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WW1 Soldier's Will

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WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby phsvm » Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:56 pm

I'm current researching the life of Charles Berry who died in France on 21 March 1918. His CWGC entry gives his number as 17119 and confirms he enlisted in Abingdon, Berks and joined the 2/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Berkshire Light Infantry. Unfortunately, like so many, his attestation papers have not survived. I've got a copy of his will which was dated 28 October 1915.

Did soldiers write and sign their will as soon as they enlisted? I'm trying to ascertain when Charles enlisted so if he wrote his will immediately (as part of the enlistment process) presumably this would give an indication as to when he joined up.
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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby AdrianB38 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 10:54 pm

There are several sorts of will. I can't find the link just now but there are several threads on the Great War Forum about the wills.

Without seeing the will I'm guessing but....

If the will has no witnesses, then it can only have been written when on Active Service - which seems to include the last few days in the UK. Otherwise, it has to be witnessed just like any English or Scottish will.
If it does have witnesses, then it could be written any time.

It is sometimes possible to deduce when someone joins their regiment by comparing their serial number to others in the same battalion whose papers have survived. If your soldier's papers burnt then you may need to go several dozen numbers in both directions to get surviving papers with joining dates.

Adrian

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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby AdrianB38 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:31 pm

Oh joy. This looks complex. He was in the 2/4th when he died, but with a 5 digit number, it seems very unlikely he'd been in it for long as 2/4th was a Territorial unit - Territorials had 6 digit numbers then. Based on his date of entry to the Balkans (see Medal Index Card) I think he went abroad in the 7th or 8th battalion.

You need to read the Long Long Trail website on how to research WW1 soldiers.

Good luck.....

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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby phsvm » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:07 am

Thanks AdrianB38. I had also thought it might be possible to try and trace other serial numbers around his to see what that brought up so I'm glad you've confirmed that would be worth having a look at.

His will is not witnessed and is in exactly the same format as the other 6 I have for WW1 soldiers who I'm also researching so I think your suggestion that it was written just before mobilisation is probably correct.

However, as you say it gets interesting! I posted a similar query on the Long Long Trail Forum and it's generated quite a lot of response. If you have a moment perhaps you could have a look (Units and Formations - Soldiers Wills) and see what you make of it.

I'm doing this research for a book on the men listed on our village war memorial so I want to make sure I get it absolutely right.
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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:59 am

I reckon Steve E probably has it right in his post of 01:01 today - he's even got the adjacent numbers for you. We'll probably never know it for certain but that sounds highly plausible.

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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby JohnMichaels » Tue Dec 31, 2013 12:48 pm

I got it.
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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby phsvm » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:13 pm

AdrianB38 - you are a gem. You've reassured me that it all made sense!

Having had another look at his will, Charles has written "Private, number 17119, 9th Batt, Ox Bucks attahced 6th R Mun Fus. Oct 28th 1915" This fits almost perfectly with SteveE's supposition. The only slightly odd thing is that his will was dated October 1915 which was a month after mobilisation.

I'm afraid being new to all this type of research I'd only noted the details completed on the form (Informal Will) attached to the will after his death which states 2/4 Bn, OBLI - It hadn't even occured to me that it would differ from what Charles himself had written. I don't know if these numbers mean anything but on the 'Informal Will' sheet the WO No appears to be 754868/1 and the record number 531/870701. Do these add anything to the information and can tell us anything more?
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Re: WW1 Soldier's Will

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:05 pm

I've not discovered anything about those other numbers - presumably just file references. By the way, the significance of "attached" is that it's the sort of temporary thing that doesn't always appear where permanent changes do - hence no Munsters on the Medal Index Card, which should otherwise show all regiments.

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