The Balls of Bexhill: WWI soldier’s family identified

Sapper William James Ball was identified thanks to a museum volunteer's help
Sapper William James Ball was identified thanks to a museum volunteer's help

A picture of an unknown First World War soldier and his family taken in Bexhill has been identified thanks to a museum volunteer.

Bexhill Museum’s David Hatherell saw The Army Children Archive’s plea for information about its latest picture which was taken in Bexhill.

The family: William, Florence and Nellie Ball, c.1915

The family: William, Florence and Nellie Ball, c.1915

David scoured the museum’s WWI records to identify the soldier as William Ball, which led to the names of his wife, Florence, and daughter, Nellie.

“It was lovely to see them used to pick something out for the general public,” David said.

“Whenever the museum gets an armed forces query it comes through to me and I help them with their query, I love it.”

TACA founder Clare Gibson has been looking to identify the family ever since it became part of its The Army Children of the First World War: Faces and Families project on November 8.

All that was known about the photograph was what was on the back, ‘Photo by Geo. Chapman, 63 Station Rd., Bexhill’.

After an appeal in the Observer, David, who helped the museum compile a comprehensive list of Bexhill’s servicemen for the WWI centenary in 2014, managed to identify William.

Further research discovered Sapper Ball enlisted in the Royal Engineers on August 6, 1914, and was honourably discharged in January, 1916, after suffering from rheumatism and being wounded by a German shelling.

It was also found out he was born in Hastings on May 3, 1887, lived in Pevensey and Eastbourne as well as Bexhill. He had a wife, daughter and a son called James. David even managed to find William’s grave.

“We are enormously indebted to David for his enthusiasm and hard work in identifying the family in our First World War photograph and putting their lives into context,” Clare said.

“Being able to put names to their faces and learn a little of their family story really brings the past to life and helps to bridge the century-old gap between the Ball family’s visit to George Chapman’s studio and the uploading of their family portrait to our ‘The Army Children of the First World War: Faces and Families’ album.”

For the full story, visit tacadrum.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/the-balls-of-bexhill-identifying-first.html.

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