Friday, 30 June 2017

Stories from the family locker, part 1 George Gill’s discharge papers, 1917

I am as guilty as the next person for discarding letters, official documents and even old family pictures which all help tell the story of my family and their place in the history of the last couple of centuries.

Not that I do that now.  Every scrap of paper, note, receipt and picture is carefully scrutinised and evaluated for its value and because you never know what will be important I pretty much keep the lot.

As I see it our history is just as important as that of a duke, politician or general and deserves to be remembered.

But I also know that much has been lost and what we have stretching back into the early 19th century is a fragment of what once there was.

Most of it has come down to us more by accident than design which makes it all the more important that we all share what we have.

So I was pleased when Graham posted this discharge paper of his grandfather’s on facebook.  It is dated 1917 and is the first I have seen of a soldier who was discharged before the end of that war.

Five of my close family served in the Great War and only one of their discharge certificates has survived, and this was dated 1922, long after the conflict was over.
Graham’s grandfather had enlisted just two months after the outbreak of the war and so was one of those thousands of young men who volunteered to serve their country at the very beginning.

Like all military documents it is full of detail, ranging from his age, height and distinguishing features, to the duration of his military service and the cause of his discharge.

And amongst the details there are reference s to his regiment, place of enlistment and discharge.

Few I suspect have survived and of those that have most will be in museums or are in private collections and are rarely seen today.

So with that in mind I have decided to begin a new series on the treasured family objects which tell a story and invite people to share their own.

It can be a picture, an official document a memory or even a bill.  It doesn’t matter as long it helps shed light on your family history or the bigger story.

And I would like to thank Graham who often supplies me with documents from his family history and is the first to respond to my request for materials relating to the Great War for a new book.

Picture; courtesy of Graham Gill

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