Sunday, 2 January 2011

Success in hunt for family of fallen war hero

A successful follow-up to an article we posted back in November, from the Edinburgh Evening News:

The closest surviving relatives of a soldier killed in a bomb blast in France more than 90 years ago have been traced by Edinburgh historians.

Charles F Fox died on June 6, 1918, on a farm in the village of Fletre in northern France, along with two other Edinburgh soldiers, William Marr Constable and Andrew Scott Greig.

Farm owner Didier Godderis enlisted the help of local historian Yvonne McEwen, honorary fellow at Edinburgh University's Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars, to find out more about the men killed in his barn all those years ago.

Along with her husband Alistair, she managed to find personal details of the soldiers from the 1901 census and from birth records and has now managed to track down members of Edinburgh-born Mr Fox's family.

Gordon McDonald is Mr Fox's great-great-great nephew and was traced by the historians through the website ancestry.co.uk, as Mr McDonald had already been researching his family tree.

He said he had been aware of the existence of Mr Fox, but knew no more than that.

Mr McDonald, a physics teacher at Beath High School in Fife, said: "His closest living relative is actually my mother, who is 84, as my mum's grandmother, Emily Fox, was Charles' sister. My mum can remember her but doesn't remember Charles. I hadn't researched Charles as such as part of the family tree so I hadn't realised he was a war casualty.

"He was born in Bread Street, Edinburgh, but he doesn't seem to have married.

"I was told he was of German descent, which was a bit of a surprise to my mum, but she said it actually explained a lot about her grandmother and some of her mannerisms."

The owner of the farm where the soldiers were killed wants to honour them by organising a memorial service to take place on June 10, 2012 and wants to find all of the families before then so that they can attend the ceremony.

Mr McDonald, 54, said he would love to take his mother out to France for the service.

He added: "I actually visited the war graves of two other relatives, Michael and Peter Owens, before I found out about Charles. It's quite emotional to think that someone you're related to is buried there. I'd love my mum to be able to go to the service because she is the closest relative of Charles that I'm aware of."

Dr McEwen, who has recently launched an online archive called Edinburgh's War, has also been in contact with the family of one of the other soldiers and hopes to be able to find the third family. She said: "Didier is absolutely over the moon that we have found these families.

"They have got all kinds of wonderful things planned for the ceremony, which I will also be attending."

Her husband Alistair, who found Mr McDonald through the family tree website, said it was great to be able to share information with relatives.

He added: "It all came as a huge surprise for Mr McDonald. It gives you a warm feeling inside."

Anyone with information on any of the soldiers can get in touch with Dr McEwen through www.edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk or on 0131-651 1254.

1 comment:

  1. Nice story. Glad you posted it.

    From America

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