Over a year ago I wrote of what I knew of Bert Mitchell’s involvement in the WW1.
He was my great uncle, born on 1 Aug 1892 in West Grinstead, and I remember him as I was 7 when he died. It was an interesting challenge to research him as his is one of many service records that has not survived.
His ‘On War Service 1915’ badge was probably issued for his Red Cross volunteer work during the early part of the war and finding Bert’s regiment and service number on his medals enabled me to find the matching Medal Index Card. Bert enlisted as a Private in the Machine Gun Corps on 2 December 1915. Although I do not know exactly where he served, I do know that he was overseas when he sustained a head injury and was evacuated back to England to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, near Southampton, for treatment and recovery.
Following his discharge in 1918 Bert worked as a Red Cross orderly at the Royal Victoria Hospital, making and fitting artificial limbs. Photos in my Granny’s photo album are a tantalising glimpse of his work there. Later he worked for Pedestros Limbs Department in Southampton and subsequently at Roehampton. I was intrigued to watch a recent episode of Call the Midwife showing families of children affected by Thalidomide receiving help with artificial limbs at Roehampton.
Having discovered that the West Grinstead Local History Group were putting together a publication on the role of people from that parish in WW1, I submitted to them what I had researched of Bert Mitchell’s life. This weekend I had the joy of attending the group’s exhibition to mark the launch of the book ‘When West Grinstead Went To War 1914 – 1918’.
An excellent display with photos and commentary was complemented by various WW1 artefacts. All those mentioned in the book were plotted on a large map of the parish. I enjoyed chatting with several members of the research group, showing them my tree and my Mitchell write-up. I also discovered a link with a lady who had travelled all the way from Cumbria to be there.
As well as service outlines of the men from the parish who served, there are articles in the book on Aviation in West Sussex during the war period, on the 4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and on Food and Agriculture.
Many congratulations to Dorothy, Norman, James, Colin, Mike and all those who brought the book to fruition – an amazing achievement!
Copies of the book can be ordered by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org