Family History ACT

The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc.


Fifty years ago, my grandmother Nell Pike - a WW1 nurse - gave me sergeant’s stripes that belonged to her first fiancée, Will Rose. He was among the 2000 killed at Fromelles in July 1916. She later married my grandfather, Charles Laffin, a WW1 soldier too. I hope this story of my research on Will encourages other members.

Charles Laffin WW1 stripes
Charles Laffin WW1 stripes

The start and the clues

Nells’ daughters (the family story keepers) gave me Will’s name, his sisters’ Christian names and where the family lived.  I realised that Will was a member of the first free settler family in Sydney, with its own family history group, so I contacted the Rose Family Society but I had no reply.  I attended a free National Library course on accessing military records and used their helpful ‘Finding a Soldier’ webpage:

I found his file on the National Archives Discovering Anzacs site and I accessed the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal and the War Memorial website.
Our own HAGSOC website has links to these key internet sources on the Mildura and Wentworth soldier’s page.  They are the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour; the National Archives Discovering Anzacs site; the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Find a Cemetery and Find War Dead sites; and the AIF Portal.  


A most valuable tool that I developed was a timeline with columns for date, event and comments. I tracked Will’s movements against my grandparents’ movements.  I entered their dates of birth, schools, declaration of war, enlistment (and their units), embarkation (and the vessels), places of action (with each unit), dates of sickness, next of kin etc. 

Through this I realised three main things. First, Will and my grandfather went to the same school. The school magazines and books (at the National Library) said old boys at the front stuck together. Could this explain why Will’s photo was always displayed in my grandparents’ living room?  Secondly, his time in Egypt coincided with my grandmother’s service there. Thirdly, at the time my grandmother learned of Will’s death she took sick leave.

For the rest of the story go to HHH ...