In my Last Post, I told you what I had been up to of late. I have always been very impressed by a fellow teacher and friend of mine, Simon Williams, who has researched at very great length the young men from the High School killed in the First World War:
I decided that I would have a look at the war dead from the Second World War and I have been working for the last 18 months, two years, on researching those particular individuals.
I have been sadly surprised at just how many of them there were. I started with 82 from the official list but I have now pushed it up to at least 105 with probably quite a few more to come. The reason for this is that if Frederick Cyril Smith of 189, Station Road, Beeston, attended the High School from May 10th 1901 onwards, there is no way of being 100% certain whether or not he is the same Frederick Cyril Smith who was Able Seaman Frederick Cyril Smith, killed on May 23rd 1941 on HMS Zulu, particularly if there are no details of either his age, home address or parents’ names recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:
And so far, I have found around 150 such cases, all of which are possible matches. They won’t all be ex-High School pupils, but if only one of them is an Old Nottinghamian then I don’t want to miss him.
And there is absolutely no way of guessing. One Old Nottinghamian was called Albert Frederick Aylott, born 1911, lived at 96 Glapton Road. Is he the same Albert Frederick Aylott as the Albert Frederick Aylott killed on March 31st 1945 in northern Germany ? In actual fact, probably not, but who would have thought so with such an unusual name?
On average, I’m producing around 4,000-5,000 words per person, listing his school record fully, his adult life before the war if possible and then his career in the forces with, hopefully, the reasons why he was where he was when he was killed. And if possible, the name of the man who pulled the trigger or pushed the button. The casualties took place everywhere, from Arnhem to Yugoslavia, with one ex-pupil who lived in Zimbabwe but was killed, probably, in Ethiopia.
Some more details next time.
14 responses to “And here is the news (3)……”
This is a really wondrous achievement John. I am in awe of it.
Thank you very much, you are very kind. There’s a long way to go yet but I hope for a finished product within a couple of years.
I am so impressed with your enthusiasm and stamina for this project!
Thank you. I just think there are lots of meaningful things you can be doing if you can find one that suits you. Unless the WW2 men are remembered now, I think that they will be forgotten for ever, so in that way I am doing my bit to make sure that that doesn’t happen, at least for some of them.
Historical research can be fascinating in its revelations.
It certainly can. I found out, for example, a fascinating detail about one of the teachers at the High School who was teaching a boy destined one day to die in the war. That teacher himself had had a tutor at university, a professor who was writing a book at the time he knew him. That book was called “The Hobbit”.
The devils in the detail as they say and researching anything like this is difficult if you want accuracy. I’m sure with your determinations it’ll be a marvellous and very worthwhile piece of work John.
Let’s hope so although I must confess there is a fair bit of best guessing having to be made. And as for all those different Army units….the 1st battalion of the 7th regiment of the 19th brigade of the 4th division. At least the RAF and Navy kept it quite simple!
Unfortunately guess work does sometimes have to come into it, rightly or wrongly it’s the only option in many cases. Certainly these units can be very confusing, especially as they often change! Good luck with it all John!
RAF? Simple? All those squadrons and wings and groups plus FTS,OCTU, HCU. And those are just the ones I can think of without looking them up.
As for those names lacking detail – frustrating. I don’t envy you the task of trying to compile a definitive roll from currently available details.
I have a reasonable understanding of the RAF I think. It’s not too different from the way our education system works. What makes the Army much more difficult is that once you’ve got somewhere, it may be transferred into a different chain of command and this may happen three or four times in only 18 months or two years.
I suppose it depends on the system you have most experience with. I tend to view the army as a simpler thing – you stick soldiers in a regiment and most of them stay there for the duration. RAF ground crew, on the other hand, are just cogs in a massive machine and could be anywhere.
I remember having a fascinating conversation with Bill Neville about his wartime experiences (in North Africa IIRC) as we drove up from the CCF camp one summer in the 1970s. Very keen on telling me that his was a “proper” field rank (Major) unlike colleagues in the Army Section 🙂 .
Yes, Bill Neville was a lovely man. He was always very proud of the fact that he was the man who introduced photocopiers to the school and that he had been in charge of all those lovely buses.