Making connections through family stories

Last summer we posted the research undertaken by Alan Riches in to his great-uncle’s war service.  We’ve now been contacted by another blog reader who’s great-grandfather probably served alongside Harry Hazel.
Simon Potter has shared what he knows about Herbert Potter but it is currently an incomplete picture:

Herbert was my great-grandfather who died in 1958, before I was born but my father remembers him. He was a rather tall and elegantly dressed man but over time developed a pigeon chest as he struggled for breath after a WW1 gas attack.

Herbert enlisted on 25th March 1915 in the same company as Sapper 84711, just 839 men before so they maybe knew each other?

There is some debate as to when Herbert came under gas attack, I think this happened on 8 August 1916. From the company war diary, it looks like he and 35 others were casualties of high explosive and (possibly chlorine gas) attack whilst making a communications trench from brigade HQ on the south-west side of Bazentin-le-Petit Wood. His service record shows shell shock from an exploding shell and that he spent a week with 104th field hospital, however it doesn’t mention the gas so it’s possible that it occurred later, my father thinks he heard mustard gas at the Ypres/Battle of Poelcappelle/Passchendaele in Oct 1917.



In this torn image Herbert could be in the middle row, second from left with the blue mark on his hat.


These are the photos I have, I always thought they were of (part of) the 208th, but the cap badges worry me a bit, perhaps as a territorial unit they were different? I think there are only 70 men in this picture not the 217 that you mentioned in the previous post so perhaps it’s not a Company but a Platoon?  I also notice that unlike other similar photos they have no rifles. From the tents in the background could these photos be from training camps in England in 1915?


Not sure about this one either, perhaps a field kitchen in Kirkby Malzeard or in France, although the corrugated iron walls in the background look similar to photos of some temporary buildings I have seen at Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plain.

The most amazing thing for me is that his record shows that in Feb/March 1918 he was granted 10 days leave to the UK. Imagine having experienced the horrors of the trenches over 2 winters (including being shell-shocked and gassed), then going home, then after a rest returning to the war!


Herbert he survived the war returning to his work as a boot maker in Norwich where after short retirement he died peacefully in 1958 aged 76. Herbert was born in Norwich in 1881 but spent a lot his youth in Bethnal Green.

Herbert many years later on holiday in 1937, on the RHS with his eldest son (also called Herbert) on the LHS and his grandson (Brian).

Herbert many years later on holiday in 1937, on the RHS with his eldest son (also called Herbert) on the LHS and his grandson (Brian).

 Herbert on the left in the Homburg hat in 1939. He died in 1958 at 83 Rosebery Road, Norwich, in his final years he liked to sip half pints of stout in the back room of the Lord Rosebery pub and play draughts. Like most them, he never spoke of the war.

Herbert on the left in the Homburg hat in 1939. He died in 1958 at 83 Rosebery Road, Norwich, in his final years he liked to sip half pints of stout in the back room of the Lord Rosebery pub and play draughts. Like most them, he never spoke of the war.

Herbert has two brothers, one older (Charles Frederick b. 1876) and one younger (George James b.1888).

Charles Frederick Potter was already a professional solder being #4163 in 2nd Bn Essex Regiment and who participated in the second Anglo-Boer War of 1896. He had already retired from the army by the outbreak of WW1 but rejoined as Pte 45624, 2nd Garrison Battalion Essex Reg, forming part of the Nasirabad Brigade, India in 1917. I think he lived until 1960 but not sure.

George James  joined the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps as Rifleman 7696 on 22 August 1914, but died less than a year later on 10 July 1915. He is buried in the Lillers Communal Cemetery, Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region, France Plot: II. A. 34. This is just 3 1/2 months after Herbert joined up.

As ever we are very grateful to Simon for sharing his family story with us – please do comment below or email if you have a story to share or indeed if you can help with any of Simon’s questions.


Connecting with other WW1 projects around the country

One of our blogging team is also a qualified genealogists and recently she was contacted by a team in Oswestry who are researching the men who fell in the Great War and are commemorated on the Oswestry War Memorial Gates.

They have discovered that one of the men has links to Norfolk thanks to Elizabeth’s blog and they have completed some more research into Francis Harold Carless who is also commemorated on the Norfolk Teachers War Memorial.


Francis H Carless

Francis Harold Carless was originally from Walsall and was born in 1892. His father, Frederick, was a shoe and boot dealer but by 1911 was working as a currier or leather worker. His mother was Ada, he was the eldest of 4 children with siblings Ernest, Maggie and Stanley. By 1911 the family had moved to Oswestry and lived at 45 Park Avenue. His early education was at Oswestry Council School, later he won a scholarship to Oswestry Grammar School where he won many school prizes.

After school he trained as a teacher and worked for Salop County Council as a master at Gobowen Council School. He was also actively connected with work of Salvation Army and other religious bodies in the district.

He later moved to Fakenham in Norfolk to take up a teaching appointment. He enlisted at Norwich in October 1915 joining the Royal Army Medical Corps and went over to France in August 1916 as a reinforcement posted to 60 Field Ambulance.

Francis was wounded twice, for the first time in September 1916 when he was hit in the arm, back and head and spent a month at Rouen Base Hospital. On returning to duty he was posted to 56 Field Ambulance, attached to 18 Division.

He was wounded for a second time in July 1917 but not so seriously and he soon returned to duty.

He was killed in action on 22 October 1917 probably serving as a stretcher bearer in the front line during the battles at Passchendaele, he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

His personal property was returned to his father who now lived at Bridge Terrace, Whittington Road. Among his effects were a Welsh New Testament and a Bible as well as  French/English and Welsh/English Dictionaries.

Francis is also commemorated on the Norfolk Teachers War memorial at County Hall in Norwich and at Oswestry Grammar School.

Research by the Men on the Gates team has them also listing Carless as a possible Non Combatant/Conscientious Objector due to his religious outlook but at present this is not backed up by any evidence.

We’ll be following the Men on the Gates project over the next few years as they find out more about the men commemorated  (an early website for their project can be found here) but as ever if you can help with their project or have a similar one of your own please let us know so we can share details. norfolkpoppy