I’m still waiting for my goose bumps and the hair standing up on the back of my neck to disappear. This is the story I found out today:
My Digger at Fromelles, Thomas Henry Shephard and his brothers George and John all signed up together. As you might remember, Thomas and George’s names are on the memorial at VC Cemetery. They both died on 19 July 1916. John died earlier of rheumatic fever in Marseilles. The Shephard brothers were the great-great uncles of my friend and colleague, Ceridwen Message.
Today I received the following message from another of my colleagues, Tracey Hope. Reprinted below is a copy of the email that her husband, Graeme Hope, wrote to Ceridwen:
This is Graeme, Tracey's husband. Thought I should let you know of something very spooky that happened this morning.
To set the scene, I have been researching, along with my sister, my great uncle who died at Fromelles in WW1. His name was Fred Steward. We know very little about him, have no photos and no grave in France. We do know that he was a boot maker from Fitzroy and that his great mates were a set of twin brothers, the Shephards :)
Fred fought with the 60th Btn and died on the 19th July. Tracey had told me about Kristy's trip to Fromelles so I looked at her blog of her trip to Fromelles this morning...blow me over if the first thing I read was about the Shephard brothers. Fred and your great uncles were apparently inseparable according to a few of their mates who lived until the 1950s. It seems highly likely that they died side by side at Fromelles.
In Kristy's blog, there is a pic of them all in front of the pyramids. Would you know if the photo tells who is who? The other spooky photo is the one with Kristy in front of the monument at VC Corner. 8 names below the Sheppard boys is 'Steward F.J'. Fred was a twin as well. This may have been a reason why he was so close to your great uncles. His twin (Florrie) felt him 'leave her' on that date. She knew that he had died long before they received confirmation. The only thing her family were told was that he had died in a swamp at Fleurbaix(Fromelles).
I rang my sister this morning and she was adamant that this new was 'from beyond the grave'. Below is a link to the Argus of 19 July 1921. On page 1 under in memoriam, you will find a notice put in for your great uncles (and Fred) by their two other mates who lived through the war:
Anyway, hopefully this is the breakthrough in our research that may give us an insight into Fred and his last few months. Would you have any other pics of the Shephard boys? P.S. My sister said that they were all in the 'White Rose Company' (small group of btn soldiers).
Yes, it's a very small world!
Graeme Hope (my mum’s dad was Fred's brother)
How unbelievable is that!! I sat down and looked at my photos, and sure enough near my elbow is F.J. Steward’s name. Just so unbelievable!! Apparently, Graeme has been talking about going to France to see his great-uncle’s name on the memorial. Although he still wants to go, he has said that if he doesn’t get there, he has at least seen his name. I took quite a lot of photos of the memorial and the cemetery to show to Ceridwen’s mother, Glenda. She is the Shephard boys’ great niece. I’ll now make sure that my photos also get to Graeme and Tracey.
Apologies for the big dorky photo....I needed to enlarge it so that you could see all of the boys' names.
Totally freaky coincidence!!
Totally freaky coincidence!!