Who do you think you are?
Fiona Bruce

Fiona Bruce - How we did it

First World War

Step 1

Captain Frederick Charles Crouch
Captain Frederick Charles Crouch

To begin research into her family history, Fiona visited her parents who showed her their collection of photographs. Amongst them was one of her father's grandfather, Frederick Charles Crouch, dressed in a military uniform, which proved he served with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Fiona's father didn't know very much about him, as he had died in action at Paschendale in the First World War. He left behind his wife and five children.

Great-grandfather: Captain Frederick Charles Crouch

Step 2

Fiona wanted to find out more about Frederick Crouch and his family. To help with her enquiries she arranged to meet a family member, his granddaughter Hilary MacPherson. Hilary had acquired a considerable amount of family archive, which gave Fiona a number of leads on the Crouch family.

Hilary showed Fiona a crucial letter written by her own mother, Sybil Crouch. The letter gave key insights into Frederick's background and provided a snapshot of what family life was like on the home front. It also helped Fiona trace back a further generation, as it revealed the name and profession of Frederick's father: William Morris Crouch, a portrait painter.

Step 3

To find out more about Frederick's military career, Fiona visited the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, London. Here she met the museum's librarian Paul Evans, who had obtained a copy of Frederick's service record from The National Archives. Paul guided Fiona through her great-grandfather's service record to help her build up a detailed picture of his military career.

Step 4

Although the service record gave a very good account of Frederick's career before the First World War, there was nothing documented about his service or medical history during the war itself.

Sybil's letter had mentioned that after Frederick was killed, his son Fred was awarded a place at a very prestigious charitable school called Christ's Hospital in Horsham, Sussex.

We contacted the school to see if they might have any records relating to Fred and his family. Tony Hogarth-Smith, the archivist of the school's museum, found Fred's application form, which had been completed by his mother Isabella Crouch. It revealed that her husband was invalided home for nine months suffering from shell shock. He then returned to Ypres, where he was killed just three weeks later. The application also gave details of her widow's pension, which amounted to £360 a year.

Step 5

To get a better understanding of the symptoms and causes associated with shell shock we contacted Professor Edgar Jones, a psychiatrist who treats victims of post-traumatic stress disorder at the Maudsley Hospital in London.

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Professor Jones explains Frederick's shellshock

Professor Jones had researched Frederick's battalion and followed their movements through war diaries, which are kept at The National Archives. Having built up a picture of the experiences of Frederick's battalion, he was able to explain the possible strain on Frederick's mental health.

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