Family Stories Attached At Shepway War Memorial To Mark WWI Centenary

They spent hundreds of pounds and a huge amount of time, trying to put together the stories of over 1,500 people whose names appear on the war memorials in Folkestone and other nearby districts.

James Bloomfield went to war just like his father Curtis Bloomfield did but unlike his old man, he never came back home. He died during the First World War, on the battlefields of the Somme. However, his story goes a little different. Apparently, the 16 year-old man was way too young to even fight in the war so he lied about his age to be able to join up.

He was a sergeant in the 6th Battalion East Kent Regiment, also known as The Buffs. According to Janet Powell, member of the Folkestone and District Family History Society, young James gave the date of birth of one of his brothers to be able to enlist in the war. Most of the documents and war reports related to him were destroyed in the bombing of the War Office in 1940.

This is just one of the stories that pals Janet Powell, aged 77, and Pat Fincham, who is 81 years old, are putting together to honor those fallen in the First World War and to mark the 100th commemoration of the outbreak of the war, the BBC News reports.

The two are researching every website, going through official records and visiting cemeteries and war graves in Europe as they try to put together at least a few details before the beginning of the ceremonies marking the centenary of the Great War.

For example, they found out that Sgt. James Bloomfield served with the Buffs, the East Kent Regiment. He died in battle before he could marry his fiancee, Fanny Harris. They also found out that his fiancee requested his war medals after the war but unfortunately they went to his father instead.

The two friends started their little project early last year and they already managed to put together the stories of more than 250 servicemen, most of them collected during their trip to Ypres, where they visited 50 cemeteries. However, the pair decided to slow it down a bit, stop traveling and just ask friends and relatives to help them.

“We often wonder what the criteria was for including any man on a memorial. So many appeared to have no real roots there,” said Mrs Powell.

Recently their project has extended even more, as the two friends are now calling on acquaintances in Israel and South Africa for photographs of graves.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE