The well-known TV comedian turned children’s author, David Walliams, looked into the life of his paternal great grandfather, John George Boorman, when he appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? John served in World War One but also had a sad history of mental illness throughout his life, as these records reveal:
1. Probate indexes
The first clue into John’s troubles was found whilst looking for his will. John died intestate (without leaving a will) which we discovered when obtaining his probate index. You can view the index on the government’s Probate Search website.
2. Hospital admission records
The probate index stated that John died in Cane Hill Hospital, Coulsdon. We were able to locate his admission records by referring to the hospital records database available in The National Archives’ catalogue. The records were deposited at Croydon Archives.
3. Medal Rolls
We found further evidence of John’s psychiatric problems in his military records from his time in the Grenadier Guards. On Ancestry we found him in the collection ‘UK, Silver War Badge Records, 1914–1920’ (see image above). The Silver War Badge was awarded to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to injury or illness. The entry mentions that he had “mental instability”.