Detective Work on the Home Front!

One of the sources that we used for our research was the Visitors’ book which noted the names and addresses of relatives and/or friends who visited patients at Moss Side Military Hospital. It was therefore possible to find some details of a few of the patients, and to see what became of them after their hospitalisation. It was quite a difficult project, as only a few of the names had initials of Christian names and none had first names. They were simply defined by their rank and surname. Notwithstanding these problems, I was able to trace some patients. 

Private “Growson” – visited by mother (Mrs ?Tunbridge) of 3 Parkside Coventry

My first resource for checking Private Growson was the Lives of the First World War project. Even while the First World War was still being fought, the newly-formed Imperial War Museum was asking the public to help it tell the story of the conflict. The museum was formed as a record of the toil and sacrifice of those who had served in uniform or worked on the home front. But with millions of people involved, not everyone could be named and many stories could not be told. Now in the digital age the IWM is building a permanent digital memorial to the Lives of the First World War, which now also includes nurses, munitions workers, chaplains and many others. It is a vital and very useful resource.

On finding no names at all under the surname “Growson” I decided to look for the name “Crowson”. There were over 80 men of the rank “private” under this surname. I knew that his mother lived in Coventry when she visited him during the war so I searched on with the added information of “Coventry”. I was delighted to find that in 1901 a Joseph Crowson was living in Coventry – and that his mother (Emma) and stepfather’s name was noted as “Standbridge”. There had been a query as to his mother’s name in the visitors’ book and this name seemed very similar. In 1901 Joseph was an errand boy.

I then searched Ancestry for the name Joseph Crowson in the records of Soldier’s Effects. This database contains records detailing the money owed to soldiers of the British Army who died in service from 1901 to 1929. Records typically include the name of the soldier, his next of kin and their relationship, the date and sometimes the place of death, plus other details. Private Joseph Crowson of the 4th Battalion Worcester Regiment (service no. 14395) died 27th November 1915 at Gallipoli and his next of kin is noted as Emma Standbridge. I was delighted that my detective work had yielded such information – although very saddened indeed to note that once he was discharged from the hospital, he went back to the front and must have died very soon after.

Knowing that I had found the correct soldier, I went back to the 1911 census and found that Joseph was a cycle mechanic at this time. I also found awful mistakes in the transcription – the name “Standbridge” was transcribed as “Ltandludsr” and  his brother James was named as “James Hand” (I found his service records and he served for nearly four years and survived the war). A person noted in pencil at the bottom of the census form was completely omitted from the census! A telling example of the vagaries and problems of the genealogist or historian!


Written by Debbie Cameron


Edited by Amy Walling, Manchester Metropolitan University


Posted on 10 November 2018 under Moss Side Military Hospital

Share your comments