The Great War had a huge impact on many families as husbands, sons and brothers joined up to fight for their country, at first voluntarily, and then conscripted into ‘Kitchener’s Army’.
Many did not come home, and those who did, a lot would have mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.
Most families lost one or more male relatives in the conflict. But there were exceptions.
The Still family from Bournemouth had seven sons, aged from 17 to 27, serving in the forces in 1915.
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All seven would survive the war.
In descending order of age they were:
- William John – serving in the 1st Dorset Regiment in France
- Edgar – with the Army Service Corps
- Alfred Hugh – with the Royal Garrison Artillery in Malta
- Alexander Gordon – with the 6th Hampshire Regiment
- Archibald Frank– with the Army Service Corps
- Thomas Reginald – with the Royal Navy on HMS Venerable and
- Harold – the youngest son, serving with the 9th Hampshire Cyclist Corps.
In June of that year their parents, Alfred and Lydia Still, who were living at Seabourne Road in Bournemouth, received a letter from King George V via the Privy Purse Office at Buckingham Palace which read: ‘I am commanded by the King to convey to you an expression of His Majesty’s appreciation of the patriotic spirit which has prompted your seven sons to give their services at the present time in the Army and Navy.
‘The King was much gratified to hear of the manner in which they have so readily responded to the call of their Sovereign and their country, and I am to express to you and to them His Majesty’s congratulations on having contributed in so full a measure to the great cause for which all people of the British Empire are so bravely fighting’.
Their story with a collage of photographs of the seven sons was printed in the Bournemouth Graphic.
One of the descendants of the Still family is Hazel Thorby from West Parley.
Hazel said: “I only discovered my maternal grandfather, Edgar Still, and my six great uncles a few years ago when I was researching my family history.”
Hazel has accumulated many old pictures of the Bournemouth area and often exhibits them, along with Ray Cozins, at Pelhams in Kinson or St Thomas Community Hall in Ensbury Park.
“I am very proud of what they did, and glad all of them returned home safely.
“My grandfather was the first of the seven sons to get married in 1908.
“He and his wife Lilian lived in Pokesdown. Their daughter Marjorie was born in the February of 1915.”s Alfred and Lydia Still must have been very grateful that all their seven sons returned safely from the war when many families were devastated by tragedy. However, Archibald was invalided out before the end of the war.
He had contracted appendicitis in France and was operated on in a field hospital under canvas. The operation was not a success and he never fully recovered.