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.

David Sweeting. © Royal Armouries
David Sweeting.
© Royal Armouries

David Sweeting, Museum Assistant

My grandmother often talked about Edward, her father, but I wanted to know more about him and my other relatives who took part in the First World War.

I looked into Edward’s experiences in the War, and also did some research into my two great-great-uncles, Alfred and Frederick Stephenson. Their stories are on display in the Royal Armouries museum at Leeds.

I knew somewhere I had the photos of the relatives I was looking for and apart from what I already knew, I wasn’t expecting much more than putting names to photos.

I found it sad that some of my relatives did not return from the War. Edward survived, injured, and whilst Alfred’s story is a tragic one, Frederick led what seems to have been an enjoyable life. I also found out that another great-great-uncle, Ambler Woodhead, was killed in action aged 21. Only three months before his death, he had been awarded the Military Medal for Conspicuous bravery.

Personally, I see the First World War as an unnecessary, devastating loss of life. I would like my relatives’ experiences to remind people that only a few generations ago, people died and suffered physical or mental trauma because nations were too eager to go to war.

Edward Stanley Shaw. © Sweeting Family Archive
Edward Stanley Shaw.
© Sweeting Family Archive

Edward Stanley Shaw, Private.16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Regiment No. C/152.

Edward was my great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family.

He was born in Halifax in 1890, the youngest child of a family of four brothers and one sister. His father was a chemist and his siblings were school teachers and a coach builder. According to the 1910 census, Edward Stanley was an iron moulder before the war. He enjoyed playing cricket and tennis.

Edward’s Birth Certificate. © Sweeting Family Archive
Edward’s Birth Certificate.
© Sweeting Family Archive

Edward Stanley Shaw enlisted as a Private in the 16th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Regiment No. C/152 on 15 September 1914. On 16 November 1915, his battalion sailed from Southampton to Le Havre, France, then by rail to Aire for more training, before arriving at the trenches.

On the Western Front, he suffered a bad leg wound. We presume the wound was from a German shell but he didn’t speak of it much to his family. It was said that he took many hours to crawl to safety and that his leg had to be amputated. He was discharged from the army on 10 May 1917.

A Medal Roll containing Edward’s name. © Sweeting Family Archive
A Medal Roll containing Edward’s name.
© Sweeting Family Archive

After he was injured in the Great War and discharged from the army, Edward met and married his wife Doris in 1918. Edward and Doris had two daughters; Margaret Shaw and my grandma Mary Catherine Shaw. He worked as a telephonist at the GPO.

Edward spent the rest of his life using wooden crutches but was able to travel to London to attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the cenotaph.

To discover more stories, visit the In Memoriam exhibition at the Leeds museum and at Fort Nelson.