25th March 1886 - 15th May 1917. A chorister at St Paul's Cathedral who served in WWI with the Honourable Artillery Company and fell at Bullecourt.
In 1921, St Paul’s Cathedral unveiled a plaque to the former choristers who had been killed during the war. Families were invited to donate and Elizabeth and sisters Lily and Ethel all put in £1 towards the cost. The names of 24 choristers who had died are displayed to this day and the memorial has recently been cleaned for the commemorations. These pictures show the memorial prior to restoration and you can see how some over zealous cleaning in the past had made the names difficult to read.
Presumably around the same time, the choir school in Carter Lane also put up a memorial with the same inscription to the former choristers. Here they added the names of probationer choristers and a teacher who also lost their lives. I discovered this plaque in the old chapel at the former school on a whim in 2012. It had long been forgotten and was a surprise to everybody when I mentioned it! I photographed it. Because it is behind glass, you cannot help but get my reflection, so apologies for that!
The insurance company also remembered their former employees and put up a plaque at their Head Office in Bartholomew Street. The building no longer exists, but on investigation, it seems the plaque is waiting to be restored in a builder’s yard in Wiltshire. I don’t know where this is, but somebody has taken a photograph of a portion of it which happens to have John’s name heading the list. I feel something should be done about this! The Alliance Assurance became the Royal Sun Alliance.
January 2012 Family research has been made easier over the years by the internet and the additions of dedicated websites. No longer do you have to get to the parish records of some distant church, you can often find them at the tap of a keyboard. Many times I had keyed in John’s name but only revealed his death and mention on the memorial at Arras.
On January 17th however, all that changed. I had been searching for information about brother Ernest and out of curiosity, typed in John’s name too. To my astonishment I found a website heaving with information about him and more importantly asking if the relatives had been found. The Great War forum has a group of dedicated volunteers who are fascinated by all aspects of the Great War and in 2009 they had heard about the discovery of an officer from World War 1 who had been identified as Captain John H Pritchard.
As I read down the site, it seemed that a farmer, Didier Guerle, had uncovered the remains in a field and called in the appropriate authorities. Several people were interested in this at that time and amazingly, although relatives had been sought, none had yet come forward.
I then discovered a notice placed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from November 2011, still asking for relatives. Having thought we might have missed this, I immediately sent an email to the address given while at the same time contacting the Great War forum to introduce myself.
The following day, my mobile phone was red hot and in an extraordinary day, I spoke with the MoD, the HAC and gathered information about moving forward with all this before contacting our family. Normally the MoD would ask for DNA samples to be taken, however, my knowledge about John and how he fitted into the family along with the photo of him as a child and information about the memorial at St Paul’s, meant it was clear that we were related! Indeed, after this, there was a stream of visitors from the MoD, War Graves Commission and HAC to St Paul’s Cathedral!
From now on, we would have a roller coaster of a year culminating in a proud and memorable family occasion.