It was an unexpected discovery, a small book entitled, Men of Dukinfield: A history of Dukinfield during the Great War. In this book I read; “Travis, James: Private, 3741, 11th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Killed in France, 26 September 1916, aged 30. Worked for Summers, Stalybridge. Lived at 1 Sack Street and left widow and children. Name on Thiepval Memorial.”
Although not a lot of information it did give me more than I had ever known about this relative of mine. James Travis, was my grandmother’s brother and my mom’s uncle. He and his two brothers had all joined the British Army during World War I and all I knew were the stories that were told by my family. He was a remote character who lived in a time and place that was foreign and out of touch with the world that I knew. Now here was something that made him real, a person who lived, who loved, had a family and worked. He was truly flesh and blood and I wanted to know more about him, where he lived, what he did and where he died.
I had one piece of crucial information, his service number 3741, with just that I tracked down when he joined the Manchester’s, where they fought during that war and even the place where he was eventually killed in action. More than that I discovered his wife’s name, Sophia as well as his three daughters, Alice, Ada and Marion. Armed with that bit of information I soon discovered that he and Sophia were married in Dukinfield at the Anglican Parish Church, he was 21, she was 22. The marriage certificate shows that James was a labourer and Sophia a spinner apparently in one of the many mills in and around Manchester at that time. I was able to also find the names of their respective fathers, Walter Travis and George Thomas Wilde.
Each layer that I uncover unearths just a bit more about this uncle who in 1915 at the age of 29 decided to join the army to go and fight in that war. I wonder what he might have written in his letters to home or what he was like as a soldier. Who were his best friends, his buddies in the trenches and how did they get through the daily grind of being in the army? As I uncover more information and I feel that there is a story here that needs to be told, that these lives are important, their loves, their losses, the very essence of who they were. It’s a story that I want to tell so that they are not lost to the mists of time.