Finding Great Grandpa Turner

Thanks to Ginette Gibson from Newbury for sharing this story.

I am always surprised by how little we know about our ancestors. I have fond memories of sitting on my Great Grandma’s knee eating Fox’s glacier mints. But I did not know anything about her husband my Great Grandpa.

When my Dad retired, he started to get interested in researching the family tree. He found out that my Great Grandpa was called Harold Arthur Turner. We had no other information about him other than his death and birth certificates. And he was the only relative of that generation for which we didn’t have a photo.

My partner is interested in First World War history, and he was intrigued as to whether Great Grandpa had served in the war due to the date of his death in 1917. He did some research and found that, yes, Great Grandpa had fought and died at the Battle of Cambrai.

I knew very little about the Battle of Cambrai. Like a lot of people, I was aware of the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Passchendaele but the Battle of Cambrai was new to me. I since found out that many people think Cambrai was the first major tank battle of the First World War but in actual fact tanks were first used at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the Battle of the Somme)

When the 100th anniversary commemorations of the First World War started, my partner and I decided we wanted to pay our respects to Great Grandpa Turner. We had previously been abroad on a coach trip with Leger Holidays and in 2017 they had a trip in November to the Cambrai region.

Before the trip we found out that Great Grandpa Turner was named on the Louverval Memorial. The memorial lists the 7,048 missing soldiers of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died at the Battle of Cambrai and have no known graves. 

There was a short service at the memorial in November 2017 which we attended. Being able to lay a wreath at the memorial on behalf of all the family was a real honour.

But that wasn’t all. I mentioned that we had no photo of my Great Grandpa… while we were in France, we met up with my Mum’s cousin who now lives in France, and he was able to provide us with photos of Great Grandpa (his Grandpa) and his family. So now our family tree feels complete we now have photos of all our Great Grandparents.

For more information about the battles of the First World War, visit the website of the Western Front Association.

The nearest WFA branch is the Thames Valley branch in Reading. Their next meeting on Thursday 27 April is on the topic of There was more to it than tanks: The Battle of Cambrai November and December 1917.



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