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Notes on Research

Most of the information for the men named in this book came from four local sources and the research of official records. A brief description is provided below of each.

The War Memorials

Of which there are five. The Village War Memorial, St Mary’s Church War Memorial, the Pirton School War Memorial and two relating to the Pirton Branch of the British Legion’s Memorial. The first two list the Pirton men that died and the third lists the Pirton School pupils that fought, both those that died and those that survived.

Soldiers That Died

Various records are available.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org provides access for free on the Internet and the 'Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19' database was purchased on DVD for research.


Pirton Parish Magazines

A collection of some Pirton Parish Magazines is held by Clare Baines and includes an almost complete set for the war years.

They include comprehensive listings of the Pirton men who joined the forces, which regiment they joined and when. They also provide some information on those wounded, missing or killed. Unfortunately they don’t always expand on the exact connection of the men to Pirton. Sometimes the relationship can be clarified from other sources, but occasionally, such as those men described as “indirectly connected to Pirton”, then without further information, we can only assume that they are relatives of Pirton families, people living or working in Pirton or that they once lived in Pirton.

The Hertfordshire Express

Newspapers are a good source of information and photographs, particularly for those killed, wounded or captured. We were lucky as substantial amount of these newspapers, including the years 1914, 1917 and 1918 were saved from a skip by Hitchin Museum. Although bound, they are now in a very delicate condition and it is worrying to handle them for fear of the damage that might occur, so we were most grateful that Hitchin Museum granted us access. The other years are held by the British Library.

North Herts Mail

The information provided is very similar to that of the Hertfordshire Express. These newspapers are held by British Library.

Baptism, Census, Marriage and Other Official Records

These are an obvious source of excellent information, although interpreting the information can be surprisingly complicated, particularly when, even in this small community, different branches of the same family exist and it seems common for names to be duplicated. Sifting through these records is daunting, time consuming work, however the Pirton Local History Group, through the efforts of Helen Hofton, other key members and volunteers has created a superb website www.pirtonhistory.org.uk which provides wonderful access to many of these records. It is the result of four years hard labour and from the researchers point of view, time very, very well spent.

The 1911 Census

Although not normally released for 100 years, they were made available by the National Records office in Kew early in 2009. These have added considerably to our knowledge of the Pirton men, however it should be noted that because of time constraints for research at Kew and the cost of researching these records on the Internet, use of the 1911 census was restricted to Pirton records only, except for those men that died.

The Village Scrapbook

A scrapbook handed down from the war and containing newspaper cuttings from the war was given to Rodney Marshall’s father Jack who died in 1990. The cuttings seem to fall in to two camps those that relate to Pirton men and general articles about the local regiments in which they were serving. This was a key source of information and the only problem was that most cuttings were undated.

The 1918 Absent Voters List

A copy of this is held by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS). It holds the names of the men over the age of 21 who were on active service and who, by Act of Parliament, became eligible to vote in their home constituency. It was compiled from details supplied by the men themselves before the closing date of August 18th 1918.

The British Army World War One Service Records

These were obtained for the men that that died, where available, however the number of men for whom such records exist is very limited as approximately 60 percent were destroyed by bombing in World War Two.

Visits to Memorials and Cemeteries

Between them the authors, on many trips to Belgium, France, one to the Netherlands and one to Egypt, have visited memorials and cemeteries of all the Pirton men on the memorial, plus many others that at some point were thought to perhaps have a connection.

Other Sources

Of course there have been many other sources of information, including the written sources, relatives and the Internet. Although difficult to do, we hope that we have adequately acknowledged all of these later in the book.

Names on Memorials

It is not uncommon for names to be on more than one war memorial. Quite often a man may have been born in one location, lived in another and perhaps had close family elsewhere. In these cases, and in others, a man’s name may then appear on two or more memorials and in some cases the link to the location may be comparatively weak. If this is the case then it can be very difficult to find more information on a name.

More difficult to understand is when a man’s name appears to be missing from a memorial and this appears to be the case for a number of Pirton related men. Perhaps one explanation might be that by the time a memorial was erected the surviving family had moved away or may themselves have died.

Mistakes?

We have tried very hard, not to make any errors, however, sadly it is all too easy to make mistakes even when or perhaps especially when, we cross reference from multiple sources. Often the spelling of names varies, e.g. should it be Parcell or Parsell, Wilshere or Wilsher? Sometimes sons carry their mother’s maiden name, if born out of wedlock, other men prefer to use their middle name to their first name. Some are known by ‘nicknames’, for example Francis John Pearce was killed and is listed on the memorials, however for a long period of the research we had a Jack Pearce listed amongst the survivors. This was until we realised that they were one and the same man.

There are also multiple examples of men who share the same name, for instance we believe that we have identified three separate Fred Baines’ all of whom fought in the war and one of whom died. It is therefore not difficult to understand how it easy it might be to transpose background information, such as where they lived or who were the parents.

Where possible we have given information about the regiments that the men were in. It is probable that this information is correct, but there may still be confusion, e.g. a man may be listed as in the Hertfordshire Regiment, but does it mean the Territorials (sometimes referred to as the Hertfordshire Guards), the Yeomanry or the Hertfordshire Batteries of the Royal Field Artillery? Also such was the carnage of the war that men or groups of men were often re-assigned to other regiments to bring them back up to strength and, for the same reason, the reserves for one regiment could be transferred to another.

As examples we know that on the 1st of September 1916 the 3/1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Territorial force became part of the East Anglian Reserve Brigade. On the 11th of July 1917 they combined with the 5th (Reserve) Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment was attached to the 9th (Scottish) Division. In August 1914 they were transferred to the 112th Brigade, 37th Division. In March 1915 they were reduced to ‘cadre’ and in May 1918, 700 of its men were transferred to the 1/1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment.

As you can see mistakes are all too easy to make and the authors of the book apologise for any that may be included.

New information and Corrections

One of the aims of the Pirton World War One Project was to undertake and document the research in such a way that new information or corrections can be recorded for posterity and included in future, updated versions of this book. So please, if you find any new information, photographs or any information relating to the Pirton men included or indeed if you know of other men who should be included, please contact any of the authors or contact jontywild@pirton.org.uk.

Additional Notes

We were open with the research within the original book team and pro-actively provided it to Derek Jarrett for use in the writing of the articles appearing in the Pirton Magazine and for use in our collaborative book. That arrangement was not intended for use in any separate book, especially before the publication of The Pride of Pirton, however we acknowledge the limited information he provided in return.  However, as a point of principle we returned to the original sources of that information and undertook our own research of those sources for our book, an exercise which highlighted the selective and limited nature of the information provided.

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Pirton’s WW1 Project