In my possession I have a silver British War Medal (1914 – 1920), belonging to 54282. Pte. J Gaskin. L’pool R. This medal was given to me, in amongst a number of possessions from my late Uncle. What makes this a curious case is that I have found out very little about the owner of this medal and I also can’t find a connection as to why this medal has ended up within my family.
From military records I have found that Private John Gaskin, regimental number 54282 of the 17th Kings Liverpool Regiment was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal in 1919. There is also a pension record card linked to his regimental number, although it is very blurred, it records John Gaskin as missing, from the 29th April 1918 and that his dependant was a Mrs Hannah Gaskin (Mother), with the address of Van C/O Jones, Coal Yard, Luke St, Birkenhead. Written in pen over the card it says ‘prisoner of war’.
Whilst reviewing the war diaries for the 29th April 1918 I found this entry.
Voormezeele – At 3.30 am, heavy enemy bombardment opened, followed later by enemy attached and our line was forced back to G.H.Q. 1 where I reorganised and held on to the position. The enemy got through on the north flanks practically surrounding 2 of my companies. “A” Company was actually surrounded and after severe fighting were captured.
With no specific mention of him being capture, I researched the archives further. At Dülmen prisoner of war camp, on a document dated the 15th August 1918, the following is listed; Pte John Gaskin, 54284 [incorrect regimental number], Kings Liverpool Regiment. Captured at Dickiebusck [this is a short distance from Voormezeele] 29-4-18. Address of relatives – 113 Herrington St, Leicester. Mrs Smith. Birthday, Liverpool -3-90 [No day, just the month and year].
It has been difficult to try and find more about John Gaskin outside of military records. Even with a partial date of birth I have been unable to find a baptism record for him, or find him appearing in any census return before or after the war. I do know that he survived the prisoner of war camp and returned to England in 1919 but then he vanishes. Going back to the only records that I have, I took a closer look at the addresses he gave whilst in the army, where his mother’s address was listed as a van, I started to wondered if he could be a traveller and that was why he was proving to be so elusive. So I searched the British Newspaper Archives and I believe I may have found him.
TO AWAIT AN ESCOURT
At Ormskirk, to-day, John Gaskin (26) a travelling van-man pleaded guilty to failing to report himself under the Reserve Forces Act. Superintendent Hodgson said the defendant had never presented himself at any recruiting office or offered his services in any way. He was fined 40s and handed over to await a military escort.Liverpool Echo 1916
and so the search continues.