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Monday, 14 November 2016

A Tragic Wartime Death - Revealed by New GRO Service

I have just discovered, through a new service,  the sad cause of death of my great uncle who died in May 1917 aged 38  whilst training in army camp in Tiverton, Hampshire.  

In a stark statement, the cause of death was given as "Cutting his throat whilst temporary insane" - a tragic ending for a man who had already experienced sadness in his life, when his  wife died of TB in 1906  aged just  21,  leaving their  baby daughter  motherless.  At 38 years old and as a family man, was the trauma of being catapulted from a small rural community  into military life, too much to bear? 

We are so used to thinking it was young men who were called up to fight  in the First World War, but the
Military Service Act of  January 1916 specified that single men aged 18 to 40 years old were liable to be called up for military service. This was rapidly extended in July of that year to include married men.  

There were various conflicting family stories about my great uncle's death - talk that "Granny had to fight to get his name on the local war memorial", and a puzzle that his name did not appear on the memorial in the local parish church, but I was not prompted to acquire  his death certificate for this one piece of information.  

However the General Register Office  of England and Wales have just offered for a trial period a new service of supplying information  from BMD certificates by PDF file - at the much more reasonable cost of £6.  This has been reported on various family history blogs.

I must admit I did not immediately find the website user friendly, as there was nothing on the homepage highlighting this new service.   I eventually contacted their call centre which was  helpful  and talked me through the process. Apparently you just follow the normal procedure for ordering certificates, identifying the  volume no. and page no. from the relevant Index, and it is only as you  scroll down the payment options (standard/express etc.)  that you first get note of "by PDF File".

Thereafter the service was excellent.  I quickly received a confirmation of my order and note that it would be dispatched 16th November.  In fact the file landed in my e-mails today November 14th - and is a very clear image of the register entry, 

If you have ancestors in England and Wales, I would recommend using the service.   But for this trial period, there is a limit on the number of request that will be undertaken, so you do need to move quickly. 

For me it has answered a  niggling gap in my family history knowledge - but one that is so sad. 


1 comment:

  1. A sad occurence of your great uncle's death -- and many unanswered questions too. Also appreciated your discussion of the GRO.


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