Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Hunt for family of Somme soldier

First World War soldiers outside Shepreth village hall in Cambridgeshire, when it was used as a hospital

Local historians trying to trace relatives of a soldier killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 have unearthed photographs of troops being treated in a village hospital during the First World War.

Injured servicemen are seen with nurses in the village hall in Shepreth, Cambridgeshire, which was used as a military hospital between 1915 and 1919.

The photographs came to light after locals in Shepreth started searching for the family of Private Edward Wolstencroft, who was treated at the hospital in 1915.

Shortly before Christmas workmen fixing floorboards at the hall found a postcard written to Private Wolstencroft in April 1915 hidden behind wooden wall panels.

Locals want to return the card, which appears to have been written by a woman named "Nellie", to the soldier's family. On the card "Nellie" wrote: "Dear Teddy, Don't think I have forgotten you letter following hopeing you are quite all right love from Nellie." Villagers think that the card slipped behind panels after being propped on a shelf.

Data shows that Private Wolstencroft, who came from Edmonton, Middlesex, died at the age of 26 on July 7 1916 - a week after British troops launched their ill-fated Somme attack on German lines. Records show that he is remembered on the war memorial dedicated to missing First World War soldiers at Thiepval in the Picardie region of France.

The pictures belong to 90-year-old Roy Chamberlain, of Foxton, Cambridgeshire, whose grandmother Mary was a nurse at the hospital and whose father William was badly wounded on the Somme in July 1916. He made contact with villagers in Shepreth after reading about the postcard.

Three photographs show injured soldiers in and out of bed and nurses standing by. Cards can be seen sitting on a wooden shelf and one picture shows a soldier in bed near the spot where the postcard was found.

"They're fantastic pictures - but sadly we don't know when they were taken," said village hall booking clerk Louise Barrell.

"We've seen pictures of soldiers and nurses outside the hall but no-one can remember seeing photographs taken inside during the First World War. Could it possibly be that one of the soldiers pictured is Private Wolstencroft? If anyone recognises anyone in the pictures or knows anything about when they were taken we'd love to hear from them."

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