Work can follow you to the most surprising of places – just before Christmas we went to visit some family in Berkshire and the topic of World War One came up. A photo had been unearthed of my husband’s grandfather in a uniform, mounted on a horse with a date of 1913 written on the back.
Another relative said that the smartly attired gentleman in question had been part of the Berkshire Yeomanry and that she thought he’d served in Egypt during the war. This piqued my curiosity hugely and I thought this was the ideal time to make use of the wonderful Norfolk resource “A Guide to researching First World War Military Family History” and free access to the Ancestry.com websites through Norfolk’s Libraries.
As I knew very little about the gentleman, Louis Henry Beard, I started at the very beginning and located him on the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses and established his date and place of birth.
After this I turned to the military records held on Ancestry and this is where I encountered my first problem as there were no records for a Louis Henry Beard anywhere, although there was a Lewis Henry Beard listed with all the other details being correct. Sadly many WW1 records were destroyed during WW2 and all I had to work from on line were the Medal and Service Award Rolls.
On talking over with an archive specialist at one of the free “Ask the NRO” sessions held at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library we decided that this was probably going to be him but that until further records are either published on line or discovered in family members house we cannot be more than 95% certain that this is the right man.
As so many of the details were correct I decided that I would assume that this was the right L H Beard and look into his war service some more. Although he was a Berkshire man the records available show him as finishing the war with the Household Cavalry to which he’d transferred from the Staffordshire Yeomanry.
Looking at the history of the Berkshire and Staffordshire Yeomanry records that are available to access on line it would appear that the two regiments served in the same fields of war and were present at Gallipoli and later on in Egypt and other locations in the Middle East – which links back nicely to family recollections of Egyptian service. Further research has shown that the Yeomanry divisions merged and were renamed frequently which could explain his movement from the Berkshire Regiment to the Household Cavalry.
I found an invaluable site The Long, Long Trail dedicated to the British Army from 1914-18 which gave me detailed accounts of the movements of both the Staffordshire and Berkshire Yeomanry’s. Further investigation on line lead me to the Berkshire Family History Society webpage where the account of the regiment’s time at Gallipoli – with only 50 men still fit for service by the end of the campaign – sounds horrific and would show that L H Beard was either very lucky to survive and be transferred to the Staffordshires or very lucky to be serving with them by this point.
The records that I have found on line have let me see that L H Beard served throughout the war. His Medal Card shows he was awarded the 1914-15 Star (showing he was a member of the armed services prior to conscription) and that he left England on 21st April 1915 and returned on 17th April 1919 – almost exactly 4 years of service abroad. Sadly at present we have no idea if he had any home leave in this period.
I know that next time I visit I am going to have to ask the family if they have any other memorabilia or information for me to investigate and I am now tempted to contact the National Archives and see if I can get copies of the Regimental Diaries and explore more about their movements and to see how L H Beard ended up with the Staffordshire’s.
Louis Henry Beard came back from the war and returned home to Hungerford where he lived a full life, dying only in 1961. The Beards are an old Hungerford family and Louis Henry took over his father’s coal business as well as taking an active part in town life. Many of his direct descendants still live in the town today.