Stop Press *** New Roadshow Dates ***

After the success of our World War One family history roadshows in Germany last year, we're now set to visit at least five more countries in 2012.
Come and join us at:

National Library of Ireland 21 March
France Bevk Public Library 28 March
Sønderborg Castle 24 April

Wednesday, 21 March 1000 - 1900
National Library of Ireland
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
Tel: +353 1 603 02 00

Wednesday, 28 March
France Bevk Public Library
Nova Gorica

Tuesday, 24 April 1000 - 1800
Sønderborg Castle
Sønderbro 1
6400 Sønderborg
Tel: +45 3373 3396

War records solve the mystery of soldier’s missing finger

For most of his adult life, William Rose Townhill’s family assumed he had lost the ring finger on his left hand during a feat of derring-do in the First World War.

But almost 100 years after the injury, his grandson Alan Townhill has discovered the real story behind the missing digit.
William was a 19-year-old farm labourer when he signed up as a driver and gunner in the Royal Field Artillery 34th Division on April 26, 1915.

Apart from a spell in an Australian Field Hospital where his injured finger was amputated, the teenager from Branston, Lincolnshire, survived the war relatively unscathed.

Alan, of Lostock Hall, Preston, said: “No-one ever asked my granddad how he lost his finger – we just all thought it was because he’d been hurt in action. It was only when we had a dig through his war records we uncovered the real, quite amusing reason behind it.”
From looking through copies of his hospital notes and his logbook, Alan discovered that his granddad was actually injured while going for a smoke during operations in France.

“According to the paperwork, my granddad’s pipe was broken and he wanted to have a smoke, so he thought he would fix it with a copper tube,” said Alan. “But as he cut through it, he soon realised he was chopping through a detonator and it exploded, causing him to lose his finger.

“Granddad was afraid people would think he was trying to leave the war because it was well-known that some people harmed themselves on purpose, just to get out of combat. All my granddad had tried to do was take a break with his pipe.

“After the incident he was arrested and taken to an Australian field hospital where his finger was amputated. He was pretty unlucky because while he was there he caught diphtheria and was away from the front line for a short time.

“No evidence was found of his misdemeanour, so he was not charged. But according to his log book, he did have 15 days pay docked – all because he’d wanted to go for a smoke.”

Alan and his family revealed their story, along with pictures of William Rose Townhill and copies of his war records at our WW1 Family History Roadshow in the Museum of Lancashire, Preston, on March 10.

It is the latest roadshow in a series that is being rolled-out across 10 countries in Europe this year to create a unique pan-European account of WW1 that is available to everyone.

The roadshow, which began in Germany last year, and has already visited Luxembourg, is en route to Dublin on March 21, followed by Slovenia, Denmark and Banbury, Oxfordshire, in the coming weeks.

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