Sunday 25 January 2015

Pension Files - PIN71

At the National Archives, London there is a useful class of papers that is not easy to use because it is indexed only by name, sometimes a ladies name, with no unit. Until you inspect the contents of a file you have no idea if the file relates to your subject, if you are paying a researcher this could be expensive.

The papers are Pension Papers, class PIN 71. They contain correspondence about the recipient's or widow's pension, most time there is a summary of the military career which can supplement service papers. In cases of a medical discharge or death in service there are details of the medical reasons behind the discharge or death, in the case of a wound vital details can revealed about the circumstance in which the man was wounded.

However, there is a clue to be found that can help determine if you should look in PIN 71. On the service papers found in class WO 97 (discharge prior to 1914) there is sometimes written on the first page a code ending "FW/M" - "FW" stands for "former wars".

This says "Go check PIN71" on the National Archives catalogue - Discovery.

Pension correspondence is not the most exciting, but as it concerns money there are useful details to flesh out the "man behind the medal" story; home and work place addresses, details on next of kin - wives and children and if you are lucky surprises. One recent PIN 71 file I read for a soldier I was researching showed that, while a soldier, he had two deductions made against his pay by the civil courts in respect of illegitimate children; gold dust for family historians!

If you are researching a soldier who died on active service there won't be service papers so no "/FW/M" clue. However, if you know his next of kin's name, especially if he was married, then it is worth checking PIN 71 using the next of kin name. I recently read the file for the widow, Clara, of Pte 2743 Walter Gibbard 4th Hussars. She received 5 shillings a week, in April 1918 a war bonus of 5 shillings was paid and in 1919 the pension for men killed in wars before World War 1 was raised to the level of that for men killed in World War 1.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Buying Books for Research

Seen a book for sale, in a catalogue, a shop or on a forum?

Before buying it is always worth using the power of the internet to shop around – prices vary dramatically. Of course the condition of a book is a major factor in the price, and your own collecting criteria (perfect condition only, slight imperfections or can tolerate “reading copies”?) will guide you to the “right price” for you. Even if you find the book on-line, you can always do what my father did and call the dealer, have a chat and usually agree free posting or sometimes a considerable discount.

Beware of facsimile reprints or POD (print on demand), these are cheap but in ones I have seen the binding (known as the oxymoronic “perfect binding”) doesn’t last long and more importantly fold out maps are not reproduced but simply copied folded up, i.e. useless!

If you are after a reading copy then a digital copy may suit, so search the internet for digital copies, many are out there. Electronic copies are offered in a variety formats: pdf, kindle, daisy, html, jpg. If you don’t have a Kindle then you can download Kindle Reader for free from Amazon to run on your pc/tablet. Forgotten Books also offers digital copies for a small subscription. Many of these you can get for free elsewhere, but the quality from the website can be better. You will probably not get the maps as in POD but in an electronic copy the binding doesn't break and it may be free.

To take a recent example:

With the Scottish Yeomanry: Being a Reprint, Somewhat Altered & Extended, of Letters Written from South Africa During the War of 1899-1901, TF Dewar MD, Arbroath: T. Buncle & Co. 1901

Offered recently by a specialist dealer for £75 in good condition with front ffep (front free endpaper) missing – a small imperfection. For a book about a small unit this seems like a reasonable price, a quick check of and shows this to be the case, with a number copies to choose from £113 to £145. However, there was one copy for £48 in good condition, some colour loss on spine and top half of the front endpaper cut off. So, very comparable to the £75 copy but £27 cheaper, both are in the UK so postage is not an issue.

And of course before buying, just double check you haven't already got a copy. There's a good quality copy of With the Scottish Yeomanry for sale.

Saturday 10 January 2015

EC Wright - mistaken identity

In July 1992 the medal auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb sold a Queen's South Africa and King's South Africa pair to Quartermaster Sergeant 11187 (61st Company (2nd Dublin)) and Lieutenant Imperial Yeomanry.

The catalogue contained the following research notes:

"Edward Cyril Wright was commissioned 2nd Lt., West India Regiment, 18th July, 1900, from the ranks of the County of London Imperial Volunteers. He served as A.D.C. to the Governor and C-in-C. Windward Islands from 19th January, 1906, to 18th July, 1906; Lieut. Wiltshire Regiment, 20th May, 1908; Captain 1st April, 1909; Staff Officer to local forces, Barbados 3rd July, 1908, to 5th October, 1913."

These details relate to a different Edward Cyril Wright who also served in the Anglo-Boer War: Lance-Corporal 12 City Imperial Volunteers.

It was this man who was commissioned into the West India Regiment (see London Gazette 17 July 1900)  and it is his career details wrongly attributed to Lt EC Wright Imperial Yeomanry.

Further proof comes from their birth dates:

EC Wright IY - ca. 1878 Rathmines, Dublin (WO128 IY Service papers)
EC Wright CIV - 7 July 1876, Naini Tal, India (Army List, British India Office - Births)

and there are separate entries for each EC Wright in the 1903 Army List.

The Register - the first "big list" of Anglo-Boer War participants is always revealing new information that sometimes, as in this case, corrects information many would take as correct.

Friday 2 January 2015

A great research resource

There are hundreds, maybe over a thousand published sources for the Second Anglo-Boer War ranging from contemporary accounts and diaries, regimental and war histories, picture books to the modern histories and accounts. Other items not directly associated with the war such as maps and the wonderful The Encyclopaedia of South African Post Offices and Postal Agencies, Hale & Putzel, Cape Town, 1986 are very useful too.

In creating The Register I have consulted over 540 different sources which are listed here. In the past few days I stumbled across a new source made available through the internet: The Tablet, The International Catholic News Weekly. In The Archive section are OCR copies from 1840. In this paper can be found obituaries or less formal death notices about many Roman Catholic soldiers. I found it most useful for WW1 in finding soldiers who served in the ABW only to die during WW1.

The best connection was Father and Major Simon Stock Knapp, DSO, MC who died of wounds in 1917. The Tablet revealed he had served in the ABW. The only Knapp in the Army Chaplains medal roll is Father F Knapp; are they the same? A quick Google bought up this wonderful history of Father F[rank]/Simon Stock Knapp which proves the gallant Father so beloved by his soldiers in WW1 was Father F Knapp from the ABW medal rolls.

This connection would have been hard to make starting from "Father F Knapp", but now we know, and another character of the ABW is bought to life.