name inscribed on the front is not one I recognise.

Of course that doesn’t prove it is not one of our family but allows for some doubt.

Alternatively it could have been picked up on the Western Front by either my grandfather or great uncle Jack.

Both served in the British Army and both were in France.

Whatever its origins I do know that it passed to my uncle who served in the RAF and whose name, serial number and the words RAF were inscribed inside.

Uncle Roger enlisted in 1938 aged 16 and saw action in Greece, and Iraq before being captured by the Japanese in 1942 and died in a prisoner of war camp the following year aged just 21.

And that offers up a second mystery because it remained in our possession.  I very much doubt that had it headed out to the Far East with him it would have returned.

I am of course totally prepared to accept the commonsense explanation that he just left it behind for anyone of a number of reasons.

The German side of our family is the one that we have not explored and when we do we might find the answer to its original owner.

Sadly there is no one left to ask and had we not decided to clear out the middle cellar I suspect it would have been many more years before I came across it.

All of which is a lesson in how to look after family objects.  All too often because we have grown up with them we take the item for granted, and that can lead to neglect and eventually to the loss of the object.

So that is it.  The search has begun.  Leaving me only to reflect on the irony of the fact that it passed to my uncle who was in the RAF but like my mother had been born in Cologne.

Picture; metal notebook holder, circa 1914, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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