For today’s blog, I’m going to share something about which I’ve already written briefly on Facebook. Many years ago, my father picked up an old book in a second-hand bookshop (not sure where but probably in Preston, Lancashire).
It is an old leather bound book, about 6 inches by 4, and over an inch thick. The spine and covers are worn, but all the pages are intact.
It is a History of France, evidently the third volume, dealing with the monarchy in the years 1270 to 1380 and it was published in MDCCXXIV – which, according to my calculations, is 1724.
Interesting enough in itself, of course, even though it is all in French! However, what makes it doubly interesting, is the inscription on the first page.
This says it was picked up at Martinsarte on the Somme Front from a ruined house in 1916, and goes on to say it was just before the advance of the tanks and before the fall of Thiepvalle and Beaumont Hamel.
|Trenches at Beaumont Hamel|
Beaumont Hamel is now the site of the Newfoundland Memorial Park, because the Newfoundland Regiment attacked the Germans here on July 1st, 1916, and suffered appalling losses. In the park some of the front line trenches have been preserved.
But back to the book and its inscription: a few years ago I made a few attempts to trace the Captain Herbert J. Robson who originally found the book, but couldn’t find anything about him, nor could I make out the letters under his name. To me, they looked like R.G.L.C, but I couldn’t get any further than that.
Until yesterday evening! My daughter and I were chatting about the book, and she did an internet search and found a Captain Herbert J. Robson in the London Gazette, May 12, 1908.
ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (VOLUNTEERS.)
Northern Command: Leeds Companies;
Captain Herbert J. Robson resigns his commission.
Dated 31st March, 1908.
This was the breakthrough we needed – because a closer look at the letters in the book inscription showed that they actually said R.A.M.C (not RGLC). So our man was in the Medical Corps. The letters T.F. stand for Territorial Force (later the Territorial Army, which was the volunteer reserve force in peacetime). One assumes he resigned his commission with the Leeds Companies and rejoined the new Territorial Force which was established on April 1st, 1908.
I then found the Forces War Records for the RAMC – and there was Captain Herbert Robson. The record gave his home address as Vernon House, Hillary Place, Leeds. Also, as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal (which were presented to all those who served in the 1st World War), he received the Silver War Badge in 1916, issued to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.
Having found the man and his address in Leeds, I turned to the census and other records, and as a result, I now know that Herbert John Robson was born in 1862 in Filey, Yorkshire, where his father was a chemist on Queen Street. In 1881 Herbert was a medical student in London, and in 1891 he was a surgeon and general practitioner in Leeds. He married Jane Sanders in 1893, and by 1901 they had three children, Arthur aged 7, Olive aged 4, and Robert aged 3.
The only other thing I’ve been able to find out (so far!) is that both Herbert and his wife died in 1931 – Jane first, and then Herbert, less than 6 months later.
Most of this information has been gleaned in the past 24 hours which is a great testament to the value of the internet for research. Perhaps more important, the name at the front of an old book has now become a real person to me.