My WW1 Ancestry - Beckie Brown

As part of our Thank You 100 movement, and in partnership with Ancestry UK and The National Army Museum, we traced the ancestry of four social media stars back to WW1 with amazing results.

Beckie Brown is a vlogger, artist and YouTube personality mostly known for her frank videos on mental health and more recently her faith journey.

Here’s what Ancestry UK found when they traced Beckie’s ancestors to see if she any First World War connections.

Beckie’s great, great, great grandfather William James Henry Swatton embodied the spirit of service and bravery exhibited during the War.

Born in Reading, Berkshire, William married his wife Ella in about 1901 and by 1911 they had five children together. Before the war he worked as a warehouseman for Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory in Reading.

During the First World War the factory had a contract with the British army to supply biscuits to the troops, known as the Huntley and Palmers No.4.

Incredibly, William volunteered for duty in October 1914, just two months after Britain declared war on Germany. The “S4” in front of William’s regimental number (S4/060213) means he was part of “Kitchener’s Army,” which was made entirely of volunteers.

He was one of the exceptional men who served from the very start of the War until its close in 1918.

William served in the 21st Divisional Supply Column, Royal Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport, which handled the motorized transportation of supplies and equipment to troops, and would have been responsible for lorries, motorcycles, cars and trucks. Very fitting for a warehouseman.

He arrived in Rouen, France, on 5 September 1915, and apparently did his job well, as he was granted a Good Conduct Badge in 1916.

Beckie with genealogist Simon Pearce

While William didn’t personally participate in battles, his division witnessed some of the most intense conflicts of the Western Front, including the Battles of the Somme, Ypres, Arras, and Cambrai. In total, over 55,000 men in the 21st Division were killed, wounded, or missing.

As a supplier for the troops, William would have witnessed the action and/or horrible aftermath of these battles, and his life was likely at risk on numerous occasions. Despite this, William survived the entire length of the War, serving 3 years, 3 months in France and 1 month in Italy.

In January 1919, William slipped and suffered a sprained knee while in service and was admitted to three different hospitals for his injury. By May 1919, William had joined the 273 Corp, 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, which was stationed in England for coastal defence, likely due to his injury.

William received the British War Medal, Victory Medal, and the Star Medal for his long service and returned to his home in Reading in the summer of 1919.

After finding out about her First World War ancestry, Beckie said: “I feel quite overwhelmed by the whole thing, we focused on one particular person and there was so much that we found. I mean bearing in mind that it was 100 years ago, I wasn’t expecting so much.

“If I could speak to William, my great great-grandfather, I’d say thank you, and well done and of course I’m proud…It takes a lot of courage to go and he went into the war by choice.”

We would like to say a big thank you to the National Army Museum for allowing us to film at their amazing location.

Visit our YouTube Channel for more videos in our WW1 ancestry series featuring Jack Edwards, Jay James and Kate Jamieson.

Jay James with genealogist Simon Pearce

Find out how you can get involved and say Thank You to the First World War generation.