A century ago, on 6 November 1914, Richard Preece, the headmaster of Hitcham School wrote in the school log:
“19 recruits started off from the school gate to join the 5th Suffolk Regiment at Bury St Edmunds. They went away in three motors. A good many parishioners mustered outside and the children gave them a hearty send off. All but one are old scholars.”
Local historian David Turner reported that a photograph of the 19 volunteers with the school master was taken outside the school , and confirmed that photograph in my possession is a copy of it .
It is a lovely story, but can the claim that this photograph was taken to commemorate the event be corroborated?
First, I located the former school building, named School House and matched the spot.
The 1914 photo closely fits the area indicated by the red frame. The doorway is a distinctive shape and the level of the guttering relative to the door is the same in both photos. Although the building is now rendered, a patch of plaster had come off revealing the brickwork underneath, so the construction materials and architectural details match up. The 1872 date stone suggests the building was standing in 1914.
My photograph was inherited from Raymond Walter Coulson (1922-1997), son of Albert Walter Coulson (1888-1956). From other photographs in Raymond’s collection, I recognise Albert Walter Coulson and his brother Arthur Coulson as the two men standing at the right hand end of the second row. Facial recognition is not entirely reliable, so is not strong enough evidence by itself.
Arthur’s attestation paper, found in the National Archives’ collection of service pension records, gives his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 . No service or pension records were found for Albert, but these record sets are known to be incomplete. Albert recorded his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 in his Platoon Roll and Note Book, which was inherited with the photograph. Matching the dates of enlistment to the school log book entry is compelling evidence supporting the claim that the photo was taken on the 6 November 1914.
The recruits were initially assigned to the 2/5 Suffolk Regiment for training and re-assigned to other regiments later. These 19 recruits were only a proportion of Hitcham men who served during World War I.
Do you recognise any of the other recruits? Did your ancestor volunteer on the same date? I would really like to identify all 19, so please do let me know.
 Turner, David. (1999). Hitcham in the Wars. Memories from the twentieth century. Booklet no. 4. Discovering Historical Hitcham. [no publication details, distributed at Hitcham parish church]. p. 1.
 Turner, David. (29 January 2002). Letter to Sue Adams.
 Territorial Force Attestation (Army Form E 501). (6 November 1914). No. 2642, Arthur Coulson, 5th Suffolk; Digital image. British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920. C>Co>Cou. image no 13989 of 20031. Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 6 November 2104); citing The National Archives. (n.d.). Coulam, Ernest – Coult, George. War Office: Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies). The National Archives, Kew. WO 364/815; citing Genealogical Society of Utah. (1990-1995) microfilm no 1735807.
 Coulson, Albert Walter. ca 1917-1918. Platoon Roll and Note Book. [Inherited from son Albert Walter Coulson, Raymond Walter Coulson.] Sue Adams private collection. RWC/4/1.
© Sue Adams 2014
Thank you to the 21 people who responded to Photograph Identity Questions 4, 5 & 6. A couple of people did not answer all three questions, so each ended up with 20 answers as follows:
The no votes have it, to varying degrees, with 70% for photo pair 4, 60% for photo pair 5, and 90% for photo pair 6. From these results, pair 6 certainly seems to be different people, but it is hard to be so sure for pair 4 and pair 5.
In this series, I have now asked ‘Is this the same person?’ for 6 pairs of faces. Photo pair 1 was a control case where I knew the answer was ‘No’. Photo pairs 2 to 6 are all about comparing people in the group photo below with other photos in the same album.
To recap all 6 results:
|Photo pair||Result||Result%||Strathclyde result|
|1||No||76%||Human: Yes 69%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 65|
|2||Yes||94%||Human: Yes 94%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 75|
|5||No||60%||Human: Yes 82%; Picasa: Yes, threshold 65|
Three of the photo pairs were included in a project I undertook in 2010 for the Genealogical Studies postgraduate program at the University of Strathclyde. The methods were a little different as most respondents gave their answers offline and they were asked to give ‘instant’ answers rather than try to consciously analyse the photo pairs. In the Strathclyde study, 4 of the 5 control face pairs known to be the same person scored 70% or more ‘Yes’ votes, but only 1 of 4 the control face pairs known to be different people scored over 70% of ‘No’ votes. So I thought responses to face pairs of unknown identity with a substantial majority of ‘Yes’ votes, especially those over 80%, were likely the same people. I hoped for consistent results for the 3 pairs repeated in this series. Photo pair 2 delivered the same result, but photo pairs 1 and 5 did not.
Comments from respondents suggest that they spent time consciously analysing the photo pairs. If undecided did you vote ‘No’? Did you become less sure the longer you tried to analyse the photos? Are these potential reasons for the preponderance of ‘No’ votes? Could the 60-70% middle ground ‘No’ votes really indicate uncertainty? I welcome comments on these questions.
I admit that I hoped that pairs 2 – 6 would have decisive ‘Yes’ answers to support the conclusions summarised in Cartes de Visite album links to the Stanley family and Earls of Derby.
© Sue Adams 2014