First Somme posting

I had known it would be an evocative and moving trip, but I had expected to be moved in the abstract as it were, by visiting the cemeteries and seeing where the battles of the Somme were fought. It turned into something overwhelmingly personal and direct. On the way south we stopped off at the Menin Gate in Ypres. I couldn’t find the Gordon Highlanders panel – it’s a massive monument, but I know I can check the names online. However, on our first full day we visited the monument to the missing at Thiepval, and there in the register were two Will names, one definitely from the Buchan area. I photographed his inscription and laid a cross in memory. Then in the visitor centre I checked the database and found another 10 Will names from the Gordon Highlanders, 9 of whom were definitely from Buchan. A couple of days later we visited the cemeteries at Beaumont-Hamel, and there was a Mutch, another family name. On our last full day we visited the Sheffield Memorial and cemeteries, and stopped to lay a wreath at the huge Serres Road No 2 cemetery. I was stunned to find another two Will names from different regiments – one a Buchan man who had moved to Canada, and subsequently enlisted in a Canadian Infantry Battalion, the other from the London Scottish regiment.

So that’s 15 possible family members I hadn’t known existed, and who lost their lives in the War. It’ll be interesting to find their connections with my direct line, or if they’re on collateral lines. And in the interests of balance, when we visited the German war grave at Fricourt I found two inscriptions with the same surname as my daughter-in-law’s family. I’ve got more work to do on the Will names, I’ve barely started on Mutch, and I haven’t looked at all at MacRae and Stocks – my mother’s side of the family. I suspect the MacRae’s will be from the Black Watch, as they were from Fife, but I don’t know about the Stocks side, apart from the fact that they were originally from Kirriemuir. My grandfather Stocks, who I never knew, served throughout the war and survived it, living to a good age.

I’ve come home profoundly shaken, with many more questions than answers. But at least I now know how good the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s database is, and that’ll give me some of the answers.

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About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Somme, Will family, World War I. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to First Somme posting

  1. BarbaraS says:

    It’s amazing just how much work has been done on the data – you see it coming up on TV progs all the time, esp. the genealogical types.

    This sounds like an overwhelming experience for you, with what also sounds like a project, which would suit your organised mind very well. Poems..?

  2. Colin Will says:

    I’m sure there will be poems Barbara, and I’ll blog more about our other experiences on the trip.

  3. Sorlil says:

    How bizarre, I just spotted you in the corner of a pic on my old english teacher’s blog, I guess you were on the same trip! Talk about a small world!

  4. Anne says:

    Colin, I can understand how that shakes you.

    The blood tie… such a weird and troubling thing isn’t it? It feels indelicate even to say so, yet who can deny feeling it?

  5. Colin Will says:

    Sorlil: Yes, Christine was on the trip – it was her first time with our group of friends.

    Anne: It’s one of the consequences of having a surname which isn’t all that common, and from a defined geographical area, that you can recognise kinship quickly.

  6. France says:

    Bonjour impossible de lire il faudrait un outil de traduction . Merci

  7. Chris says:

    Good to find your blog, Colin – I’ll get going on mine when I finally return home after debriefing chez Shiells!

  8. apprentice says:

    I was just reading today how over represented the Highlands were in WW1.

    I’ll lend you my grandfather’s Imperial War Museum CDs if you like. He speaks of being on a mass burial detail for 3 days and nights, with padres on shifts saying prayers for the dead.

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