Research, Records and Archives

A handwritten Medal Card dated 1914-15 with red ink

Research, Records and Archives, by Deborah Vosper


When a solider swore his oath of loyalty and formally joined up, his details were recorded in an Attestation book.

We have a range of Attestation books in the museum that mainly originate from the WW1 period.
Each book varies slightly in the information it records. Some or all of the following information was recorded:

• Regimental number
• Rank
• Surname and initials
• Place and date of attestation
• Age in years and days
• Term of Service
• Trade
• Height in feet and inches
• Weight in pounds and ounces
• Chest measurements
• Religion

Despite the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry being based in Bodmin, the regiment’s numbers were also boosted by young men signing up from London and Birmingham. The population in Cornwall would not have sustained the large numbers of men required during this period, especially after Kitchener’s call to arms in August 1914.
Looking through the books it is interesting to see the trades of the men signing up. As you would expect from a rural area like Cornwall, the men enlisting here were farm workers, labourers, horsemen, stone masons and tin miners. It is surprising the number of rabbit trappers that were recorded!
The recruits from London and Birmingham were evidently employed in different types of industry. In Birmingham the occupations that come up frequently are tube drawers, fitters, iron plate workers and assemblers, reflecting the city’s metalworking industry, whilst from London there are a large proportion of men who were working as clerks.
Some of the more unusual trades that are recorded include; japanner, brush finisher, feather washer, safe maker, and cricket bat maker.

Handwritten Pages of an Attestation Book dating from WW1
Pages of an Attestation Book dating from WW1

One of these was Joseph Samuel – service number 11649, who enlisted on 1st September 1914 in Islington, London and is recorded as tennis racquet maker. He was 21 years old when he enlisted, 5ft 8 inches tall and weighed 122 lbs. Joseph was the fifth of six children born to William and Rosina Samuel. Joseph’s older brother Walter also made tennis racquets for a living.
In 1915 Joseph married Mabel Pearce presumably while he was home on leave.
His medal card shows that he went from a private to acting Colour Serjeant and then Corporal in the very short time that he was serving.

A handwritten Medal Card dated 1914-15 with red ink

Medal Card – Joseph Samuel

Sadly Joseph died on 24th July 1916 while serving with the 1st Battalion DCLI in the Somme area of France. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial along with 72239 other known casualties.