Looking through old family photos can really stir emotions and bring old memories back to life. But what if those pictures were taken during World War One, long before you were born, nearly 100 years ago. Fascinating, yes, but, you’d probably have some niggling questions about the images, especially if the subject of the photos, your ancestor, rarely spoke about their wartime experiences.
That’s the situation Andrew Davidson found himself in once he started to take an interest in the three family albums of black and white photographs he was given by his elderly uncle. At first he never really gave much thought to the old pictures but when he did start to really look at them he started to see true value in them. He had discovered family treasure, unveiling the story of his grandfather Fred, Davidson, a doctor, during World War One who was one of the first medics to be awarded the Military Cross.
According to the article in the Express newspaper, Fred and his comrades ignored the fact that photography was banned in the trenches and regularly sold images to newspapers back in Britain. He also swapped pictures at peacetime reunions - but never spoke of his experiences to his family. After a lot of research and interviews the photographs now have stories attached to them and with this fascinating background Andrew, a former journalist, was able to create a book called ‘Fred’s War’. And like every good book there’s a love story — detailing how his grandfather woke up from a life-threatening injury only to find an ‘angel of mercy’ a nurse sitting on the end of his bed, who later became his wife.
‘Fred’s War’ tells the story of how Fred, was deployed to the trenches where he served with distinction in a series of field hospitals. Fred joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was appointed a medical officer to the 1st Cameronians, dispatched overseas to France, during the Great War. The doctor, one of the first medics to be awarded the Military Cross in early 1915, only spent a few months with the Scottish troops before he was injured, taken back to England for treatment, and after recovery, dispatched to run a field hospital.
Andrew told the Express: "I feel as if I got to know him through the research. He was a notoriously difficult man to get to know. The only time he would mention the war would be to joke that he was shot in the posterior, which was a typical wound for doctors bending over patients. "I never knew my granddad. He died just days after I was born, and I just wanted to do justice to him, to find out what was going on in these extraordinary photos.
"At first I didn't attach any value to the albums. They were just old pictures of blokes in trenches. I wasn't really thinking about what stories they were telling, who they were, why they were there and what they'd seen. "It wasn't about the horrors of the Great War that developed later. These were pictures taken by young, proud men who had been looking forward to the trip. "A lot of them are like holiday snaps - it was how they wanted to remember it. They were making history - this World War was happening and they were part of it."
Do you have any photo puzzles that you'd like some help solving? Do you have any military based photos that need some explanation? Are you stuck looking at a photo that has you puzzled? Why not try the Forces War records 'Photo expert service'. Our experts can help you work out what regiment your ancestor served with, and what certain rank slides mean.
Maybe we could give you a bit more detail about what gun someone is using, or what aircraft they are in. Simply fill in the form and upload your image by following this link: https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/photo-expert/ Please note: the higher quality and clearer the image, the more we are likely to be able to help so please upload the highest quality image you can.