To commemorate the anniversary of the First World War, I researched the men whose names appear on the Aberdare Cottage Homes Memorial Roll held at the Glamorgan Archives.
There are a total of 83 names on the roll, some with more information than others, and upon undertaking initial research it seemed that they all attended the Industrial School at Trecynon, Aberdare.
According to Kelly’s Directory of 1910:
The Industrial School of Merthyr Tydfil Union, Trecynon, to give it its correct title, was built in 1871 by the Guardians, originally used as an Infirmary, and in 1877 converted to its present use. There is a new receiving home, also 2 Cottage Homes; the School is intended to separate pauper children from the influence of the adults, and gives a training to the children in different trades and occupations, and there is an industrial trainer for each department. The institution holds 200 children, with Thomas J Owen as Superintendent.
My research was undertaken in two ways; primary sources using documents held at the Glamorgan Archives and secondary sources online via Ancestry, Find My Past, Forces War Records and the Aberdare Leader newspaper website.
Whilst attending the Archives, I started by searching their online catalogue in order to access documents held there. These included records of the industrial school and cottage homes; Aberdare Boys School register; the Board of Guardians minute books and the admission and discharge registers of the Merthyr Union workhouse.
I spent several months reading through these documents looking for the names on the roll; sometimes the names jumped out at me, other times I could only find family members mentioned. Gradually I built up their early lives. Alongside this I went online trying to trace birth details along with census entries and military history. This allowed me to build up the men’s stories leading up to and including the First World War.
Within each personal record, I have used a colour code when documenting the research – black for the information found in documents in the Archives, green for general information found online and red for military information found online.
Some of the names revealed an interesting hidden history of information, whereas other names, due to lack of initial information did not reveal very much at all. Among them there are four servicemen who won the Military Medal (MM), one who received the Distinguish Conduct Medal (DCM) and nine are recorded as casualties.
Among the servicemen on the roll are John and Kenneth Aubrey. I found both boys in the records of the Industrial School where they were admitted in October 1900, and then in the 1901 census attending at St Fagan. John was admitted to the Training School on 1st September 1902, whereas Kenneth was admitted on 29th August 1904. There is no mention of parents that I can find, nor where or why Kenneth was admitted two years later. Both boys went to live with their aunt in December 1906, but were brought back to the school in June 1907. John was put into service to Mr Peter Pugh in July 1907 and Mr Pugh later applied for custody of Kenneth in October 1908. Both boys can be found in the 1911 census as ‘Adopted Sons’ to Mr and Mrs Pugh. In 1912, John leaves for Australia, arriving in Brisbane, Queensland on 26th December that year. He enlists in the Australian Imperial Force on 11th March 1916, is wounded around September 1917, but goes on to survive the war and return to Australia. Kenneth enlists in the Welsh Regiment and is reported missing in the Dardanelles in 1915. News eventually reached Mr and Mrs Pugh in December 1916 that Kenneth was officially reported missing on 17th August 1915.
For another soldier, Stephen Lucy, born around 1891, the only record I could confirm was that he left the Industrial School in 1907 and joined The Buffs (East Kent) Regiment as a Bandsman aged 16. He is recorded as having achieved the rank of Lance Corporal and gained the DCM for distinguished conduct as a stretcher bearer by June 1915. Unfortunately he is wounded in the right arm and is discharged as medically unfit. However he is given the opportunity to return to work at the Children’s Home, eventually becoming Bandmaster in 1917. He goes on to marry and have two children.
Alexander McCarthy was admitted to the Industrial School in 1900. By 1907 he had made sufficient progress to enable him to enter for examination as a Pupil Teacher. Although unsuccessful at that time, he went on to attend the Aberdare County School and was eventually apprenticed in 1908 as a Pupil Teacher. In the 1911 census he is recorded as an Elementary School Teacher and in 1915 he attended St Mary’s College in Hammersmith, becoming Senior Prefect. Later in 1915 he joined the Royal Fusiliers and in July 1916 saw action in the Battle of the Somme. He was recommended for a Commission, due to excellent field service, as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, but was killed in action on 23rd August 1918.
The full text of the roll of honour research is accessible on the First World War pages of the Glamorgan Archives website:
Although I have found as much information as it is possible at this time, the research is far from complete. If anyone recognises a possible ancestor amongst the names on the roll of honour and is able to fill in any missing details, please contact the Glamorgan Archives as we would love to hear from you.