At the heart of Lives of the First World War are the Life Stories of more than 7.7 million individuals. They were part of the global conflict that shaped the world we live in today. But how can we find out more about their wartime experiences?
In this blog post, we share the remarkable story of how one Lives of the First World War member helped to discover the personal story behind some mysterious First World War medals.
- An unexpected find
On 19 March 2016, Swallowfield Parish Council in Reading, Berkshire organized a clean up of the local area. Amongst the rubbish collected was a locked tin containing several medals. The Parish Council had no idea who they belonged to or how they got there, and appealed for people to get in touch via Facebook if they had any information.
Debbie Cameron, a long-time member of Lives of the First World War, saw the appeal on social media, and decided to see what she could find out. Debbie correctly identified three of the medals as First World War, and using the name and service number engraved on them, was able to research the mystery recipient.
Being a very keen amateur historian and member of Lives of the First World War, I was able find out the full name and some information the person immediately, including his date of birth
Using the search box on Lives of the First World War, Debbie found the Life Story page for Oliver James Read, J.17997. Oliver’s British Royal Navy Seamen record revealed that he joined the Royal Navy in October 1914, and served throughout the war on many different ships. Notably, this included HMS Noble which took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.
Using details from this seed record, Debbie also discovered more about Oliver’s pre-war life from the 1911 census and found a record of his death in 1965.
- Going a step further
Debbie then tried to find out if Oliver had any living relatives. She managed to track down his great-nephew and namesake, Oliver, who was thrilled with all the information that Debbie had found out.
A combination of wonderful online resources such as Lives of the First World War, social media and my experience and knowledge enabled this fantastic result
Oliver has now added a wonderful photograph to Lives of the First World War. In the image, Oliver James Read is wearing the three First World War medals that were found in the river – a poignant way to link the threads of this remarkable story.