Shell Shocked Britain: the mental health legacy of WW1

Shell-Shocked-BritainKaren Clare delves into a fascinating new book exploring the impact of shell shock on our First World War relatives – and the legacy of a nation traumatised by conflict.

In recent weeks, as the spectacle that was the Tower Hill poppies captured the hearts and minds of millions, thoughts turned to acts of remembrance and the sombre 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. As family historians we are more used to tracing the dead than the living and the Great War centenary has provided a focus for many researchers, and the catalyst for others to learn about the lives of relatives lost in the conflict.

But what about those combatants who survived and returned home, traumatised by their experiences? What happened to them, how did the authorities respond and their families cope? [Read more…]

Lest we forget: Who will you remember?

Gilbert Blackburn

Gilbert Blackburn, c1915.

With the centenary of the start of the First World War upon us, the Family Tree team each remember an ancestor who fought in the conflict.

[Read more…]

Have you downloaded your poppy yet?

Poppy appeal appPocket App, the UK’s largest independent app developer, has developed a new mobile app in support of The Sun newspaper’s Poppy Appeal. Available to download on any iPhone or android device, the My Poppy app allows you to contribute to The Royal British Legion Remembrance fundraising campaigns.

Users can donate via text message to the Royal British Legion’s campaign to support UK Armed Forces, veterans and their families. Once you have donated, you will receive an in-app digital poppy which you can share via social media or download to set as your mobile phone wallpaper.

Your digital poppy will also be added to a virtual poppy field online, where you can see all of the other poppies and a running total of how many people have donated.

Paul Swaddle, Pocket App CEO, said: ‘It’s all about helping people engage with this great charity in new and exciting ways.’

Robin Garton, creative director of News International, said: ‘It’s great to be working in collaboration with an organisation with as much foresight as Pocket App, who we know work with and support many charities. It’s clear that the world is becoming more and more mobile-orientated and we are always trying to find innovative ways for the next generation to remember and show their support for our active as well as fallen heroes.’

News International’s Sun Poppy Appeal, My Poppy, runs until 11 November 2014. The My Poppy app is available for free download from iTunes and Google Play. You can also search for My Poppy in your app store. Find out more about the Royal British Legion and the Poppy Appeal by visiting

Seeking the people behind the posters

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Think of the Second World War propaganda machine, and it can seem a very large and impersonal concern. But consider the artwork, particularly the photographic images and posters that were created to help encourage support for the British war effort, and the faces we see peering back at us from across the decades are those of real people – our ancestors. But who precisely are we seeing?

Now, as family historians, we’re certainly not happy to settle for the broadbrush approach to history – we want to know the details exactly. Yes – the hard and fast facts of names, dates and places never lose their appeal.

With the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War upon us, while many of those who lived through those years are still around to inform us, let’s do our best to find out these people.

Perhaps you were one of the children featured in a WW2 propaganda photo or poster? Perhaps you were a cheery housewife helping with the make-do-and-message? Or the victim of an enemy bombing raid? Not all propaganda was upbeat – just as we see images on the news of injured children tucked up in hospital beds to tug at heart-strings today, so it was in the war-torn Britain of the Forties. So, if you were the subject of a WW2 poster or photo, or perhaps one of your family members was, we would love to hear from you.

In our October issue we ran an article on WW2 propaganda posters by Home Front historian John Leete, so please either get in touch directly with John (email, or via the magazine (email Helen Tovey Click here to read John’s fascinating article.

Photo-dating with Jayne Shrimpton

Every issue family history photo-dating expert Jayne Shrimpton casts her knowledgeable eye over pictures that Family Tree readers have sent in. Unfortunately we do receive a huge number of photo-dating queries, and just can’t squeeze them all into Family Tree, so please find an extra Family Tree reader’s photos and Jayne’s insightful answer below. You never know – the clues she gives may help you date family pictures of your own. Enjoy!


Q I have obtained a copy of a rather unusual old picture in the form of a collection of portraits (probably from cameos or miniatures), arranged around a larger central one. These people relate to my maternal ancestors connected to my Gooch family of Suffolk and Cornwall. Could you suggest a date range for the person in the large central image from his dress style and appearance? I attach an enhanced copy of this image and a copy of the entire group. Comments about any of the other images in the group would also be appreciated.
George Waller

A This is a ‘composite’ portrait – a collection of separate portraits displayed together in the one picture. This sort of work, published, for example, by stationers, was popular especially in the later 18th and 19th centuries, when it was fashionable to collect likenesses of figures from history. Typically these would be famous personalities, but presumably it was also possible to have a composite picture made of one’s ancestors.

The different portraits in this composite picture range in date from the early-1500s/Tudor period (eg No.4) to the later 1700s (eg No.1). The evidence of dress and hairstyle indicates that the larger central portrait is from the 1640s or 1650s – the era of the Civil War in Britain. Presumably that gentleman is the focal subject of this collection and may hold the key to the identities of all the other subjects.

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