Relatives seek the truth about family at war

Banbury Cake: Chloe Coules, from Banbury with her great-great grandfathers' medals and cap badge Buy this photo Chloe Coules, from Banbury with her great-great grandfathers' medals and cap badge

A SCHOOLGIRL taking part in a major Oxfordshire history project is hoping to find out about the heroism of her ancestors in the First World War.

Other participants include a historian intrigued by a piece of a downed enemy plane and a 70-year-old searching for the faces of great-uncles who fought for their country.

The Europeana project aims to create an online archive of Europe’s war memorabilia and memories and one of only two UK roadshows is being held in the county next month.

Visitors to Banbury Museum on Saturday, November 3, will have their objects photographed or scanned and can tell their family’s Great War stories. Content can also be uploaded from home.

Tudor Hall School pupil Chloe Coules, 14, from Banbury, has been inspired by two medals for great-great-grandfather William John Mills and a cap badge from great-great-grandfather Lawrence Hyde.

She discovered that Mr Mills was in the Royal Engineers, while 15-year-old Mr Hyde inflated his age by two years to join the “death or glory boys” of the 17th Lancers. Both came home.

She said: “I want to try and find out as much as possible. Otherwise it just turns into facts about the people – it is not personal.”

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Kevin Northover, 53, from Banbury, is seeking answers for his family’s story.

At the age of 12, he was shown a photograph captioned “Uncle Will” taken in 1883 by Banbury photographers Blinkhorns.

Further research revealed the man was great-uncle William Henry Goldsmith and a family story about two of his fingers being bitten by a horse was not true – they had been shot off in battle in 1917.

But he is still looking to confirm the identity of a downed German plane, from which the soldier took a piece of fabric from to write a note home to tell relatives he was “quite well”.

He believes the crew is buried in the same cemetery as another great-uncle.

He said: “If this proves to be correct, it would be a remarkable coincidence for our family.

“There have been a lot of myths about the First World War and people need to know what it was truly like.”

A photograph of grandfather Harry Brain led “dumbfounded” Keith Brain to discover the soldier had three brothers in the conflict, Albert and George – both killed in action – and William.

The 70-year-old from Banbury, who is seeking photos of William and Albert, said: “It is hard to imagine how their mother felt when the news came to her.

“Digitising and uploading the artefacts and documents about the men who served will ensure that their experiences and sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

The Europeana project’s backers include the European Union, Oxford University, The British Library and the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum.

Museum historian Stephen Barker said: “Soldiers have passed away and it is important that we don’t lose touch with those feelings, ideas and beliefs that people had.”

  • Next month’s event will run from 10am to 4.30pm. To see the archive and upload items, visit europeana1914-1918.eu

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