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Family history photos spanning 1898 - 1945

This story has no connection with Malvern

You may inherit photos from relatives and wonder who people in the photos were, where they lived and when. Often these photos are undated, torn, scratched or faded, but they can nevertheless tell a story, such as the one below.


Harry, second from left in the photo below, is the link between these photographs which span 1898 to about 1945 and have a military theme.

Family group in Ayr, Scotland circa 1898

The photograph was taken in Ayr, Scotland about 1898, and from the census records it was eventually possible to name everyone in the picture. In the centre are parents William and Isabella surrounded by their four children, and Isabella's sister Jane Hardy with the family dog.

William, born 1848 at Windsor barracks, was a career soldier in the Grenadier Guards, based at Wellington Barracks, Chelsea; he had joined as a drummer boy aged 14.

About 1890 the family moved to Queens Terrace Ayr in Scotland and William transferred into the Royal Scotch Fusiliers, where he was a Quartermaster, finally achieving the rank of Honourary Captain.

His son Harry married a local girl, Janet Guthrie Brown, the daughter of Greenock baker John Brown, and Helen Cowan Bryce Sloan who was originally from Ayr.  Sadly, shortly after the photograph above was taken William died of tuberculosis in London. One wonders if the family knew he was ill when the group photo was taken.

Bakery in Moss Road, Kilmacolm, Scotland circa 1900

John Brown's bakers shop in Kilmalcom

Harry initially worked as the manager of a bakery outlet for his father-in-law in Moss Road, Kilmacom, Renfrew (see photo above which was taken about 1900). In  the 1950s Schawlands or Shaw Buildings as it was later known became a branch of the Coop, and later the building was converted to residential use. A reader sent us this photo of the building as it is now.

Bakers shop in 2009

The Bakers Shop in 2009


By 1911, and following his mother-in law's death, the family had moved from Scotland and Harry and his wife were managing the Marquis of Granby Hotel at Bamford, in the Peak District, near Sheffield, which has since been demolished and replaced by a new building.


The First World War loomed and about 1914, Harry joined the newly formed Asiatic Petroleum Company and the family moved to Fulham in London.

Asiatic Petroleum Company factory in Townmead Road, Fulham about 1916

Manufacture of petrol tins at Fulham during WWI

In 1916 Harry was the manager of a workshop producing two gallon petrol tins for the War Office (see photo above). In July 1916 the factory was producing 45,000 petrol tins per week. If you look closely you will see the Shell logo on the cans.

Future son in law

Harry's daughter Jean married Alexander at Edinburgh in 1933. In 1917 Alexander had enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps Special Reserve and was put in charge of a 'lorry park' in France. The photo below shows him at the wheel of a Crossley 34 cwt tender.

Crossley tender

Crossley 34 cwt tender

The vehicle could carry three men in the front and up to eight in the rear on sideways mounted benches. The vehicle was probably used as a general purpose light truck and to carry crew across airfields; it was probably the Jeep of its day. This one had pressed steel wheels, whilst many had spoked wheels.

World War II

About 1934, Alexander's eldest son George, by his first wife, had set up as a tobacco farmer in South Rhodesia near Headlands, but on the 15th October 1939, soon after the start of WWII, he arrived back at Southampton on the Windsor Castle, to attend officer training at Sandhurst.

George about 1940George (see photo opposite copied from a cine film) attained the rank of Lieutenant and in April 1941 was attached to the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, a cavalry regiment equipped with light tanks. He was based at the Royal Armoured Corps School and Base Depot, Middle East Force, in Egypt.

Units of the regiment were then deployed to Bug Bug and Tobruk in Libya where George was injured and lost a leg in the North African campaign.

In 1943 George was retired to the HQ Southern Rhodesia Defence Force, Salisbury. He survived the war, and took up tobacco farming again, but died in a light aircraft crash in South Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1949. He left a widow, Phyllis, and a young son, Sandy who was born in 1945.


Though Harry was retired at the start of WWII,  two of his daughters and his son-in-law Ted worked at the Vickers, Weybridge factory, on the edge of the motor racing circuit at Brooklands, where the Wellington bomber was designed, built and repaired. One of the tasks was to patch up the canvas of damaged aircraft and paint the new canvas  with dope.

Muriel with co-workers at Vickers, Webridge circa 1940

Workers at Vickers during WWII

The Vickers and Hawker Hurricane factories on the edge of the Brooklands motor racing track were the targets of German bombing. Although many bombs fell wide of the mark, the Vickers factory received a direct hit during the Battle of Britain but fortunately, so the story goes, it was during the lunch hour, else the 83 casualties could have been far worse.

The photo below, copied from a family album, shows the wheel of a Wellington bomber.

Wheel of Wellington bomber

Wheel of Wellington bomber


Harry's son was attached to the army in India for a while but we are not certain whether that was during WWII or just before. Click to see photos on another page.

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