In the past, it was common for institutions such as schools, railway companies, post offices and even private businesses to create their own war memorials. They remembered those staff who had fallen in the service of their country.
This year, as part of the Royal Armouries commemoration of the Armistice, we decided to research the history of our own families. We wanted to find out how the lives of our grandparents and great grandparents were shaped by the two world wars.
Philip Abbott, Archives and Records Manager.
My grandfather, Raymond, loved chess and we played together every Sunday after lunch. Then one Christmas he gave me his brother’s chess set – the one he had with him in the trenches. He never talked about his brother, Eric, or his own experiences of the war, and I wanted to find out more. My researches into Eric’s experiences of the War are on display at the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.
I had my grandfather Raymond’s own family research to guide my efforts. Alongside this, I was confident that I would find out basic facts like dates of birth, marriage and death along with some general information about events in the official war diaries. I actually found more detailed information than I was expecting.
Many died during the First World War, and the lives of those who survived were changed forever. We shall never know what they experienced, but it is important that we never forget them.
Raymond Sidney Brock, 2nd Lieutenant, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
Raymond was my grandfather.
He was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, on 8 January 1899, and educated at Merchant Taylor’s School in Crosby.
Raymond was called for service in January 1917, but was granted an exemption to re-sit his final exams first. In June, he joined the Officer Cadet Corps and was stationed at Berkhampstead. It was here that he saw his brother, Eric, for the last time.
On 15 April 1918 he was commissioned in the 4 Battalion East Kent Regiment (the Buffs), and volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He spent 6 weeks at No. 1 School of Military Aeronautics at Wantage Hall, Reading. He then transferred to the School of Aerial Gunnery at Ealing [Armament School, Uxbridge]. On 9 October, he crossed the channel and went to the Flight Training School at Vendôme in France, but within days the armistice was declared.
He returned to England and was released from service in December to take up his medical studies at Liverpool University.
After the war, he qualified as a doctor, becoming a GP in Wrexham, and on 6 June 1925, he married Eleanor Mary Pearson.
On 22 September 1934, there was an underground explosion at Gresford Colliery. Raymond joined the rescue team, but they could not reach the injured men. On 26 November 1982, the colliery’s head gear wheel was dedicated as a memorial to the 266 miners who had died. Raymond, aged 83, was too ill to attend the ceremony.
To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.