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Family History (Part 2)

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This is rapidly turning into a voyage of discovery. You'll remember that I said that I said that I can get sight of my maternal grandfather Albert Cox's1 service history if I jump through the right hoops and cross the MoD's palm with silver, so I started looking into this.

The deal is that they won't release a lot of information until the serviceman has been dead for at least 25 years (and Albert will have been dead for 20 years this year). But there's an exception: if you are the next of kin, or you have their consent, they will release the records early. So I need two things: the signature of his next of kin (which is my mother) and a copy of his death certificate. You can get a copy of that, for a fee, but I wondered if my mother had it so I phoned her (again). She didn't have it but she suspected that her younger sister Margaret did. So I phoned her up and she was pretty sure she did. She's going to dig it out, photocopy it, and post it to me. Excellent.

Margaret also told me some other things too. My mother had mentioned this in the past but Albert was stationed in Africa at the end of the war. He had a pet monkey, which he named Wimpey, and she has a photo of him with it. He told her that he had taught it to hide inside his jacket so he could smuggle it home with him but it was stolen from him the day before he left. He also said that he really enjoyed his time in the RAF and if he hadn't had a family he would have liked to have stayed in.

We also talked about her and my mother's maternal grandfather. This is the Thomas Orme who I mentioned before. He served in the artillery in the Great War and apparently before the war he'd been a lovely man but he came back very changed (like so many of his generation) and took to the bottle. My mother had said much the same to me but Margaret had more information.

My grandmother told Margaret that she always wanted a brother but when her mother was pregnant Thomas knocked her about and she lost the baby. As a result my grandmother was an only child and her and her mother seem to have had a pretty rotten time of it. Among the things he did was go to the pub with my grandmother's pet dog and come back without it as he'd sold it to someone at the pub. He did the same with her bike. My grandmother was a funny woman and always seemed very bitter about life and Margaret said she thought this was why.

It's quite a thing when you think about it: how the Great War affected so many people, not just those who fought in it but their relatives too. Here's a woman who died less than twenty years ago whose life was blighted by the fall out from that war.

By the way this still leave the mystery of Thomas' brother Harry. He also served in the Great War but my mother only discovered his existence much later and was making much of it today. I'm not entirely surprised by this though: I have no real idea about the family of any of my grandparents (for example it's only today that I discovered that my grandmother was an only child) - why should she be any different?

Anyway enough rambling. This only is clearly going to run and run.

  1. By the way, for the record, I always lie about my mother's maiden name for authentication purposes so don't even think about it.

Tags: family Written 27/06/13

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