Strangers in the Night

Archie ROWLEY (1897 – 1981) and Harry HARVEY (1893 – 1979) lived their lives twelve thousand miles apart, yet, before cars and planes were commonplace, their paths, so very nearly crossed. Archie and Harry, had the unfortunate luck to be born just in time to participate in a conflict we now call World War I. To them it became the “War to end all wars”.

Military service can be a boon to a family historian because of the information that is recorded and kept. Four years of Harry’s life is recorded in twenty-two pages of his army record. [1] Not only did the “war to end all wars” fail to end any war, it was followed a mere twenty-one years later by a sequel that obliterated over fifty percent of the British records of the first one. [2] In September 1940 a German bombing raid struck the London War office, and what remains of these records is now known as the ‘Burnt Documents’. Archie’s service in the Gordon Highlanders is recorded on a single medal card all other records burnt in the raid. [3]

Archie and Harry both served in France. Late 1915 or early 1916, Archie was gassed and blinded for three days, it impacted his health for the rest of his life. [4] On 12 July, 1916 Harry was sent to hospital in France with neurasthenia, a medical term used at the time known colloquially as shell shock. [5] He was shipped to England and admitted to the King George Hospital for treatment, he does not appear to have returned to France, and was transferred to the Australian Flying Corps 13 March, 1917. [6]

References:

[1] National Archives of Australia (NAA): B245 Harvey, HC (http://www.naa.gov.au/ : accessed 13 March, 2016)

[2] Service records for the first world war. The National Archives (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/service_records/sr_soldiers.htm : accessed 27 June, 2016)

[3] Ancestry.com. British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original Data: Army Medal Office. WWI Medal Index Cards. In the care of The Western Front Association website. Retrieved 27 June 2016.

[4] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, “Interview with self” p 70. In the possession of Georgina Adams.

[5] Smithsonian Magazine, The Shock of War, C. Alexander, September 2010 (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shock-of-war-55376701/?no-ist Retrieved 27 June, 2016)

[6] Same as 1, above.

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