April 2007

It Pays to Keep Looking

Maureen Faubel

Clement Van Vossole, my mother-in-law's father was born in Belgium. All I knew of him was that he was a soldier in WW1. He was badly wounded and stayed in this country after the war and married Elsie Taylor from Tewkesbury. I had my mother-in-law's birth certificate, 1917, and then began to look for her parents marriage. This was easier said than done. With such an unusual surname I was surprised not to find the entry. I asked Mum if she knew anymore. She said her father was a Catholic and her mother C. of E. so they were probably married in a register office. She also said that the nuns from the local church would accuse her mother of not being properly married as it was not in a Catholic Church. She would wave a piece of paper in front of them and say she was definitely married. According to Mum's birth certificate Clement was a rifleman, rifle brigade engineer fitter.

I decided to contact the Belgium Military in Brussels. I was delighted and surprised to receive various documents including a letter to the Home Office informing them that Clement was a deserter. He had been ordered back to the front and refused to go. They asked if the Secretary of State would issue an order for him to be escorted to Folkestone and handed over to the Belgian Commandant. The authorities tried to find him and contacted a cousin in Slough who said he had received a post card from Clement wishing him and all the family good bye as he would never see them again. His cousin visited the King Albert Hospital in London but Clement had left. The cousin thought he may have committed suicide. The documents gave me details of his birth and his parents. There was also a letter from the General Register Office, Somerset House, dated June 16th 1916 when Clement had applied to be married to Elsie Taylor. The application was refused due to the bridegroom being recorded as a deserter on 13th October 1915. The last thing I did was to go back to the marriage registers carrying on my search until Clement's death in 1944. I then found the marriage in November 1943 and my mother-in-law, who insisted that they were married, was one of the witnesses. The marriage was just 7 months before Clement died. I never did tell my mother-in-law what I had found as she was obviously embarrassed that she and her 2 sisters were illegitimate.

 
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