‘Who Do You Think You Are?’…

With a new series of the BBC ancestry programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ currently gracing our screens, I recently decided to share a few stories about my own family on my Facebook Author Page.  I include snippets from four of them below, together with a picture from each.  For those who are interested to read more and see the rest of the photographs, please click on the link at the bottom of this page which will take you to my page on Facebook.


“I have been asked about my Grandad Hubert Standley Forester, known as Bert and to celebrate him and… – I attach a couple of photographs. The first (shown on left) is Bert just before WWII and the second shows Bert on the left with a couple of his Army pals whilst posted to the middle east with the Royal Army Medical Corp (picture on Facebook).” 


“I share a few more stories about my own family in the next three posts. Starting with my Nan and Bert’s beloved wife, Margaret Joan Forester (née Milam), known as Joan. Married for 66 years and the love of Bert’s life, they brought up four handsome sons and one beautiful daughter together and lived to see grandchildren and great grandchildren enrich their lives. Their greatest sadness was the loss of their middle child Barry (picture on Facebook), a courageous man who lost his fight against cancer, aged only 32. Bert and Joan’s oldest son is my father.

“My second family post, in this series of three, is about my grandfather Alfred Leonard Tams Cotterell, known as Len. Married to my grandmother Margaret Kate Howard, he was Charles Bishop Coleman’s grandson-in-law and I tell some of his story on ‘The History of Dorset Villa’ page. Len signed up quickly for WWII in 1939 and was fortunate to have a ‘safe’ war, if such a thing exists. Posted first to Nigeria and the Gold Coast, he was a staff officer, working with Montgomery during the Normandy landings and was later posted to France and finally Belgium to record where the bodies of the fallen had been buried so that they could subsequently be repatriated by the War Graves Commission. Following his discharge in 1946, Len returned to his job at the Royal Society of Arts before moving on to the Institute of Patentees and Inventors, working on such iconic inventions as the ‘Black and Decker Workmate’ and the ‘Ventrex Self-ventilating Roofing System’. He helped influence the 1977 Patents Act which gave greater rights to the inventor rather than their employer and his contribution to industry was recognised when the Prime Minister put his name forward to the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and he was awarded an MBE. Len ended his days in Bournemouth, aptly living in a house once inhabited by Bailey, the man who invented the bridge beloved by WWII military tacticians.”  (photos on Facebook include:  1 – Len with fellow soldiers, seated 2nd row, 2nd from left.   2 – Clockwise from top left – Len in Paris, on active duty in Africa, before the war, after the war.   3 – Montgomery: A couple of the many WWII related documents we are fortunate to have in our family archive.)

“For my final post in this ancestral series of three, I introduce Len’s father, Alfred Charles Cotterell who received his call up papers for WWI in 1916. Considered a ‘1st Class Shot’, he fought first in the Rifle Brigade, then the Middlesex Regiment and finally, the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers as an Officer’s Groom. (Picture one on Facebook shows his fellow soldiers in front of the pyramids – where my grandfather Bert Forester was later posted during WWII) – it is crumpled from being folded in his pocket. The traumas of the war destroyed Alf’s health and he was hospitalised more than once during his service (see picture two on Facebook – Alf is seated 3rd from left and in the photograph above he is standing 2nd from left). Once demobilised in May 1919, Alf returned home to his wife ‘Lizzie’, shown in their wedding photo from 1910, but he never really recovered from his war time experiences (as picture four on Facebook, taken after the war at a friend’s wedding, shows). Although he survived, Alf had paid a heavy toll and aged 42 he died of tuberculosis and is buried in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London. Overnight, his son Len became the main breadwinner and the man of the house aged just 17. The loss of his father at a young age meant Len had to grow up fast and it shaped his future ambition and desire to succeed. Every day, for several years, Len walked across London to his job at the RSA, to save the one penny bus fare for his family – adding a whole new depth of meaning to the phrase ‘Every Penny Counts’.”

I hope you have enjoyed meeting a few more of my ancestors and if you would like to read further and view the extra photographs please click on this link to my Facebook Author Page