He registered for the Draft but did he serve? Using Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939

troop ship
803rd Pioneer Infantry Battalion on the U.S.S. Philippine docked at Brest Harbor, France, July 18, 1919. Photographs, prints, ephemera from the Gladstone collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-11458

Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, consists of passenger lists detailing all those departing from or arriving at U.S. ports on Army Transport ships.  World War 1 Draft registrations show who registered for the draft but that does not mean they served. The Army Transport Services Lists show the men enlisted at the time of the war.  It is important to note that these are not military service records.  They include the ship name, arrival and departure date and place and the service member’s name, rank, service number, age, residence, next of kin with relationship and the regiment that they were attached to.

HenryEZimmerman1892_ww1
U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. ancestry.com. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Private Henry Edwin Zimmerman departed Brooklyn, New York on 15 August 1918 on board the Briton sailing for Bordeaux, France.  Further U.S. Army Transport Service Lists in which Henry Edwin Zimmerman appears show him departing Bordeaux, France on 7 June 1919, arriving back at the port of Hoboken, New Jersey on 18 June 1919.  If we previously did not have the regiment Henry Zimmerman served with, these Army Transport Service lists provide that information.  Further research can then be done on that regiment to learn more about their role in the war.

Comparing Draft Registrations with U.S. Army Transport Service Passenger Lists

An interesting comparison can be made between a Draft Registration and the Army Transport Service Lists to determine if someone who registered for the Draft ultimately ended up serving.

Henry Edwin Zimmerman was one of five Zimmerman brothers eligible for service during World War 1.  All five registered for the Draft.  Two of the brothers claimed exemption, one on medical grounds and one based on his employment in the farming industry. Of the three who did not claim any exemption, one was aged 32, married with an infant and was a farmer.  He was temporarily exempted under Draft Category III: ‘Temporarily exempted but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_Act_of_1917)

Youngest brother, Charles Stephen Zimmerman, aged 21, was drafted under the second Draft registration, on June 5, 1918, for those men who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles S. Zimmerman was training with the Merchant Marines which exempted him from military duty.  The third brother who did not claim an exemption was 22-year-old Otto Emil Zimmerman.  He registered for the draft on 5 June 1917.  As of this post, military service records for him have not been found. Otto Emil Zimmerman was single with no dependents and would have been eligible and liable for military service.

It is interesting to note that the two brothers, Henry Edwin Zimmerman and Louis William Zimmerman who both claimed an exemption, were called up for service.

Name Draft Registration Date
Age & Occupation
Claimed exception? Served?
George Everett Zimmerman 12 Sep 1918; 32; Farmer No No.[1]
Henry Edwin Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 25; Salesman Expert Yes. Grounds – hernia. Yes[2]
Louis William Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 24; Shipping Clerk Yes.  Grounds – employed by farmer making farming implements Yes[3]
Otto Emil Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 22; Book keeper No No records found
Charles Stephen Zimmerman 5 June 1918; 21; Office Work – Shipping No Training with Merchant Marines[4]

[1] Third Draft Registration for men aged 18 to 35.  George had married in 1917 and had a 4-month-old child in September 1918.  Perhaps exempted Class III: ‘Temporarily exempted, but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’.

[2] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. Henry was unmarried with no dependents therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[3] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917.  Louis was unmarried with no dependents, therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[4] Second Draft Registration, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles was in training with the Merchant Marines in June 1918 and therefore exempt from military service.

Army Transport Service Passenger Lists are another great resource for research into World War 1.  In addition to troop information, this collection also contains information on non-military passengers traveling on these ships, including any family members traveling with their military spouses.

 

 

 

 

 

The Life of a Miner: from County Durham, England to Kimberley, South Africa.

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John Bellas (1859-1938)

I have always been fascinated by the life of my great-grandfather John Bellas.  Born into a coal mining family originally from Flintshire, Wales, he spent his entire life working down the mines.  John was born in 1859 in St Giles, County Durham, England.  He was the third child and first son for David Bellis and his wife, Margaret Williams.  There would eventually be 9 children in the family. David Bellis and Margaret Williams were both of Welsh birth but by 1851 the family had left Wales and moved to the coal fields of County Durham, England. [At some stage John changed the spelling of his surname from Bellis to Bellas].

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County Durham Coal Miners.  Photo in public domain.

The 1871 England Census for Thornley, County Durham shows David Bellis and sons John Bellas (age 12) and Thomas Bellas (age 10) working as miners in the Thornley Colliery.

1871census
1871 England Census, Thornley, County Durham, Class: RG10; Piece: 4976; Folio: 31;  Page: 60, Ancestry.com

John Bellas’ life was marred at times by tragedy beginning with his first wife Elizabeth Jane Robson.  They married in 1880 and had 4 children together.  Tragically all four children died in infancy or early childhood.  Elizabeth herself died in 1886 at age 24, only one month after her 3rd child died. She left behind her husband John and 2-year-old son, also named John.   A year later, in June 1887, John married Anne Wilson.  John and Elizabeth’s surviving child (John) passed away in June of 1889.  John and his second wife, Anne Wilson went on to have 11 children, five of which also died in infancy.

In 1893 John Bellas left on his first trip to South Africa.  This was the beginning of numerous trips back and forth between England and South Africa between 1893 and 1911. It’s not clear what precipitated the trip to South Africa but perhaps prospects there were better than in the coal fields of County Durham. For many years newspapers had reported on the ease with which diamonds could be found in South Africa and implied a man could get rich very quickly.

diamondfields
Manchester Evening News, Tuesday 12 September 1871.

The discovery of diamonds in the 1860s and 1870s caused a great influx of men, particularly experienced miners, seeking their fortunes in the diamond fields of South Africa. Because the labor needs of the diamond fields were so great, the British encouraged labor migration to Kimberley.

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Diamond Mine. Kimberley, South Africa 1896.  Photos.com/jupiterimages

In 1893 John Bellas was hired by the De Beers Diamond Mines in Kimberley, South Africa.  Through correspondence with the De Beers Archivist and the Africana Research Library in Kimberley, and using employment records and passenger lists, I was able to track John Bellas’ movements in South Africa.  Between 1893 and 1898 John traveled back and forth between County Durham and Kimberley, South Africa four times.  Approximate travel time was 17 days via one of the Union Castle steam ships which traveled weekly between Southampton, London and ports in South and East Africa.

union-castle
One of the many advertisements for the Union Castle Line. Photo in public domain.

Throughout these years of back and forth travel, Anne Bellas and their 4 young children remained behind in County Durham. In 1899 newspapers in County Durham began to report on the developing tensions in South Africa, especially around the town of Kimberley.  This must have caused great anxiety for Ann Bellas.

newspapersiege
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. Tuesday 31 October 1899

                               “The Siege of Kimberley.  Boers Building Forts.
                                      (Reuter’s Telegram) CapeTown, Monday.
                It is reported from Barkly West that the Boers are building forts
                     around Kimberley for the purpose of shelling the town.”

Ultimately the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand, and the influx of foreigners as a result of that discovery, led to increased tensions between the Boers (Afrikaans speaking settlers) and the ‘Uitlanders’ (foreigners).  The Boers feared that the Uitlanders would seize all political power and therefore passed laws that made Uitlanders in effect, second class citizens.  Tensions escalated between these two groups. Britain was in control of the Cape Colony and wanted to incorporate the Boer Republics and keep them under British control.  Failed negotiations between Britain and the Boer Republics in 1899 and the failure to remove British troops congregating on the borders of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State led to the declaration of war.

John Bellas began serving with the Kimberley Town Guard ‘D’ Company Division II.  The town guard had been raised in October 1899 to defend the town of Kimberley from Boer attack.  The Boers besieged the town for 124 days but ultimately failed to take Kimberley, which had finally been relieved by the advancing British forces.

kimberley-town-guard-war
Dundee Evening Post. 30 March 1900.

Transcription: “The Siege of Kimberley:  Town Guard Defending Carter’s Ridge.
The Kimberley town Guard lost twenty-one killed and forty-one wounded in defending this position.”

 

kimberley-town-guard
Kimberley Town Guard.  Photo credit: angloboerwar.com

In March 1900 the Kimberley Town Guard was officially dismissed.  There was no work to be had at the mines which had shut down during the Siege of Kimberley and John Bellas returned to England in July 1900.

newspaper1900_kimberleytownguard-disbanded
South Wales Daily News. 12 March 1900

It was not long before John Bellas returned again to Kimberley and employment with De Beers Mines.  This time his family traveled with him.  John and Anne Bellas and their 4 young children made the journey to Kimberley about 1902/1903. Five more children were born in Kimberley between 1902/1903 and 1909.  Unfortunately 3 of the children died in infancy, two from influenza and one from meningitis.  My grandmother, Elizabeth Bellas, was about 7 years old when she moved to Kimberley and 15 years old when the family returned to England permanently in 1911.  In her older years she could still remember a word or two of Afrikaans which she had learned as a young child in South Africa.

Although Anne Bellas and children never returned to South Africa again, John Bellas traveled back again in early 1912.  He only stayed a few months, returning for the final time to County Durham in December 1912.

John Bellas seems to have been a man who didn’t mind adventure and many years spent going back and forth across the ocean between countries.  He was the first in the family to set foot in South Africa but certainly not the last.  His daughter, Elizabeth Bellas, would have a son, my father, who would eventually immigrate from County Durham to South Africa and raise John Bellas’ great grandchildren there.

 

One of The Second World War’s Best Kept Secrets

The headlines rang out with the news:  “Queen Mary Cut Cruiser in Two. Disaster that was Kept Secret.” (Dundee Courier) and “Queen Mary Sank a British Cruiser.  Disaster While Evading U-Boat” (Daily Record).  It was Friday 18 May 1945.  Joseph and Mary Thomas had been wondering for 3 years exactly how and where their youngest child, Stanley Mather Thomas had died.  They had received the news in 1942 that their 22-year-old son was missing ‘at sea’ presumed dead. The story of what happened to Joseph and the other 338 British sailors who died in October 1942 was one of World War Two’s best kept secrets.

Stanley Mather Thomas was born on June 1, 1920 in New Silksworth, Sunderland, County Durham.  He was the youngest of four children born to Joseph and Mary (Mather) Thomas.  Stanley joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Force, a reserve force of the Navy called up during war time operations.  At the time of his death in 1942 his rank was ‘Able Seaman’ indicating he had at least 2 years’ experience at sea.

StanleyMThomas1920_Navyrecord_snip
UK, British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960.  Thomas, Stanley Mather, ancestry.com. Note:  the 2. refers to ‘Missing – death on War Service presumed

On October 2, 1942 Stanley was on board the HMS Curacao in the coastal waters north of Ireland. The ship had been ordered to provide an escort service to the 81,000 ton ocean liner, the Queen Mary.  The Queen Mary, sailing from New York across the Atlantic, was carrying some 10,000 U.S. troops.  Converted from a luxury ocean liner and painted battleship grey she was one of the fastest and largest troop ships in the world.

StanleyMThomas1920_ships
“World War II Today – ww2today.com – edited by Martin Cherrett.  Photos in public domain

In order to deter U-boats and German aircraft the Queen Mary undertook a zig-zag pattern moving across the ocean.  The HMS Curacao was to provide anti-aircraft cover for the other ship and in order to do so sailed to within 200 yards of the larger, faster ship.  Historical newspaper accounts differ somewhat to witness accounts of what exactly happened next.  In 1945 newspaper accounts reported that a U-boat had been spotted which caused the HMS Curacao to change course in pursuit and in doing so put themselves in the path of the Queen Mary.

StanleyMThomas1920_newspaper_snipCuracoa
Dundee Courier, Friday 18 May 1945 via Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Witnesses to the accident reported that the HMS Curacao was traveling far too close to the Queen Mary but do not mention the sighting of a U-boat.

“We could see our escort zig-zagging in front of us – it was common for the ships and cruisers to zig-zag to confuse the U-boats. In this particular case however the escort was very, very close to us.  I said to my mate “You know she’s zig-zigging all over the place in front of us, I’m sure we’re going to hit her.” And sure enough, the Queen Mary sliced the cruiser in two like a piece of butter, straight through the six-inch armoured plating.”  — Alfred Johnson, eye-witness, BBC: “HMS Curacao Tragedy”  (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/13/a2733013.shtml

“It all happened during the watch changes, the “Curacao” was doing a zig jag course in the fare of Q.M: and naturally losing her distance and it was during one of her sweeps across the bows of Q.M that she was cut in two halves. The Q.M: went throu her like a knife throu butter, to this day I wonder what the bridge personnel and lookouts of both ships were doing not to notice the nearness of each other.” – Able Seaman on watch Enoch Foster aboard HMS Bramham.  (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/28/a4146428.shtml)

The HMS Bramham was assigned to escort convoys from the North sea into home port in Ireland.  As described above several sailors witnessed the accident from the bow of the HMS Bramham.  The Bramham arrived at the spot it had last seen the Caracao only to find a tragic scene.

Able Seaman on Watch Enoch Foster, on board the Bramham:

“I immediately contacted the bridge and reported “Curacao” had disappeared, from then on it was panic, our ship turned about, asdis lamps flashing messages, we past the Queen Mary she was still making for homeport like a bad horse, we arrived at the last position where I had seen “Curacao” what a terrible sight it was, the sea was covered in oil, dirty and black with hundreds of heads with oily faces and panicky white eyes, mouths opening and closing like fish, some shouting for their mothers and help, others just chocking with fuel oil in their lungs and dying from drowning, all good British lads, bobbing up and down. We picked as many as we could 97 out of 650 the rest perished. On our way back to Ireland 5 out of the 97 we had saved from the sea died on board due to the fuel in their guts, all that destruction in the time it takes to light a cigarette”  (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/28/a4146428.shtml)

Captain Charles Illingworth of the Queen Mary was under strict orders to not stop for anything and the Queen Mary continued on to Ireland, sustaining a damaged bow.  The Curacao sank in about five minutes. Approximately 101 survivors were rescued some hours later by HMS Bramham.   Witnesses to the event were sworn to secrecy and details were kept very quiet. The loss of any ship due to war time activity was not reported publicly so as to keep the Germans unaware.  Three years after the accident, in 1945, newspapers began to publish the first accounts of the collision.

Immortalized on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent, England are the names of the 338 men who lost their lives that day on the HMS Curacao, among them is that of Stanley Mather Thomas, my first cousin twice-removed.  The wording on the memorial is particularly poignant:

“The names of over 18,500 men and women are recorded on this memorial;  of these some 8,500 died during the First World War and 10,000 during the Second World War. All were buried or lost at sea or were otherwise denied, by the fortunes of war, a known and honoured grave”

ChathamNavalMemorial2
Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent England

The wreck of the HMS Curacao is today designated a “protected place”.   In 2015 a Scottish documentary team, working with the National Geographic Channel produced a series titled ‘Deep Wreck Mysteries’.  One of the episodes explores the story of the collision of the Queen Mary and the Curacao.    A portion of that episode, along with witness interviews from those on board both the Queen Mary and HMS Curacao, can be seen here.

 

Hide and Seek with Harry

My maternal great-grandfather, Harry Joshua Davis, has generally made himself extremely difficult to find after 1923.  In fact, I have not found him or his date of death or where he might have died and I have been looking for a very long time.  Yes, it’s annoying and he most definitely qualifies for July’s Genealogy Blog Pool party theme. Elizabeth of Little Bytes of Life writes:

‘Do you have an ancestor which makes you absolutely miserable?’  Why yes I do! ‘Bring your most aggravating ancestor to our summer pool party and PUSH HIM (or her) in the pool!’

Harry Joshua Davis was born in Gorton West, Lancashire, England in 1879.  He was the first child of Joshua Davis and Helena (Schmidt) Davis.  He is easily found in the 1881 and 1891 UK census with his family in or near Manchester, Lancashire.  By the 1901 census however Harry is not found with the family who has stayed within the parish of South Manchester.  In fact, despite numerous searches, I have not found him at all in 1901 in England.  I do however know that by June 1902 Harry Davis was in South Africa.  He joined the British South Africa Police (B.S.A.P) in Johannesburg and I am fortunate that I have his enlistment papers.

HarryJoshuaDavis1879_BSAP001
B.S.A.P Enlistment Papers for Harry Joshua Davis

However not being able to find Harry J. Davis in 1901 in England raises the question of whether he was already in South Africa at that time.  Did he go over to fight in the Boer War?  As a paramilitary unit, the B.S.A.P fought in the Second Boer War but Harry Davis’ B.S.A.P enlistment papers clearly show he enlisted in Johannesburg in 1902. (The Second Boer War had officially ended on May 31, 1902).   In 2003 I hired a researcher to do a search in the Public Record Office in London with the goal being to find out if Harry Davis had enlisted in the British Army prior to 1902.  Although several men were found with similar names, none fit the details I already had for Harry Joshua Davis.  Was Harry intrigued by the lure of adventure in deepest Africa?  Perhaps he saw one of the many newspaper advertisements asking for men to join the B.S.A.P?

HarryJoshuaDavis1879_background
Morning Post (London), 21 January 1898

Harry’s trail in South Africa from 1902 until 1923 is fairly well documented in his enlistment papers.  I also know that Harry Davis married Adelaide Agnes Maud Hayes somewhere between 1902 and 1908.  However, I do not have their marriage certificate or a confirmed date of their marriage. It’s difficult to get this sort of documentation in South Africa as there is no central repository for vital records and many are kept on a local level by the various church’s – if they exist at all.   There is also the unconfirmed family story that Harry and Adelaide were not married at the time of the birth of their first son, my grandfather, Harold James Davis in 1908.  A birth certificate for Harold James Davis may have shown the word ‘illegitimate’ had that been the case but again, I have not been able to find one for him.  In fact, the family story goes so far as to say that Adelaide’s father went out and found Harry and told him he would be marrying his daughter –  ‘shot-gun’ wedding style.  Until I find their marriage certificate I can’t prove or disprove that family story.

Harry Davis did well working with the B.S.A.P and his records are full of praise and commendations.  He was promoted in 1907 to a Detective Probationer and then to Detective in 1908.  In September of  1914  the notation in his enlistment papers shows that Harry was called to active duty.  The First World War had started in July of 1914 and South Africa’s military forces, including the B.S.A.P, participated in the fighting in various parts of Africa including the East African Campaign.  Harry Davis survived and returned to Johannesburg on June 26, 1915.  Approximately 4 years later Harry was again promoted to Detective Lieutenant Constable.  In 1921 Harry Davis moved to Cape Town where he was stationed with the newly formed C.I.D (Criminal Investigative Division) of the B.S.A.P.

HarryJoshuaDavis1879_BSAP00
The B.S.A.P is called into action for World War 1

Harry Joshua Davis and Adelaide Agnes Maud (Hayes) Davis had 4 children together:

  • Harold James Davis, born in 1908 in Johannesburg
  • Lillian Adelaide Davis, born in 1909 in Johannesburg
  • William Francis Davis, born in 1912 in Johannesburg
  • Florence Maud Davis, born in 1922 in Cape Town

Harry Joshua Davis left the B.S.A.P in 1923 at the age of 44.  And that is the last time I have found any mention of him in any document.  I don’t know where he went after he left the B.S.A.P.  I do know that there was a separation from his wife Adelaide and that when she died in 1964 her death notice stated she was a widow. Whether Harry Davis had died by then is unknown.  Widows were not always widows but may have preferred to be known as such rather than as the woman whose husband abandoned her.

There are various family stories that have been told about Harry Joshua Davis including:

  • When Harry and Adelaide separated Harry went to South West Africa (now known as Namibia).
  • In 2001 at the age of 79, daughter Florence Maud Davis was of the opinion that her father died in South Africa and that he may have taken his own life. She believed she was about 11 when her parents separated and in her early teens when Harry died, which would put his death around 1935 or so.
  • Information from Florence Maud Davis’ husband was that when Harry Joshua Davis left the B.S.A.P he started a plumbing business with a partner. The partner absconded with all the money and the business failed.  Interestingly enough Harry’s father, Joshua Davis, was a plumber (back in England) so perhaps there could be a shred of truth here.
  • In 2004 Adelaide Agnes Maud (Hayes) Davis’ nephew was asked if he remembered anything about Harry Joshua Davis. He stated that he thought Harry went into the bakery business and worked for a company called T & F Connery.  And again, Harry’s grandmother Charlotte L. Cook had been a confectioner/baker back in England. So again, perhaps a shred of truth?

Harry Joshua Davis remains a man of mystery right now.  Every few months I go back to Harry and look at him again, read the few documents I have on him, and look through any new South African records that have been placed online, but no luck so far.  Harry is doing a great job at hiding.  And that’s pretty aggravating, right?

 

Behind the Scenes of a War

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Leslie Bruce Thomas (1921-2013) in RAF uniform

On the night of April 25, 1945 LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) Thomas was involved with the last operational mission for Bomber Command No. 35 Squadron based at R.A.F. Graveley in Huntingdonshire, England.  This last mission would provide tons of vitally needed medical supplies to the Allied men on the ground in Germany and occupied France prisoner of war hospitals.  Lancaster bombers were fitted with specially adapted medical supply baskets which were dropped by parachute behind enemy lines.  LAC Thomas, ground crew at RAF Graveley, was involved in the adaptation of the baskets as is indicated by the letter below, sent from the Group Captain Commanding the R.A.F at Graveley to the Station Armament Officer and on which LAC Thomas’ name and military number is written by hand.  The copy of the letter is poor but a transcription is below.

 

LeslieBruceThomas1921_MilitaryLetter

From: – Royal Air Force, GRAVELEY, Huntingdonshire.               LAC Thomas (896)
To:     – Station Armament Officer
Date:  – 27th April, 1945
Ref:    – GY/s.933/P.1

MEDICAL SUPPLY BASKETS

            The ingenuity and effort put forth by your section in adapting the Medical supply baskets for dropping by No. 35 Squadron on the night of 25th April, has earned glowing praise from higher places.

  1. Your section will no doubt be gratified to know that all the supply Baskets were accurately delivered to a prisoner of War Hospital housing British and American aircrew where the death rate had been in the region of eight to ten per day, due to shortage of medical supplies. This position is now relieved and I am sure your section will consider that fact just reward for their efforts.
  1. Would you please pass this information to the personnel concerned, along with my thanks for furthering Graveley’s reputation for reliability, ingenuity and initiative.

 

G.F. Grant (Sgd)
Group Captain Commanding
Royal Air Force,
GRAVELEY.  Hunts.

Not every man saw armed combat but many behind the scenes contributed just as much to the war effort.  The men and women of R.A.F. Graveley No. 35 Squadron participated in over 1000 bomber raids with many losses of life.  A memorial stained glass window of the Parish Church of All Saints in Offord Cluny, Huntingdonshire serves to honor the memory of all the airmen and airwomen who served with 35 Squadron at Graveley.

LeslieBruceThomas1921_pathfinder-window-aircraft
Stained glass window at All Saints Church from website https://allsaintsoffordcluny.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

From Cairo with Love

As part of this month’s theme for the Genealogy Blog Party ‘The Strong Will Survive!’ I am highlighting my Grandfather as someone I believe was strong both emotionally and physically.  He survived not only a war but a situation at home, happening at the same time, which was incredibly emotionally stressful for him.  Read on and see why I think he qualifies as a man of great courage and integrity.

I’ve always been fascinated with this postcard that my Grandfather, Harold James Davis, had made in Cairo, Egypt.  He never sent it (there is no writing on the back) but from what we can gather brought it home to South Africa to give to his only daughter.

EstelleHazelDavis1939_Postcard

Harold James Davis (1908-1967) was stationed in Egypt with the 1st Hygiene Company of the South African Medical Corp from November 1941 to April 1944 and transferred to the United Defense Force Admin HQ in Cairo, Egypt from March 1944 to November 1944.  Obviously he carried with him a photograph of the young daughter he had left behind in South Africa, enabling him to have the postcard made.

It was during this time serving in Egypt that my grandfather would have heard that his wife, my grandmother, Hazel Jane Keown, had abandoned their young daughter.  Perhaps tired of life as the wife of a military man (Harold had been an Army man since July of 1929) Hazel Jane Keown had left their 4-year-old daughter and disappeared.    Harold returned to South Africa in November 1944 where he sued for divorce and sole custody of his daughter.

HaroldJamesDavis1908_photo military 2
Harold James Davis (1908-1967) taken in Cairo, Egypt between 1941 and 1944.

It must have been difficult to be in the middle of a war and to be worrying about his young daughter.  I like to think that the photograph of her he carried, and the postcard he had made, helped him to feel closer to her.

HaroldJamesDavis
Harold James Davis and his baby girl.