The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Where's Harry?

Walter had three older brothers - Fred (1885), Harry (1887), and Bert (1889) - but despite the rather fractured childhood, Harry (shown right) was the only one to disappear completely.

While Harry, Bert, and Walter were sent to the Sheffield Children's Home, Fred - the oldest - stayed with his mother Annie in Folkstone. Fred later joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and, according to Walter, even visited the younger boys in Sheffield once:

Brother Fred, who was with my mother in Folkstone, had joined the Royal Sussex Regt, he came to see how Bert and I were getting on. We were too young to realize of how things were with him. He would be seventeen years of age. We couldn’t converse about anything in particular, being so young. He eventually returned to the regiment who then went to Malta.

Fred lived to a ripe old age, as did little sister Annie. Bert, as previously mentioned, was killed at Aubers Ridge on 9 May 1915. He was in the Blackwatch/Meerut Division. Walter, of course, died at age 91 in 1981.

But Harry. Well, here's Walter's story:

Young Harry was three years older than I, and he used to play truant more than Bert and I. And he used to get punished both at home and at school, so in the end he couldn’t take it any longer, and he just left us at the school gates one afternoon and disappeared and I never seen him again. I think the Sheffield authorities traced him, and he may have been sent to Canada to the farms out there, as many of our boys went there, but my mother and father were not notified, which was an anxious time for them.

So, where is Harry? Was he sent to Canada to work the farms? Could he have changed his name from Wildgoose to Wild (which Fred's family did)? According to Walter, Harry was never heard of again - so if he stayed in England or later returned, he made no family contacts. Wonder why? Kay Feltham at the Wildgoose genealogy website has her ear to the ground on this one, and who knows, something may turn up. Any ideas?
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posted by MaryB @ 3:23 PM  


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