Recently I bought two Osborne Victory medals on ebay, both named to W. Osborne, with consecutive numbers 2509 and 2510, and both in the Sussex Regiment. The vender offered no more details. At the time I assumed they might be brothers, lots of brothers joined together and some even died together and are buried together; there is at least one pair in Flatiron Copse Cemetery. A sad fact, as I can think of nothing else in the world that would hurt me more than the loss of one or more of my children.
A quick search of the Medal Index Cards revealed that 2509 was to a William Osborne and 2510 was to a Walter Osborne, and this is where it started to get interesting for me. They both changed to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and kept consecutive numbers. However now William was 241852 and Walter was 241851. In the years that I have been researching Medals and soldiers I had never come across this before.
I had previously done a CWGC search, and drawn a blank because I had been looking for the wrong regiment and numbers. Searching again using the new regiment and numbers, I found that William is buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt. So now I had a little more information, he was in the 2nd / 6th Battalion Warwick’s but still no age or family details. I still didn’t have enough to pinpoint them in the 1901 census as it came up with 17 William and Walters as brothers. Also it dawned on me that both Victory medals are impressed with the wrong numbers and regiment. As the Victory medal was the last to be issued, they should be impressed with their last regiment and number. I have in my collection, medals that have been returned for the correct numbers etc to be added, and this also ties up with the Medal Index cards that state “returned for correction”.
So then I turned to good old Google and entered William’s details. Pay dirt, someone has already done all the hard work!! On a web site are all of his details, his Father’s and Mother’s name and address and where they lived, so now I can find out if they are brothers or cousins or may be even twins. But there is another slight twist, on the site are also listed three other Osborne’s and two of them are William’s brothers. And the sad fact is that they all died in 1917. So if Walter is William’s brother he was the only one to survive out of four brothers who went to war. How must their mother and father have felt to lose 3 sons, and how must have Walter felt, firstly to fight the rest of his war knowing that he is the sole survivor of four brothers, and secondly, when he returned home to his parents. You can only guess how high emotions must have run.
Further research has proved that, sadly William died of wounds 9 December 1917, just think how Walter would have taken this as these boys would have done everything together! William was 29 when he died and Walter was 22 or 23.
Another twist is that William and Walter had two other brothers who joined up, an elder brother Frank and a younger brother called George. They also had two sisters, Mabel and Alice-Lucy. George also served in the Royal Sussex Regiment and Frank, originally in the Dorset Regiment later joined the Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).
Both George and Frank were killed and guess what? Both in 1917, so all three brothers were lost in 1917. What a sad year for this branch of the Osborne family. George was aged 21 when he was killed on 22 October 1917, at Ypres, and is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial.
Frank was 31 and was killed in action at Messines on 6 June 1917 and is buried in Irish House Cemetery Ypres Belgium.
Their parents where called John and Kate. John would have been aged 56 and Kate aged 54 when the brothers died, sister Mabel would have been 27 and sister Alice-Lucy 18. John and William were both wood sawyers, and Frank was a groom. I have not been able yet to find out more but will send for the War dairies for the week they all died and hopefully something else will come up, and I will be looking to see if any of their service records have survived. I now plan to visit Singleton Church to see the scrolls that are there, and the Singleton War Memorial as they were all born in Singleton or in Charlton.
I cannot imagine what Walter’s first leave would have been like or when he finally made it home. Had Walter and William been killed on the same day they would have joined the 225 known sets of brothers to have been killed on the same day in the Great War. How would he have felt walking down his path to the front door knowing he was the only one to be returning.
I can only think that the household was a very sad place. The loss of our own dear brother-in-law in the Falklands has left a pain that the women of our family still bear to this day.
Researching the lives of the men whose medals I collect helps to keep their memory alive and also adds a little something to collecting their medals. Sometimes a great deal of information can be found, but on other occasions very little. I brought a medal last week to Private H. Osborne 1773 4th London Regiment and can find nothing out about him at all, he hasn’t even got a medal Index Card.