ARCHIBALD SEWELL – DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY
by Stephen Sewell
This article was originally published in the April 2009 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
My family research only commenced less than two years ago with a question from my youngest son Lorcan as he was about to join the army.
I have served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was interested to find out about his grandfather’s regiment. My father had served in the Royal Engineers and his father Albert saw service during the Second World War, also in the Royal Engineers. My wife, Valerie, who is originally from the Irish Republic also chipped in saying that her uncle Tommy served in the Royal Engineers and was killed in Normandy.
Lorcan joined the Royal Engineers.
When asking my father what regiment his grandfather (my Great grandfather) was in, he told me that he was called Archibald and he was a rifleman in the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War. However, he also said that his health was poor after the Great War as he was gassed in France.
As I was a novice to family research I naively took my father’s recollection of my great grandfather to be true. However, as I quickly learned, memories can fade and family lore is not always accurate.
Where to start? The Internet of course! I found a site called Sunset Military and called the chap in Hereford. The only details I had were his name Archibald Sewell, regiment DLI, born in Gateshead (then County Durham) in 1873 and died 25th March 1925 aged 53.
A few weeks later I received a comprehensive reply which proved the family lore from my father to be wholly inaccurate. The story of him being gassed in the Great War was just that, a story!
The information gave his service number and his corps, the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. He joined the army on 22nd March 1915 and rose to the rank of Lance Corporal. However, at the DLI depot in York he was discharged as physically unfit on the 31st August 1916. He was diagnosed with Lupus (which I believe is a type of arthritis of the muscles). He was given a pension of 8 shillings and 3 pence a week, and subsequently died in 1925.
The moral of the story for me was to take family stories as a guide and to do your research!
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