Finding Private Carter

One of the young British soldiers who was part of the Mons Retreat is the subject of a remarkable genealogical quest, following the chance identification of a photograph that had hung in the Mons Tourist Office for years and was displayed at a ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ event in Birmingham. The picture shows a proud, smiling young Tommy, taken at Mons a day or two before the first engagement with the Germans. It was captioned simply ‘AF Carter’. The Belgian Tourist Office in London contacted a leading genealogist, Marie Cappart, who set out to unlock the young man’s history and trace his descendants.

From the Imperial War Museum website, Marie Cappart identified ‘AF Carter’ as Private Arthur Frederick Carter, a member of D Company, 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. No further information came to light from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the National Archives at Kew, but the genealogist located some discharge papers on another website, findmypast. “We then knew for sure that he had survived the First World War and were thrilled with the news,” said Marie, who discovered that Carter had served in the Second World War as well, when his regimental number led her to his discharge papers.

It turned out that Private Carter was just 20 when the Mons picture was taken. He remained with the Middlesex Regiment throughout the 1914-18 war. Marie went on to find a record of his marriage, the birth of his daughter, and finally the name of a grandchild. Using phonebooks and social media, she tracked down a potential lead in London, but letters and visits to potential addresses in England and Belgium proved fruitless – until the Tourist Office in London received a call from Arthur Carter’s grandson in Italy. He explained that his grandfather’s medals and photos were with his own son (Carter’s great-grandson) in north London, and that Carter had been buried there. The ‘missing’ years were gradually filled in. After WW1, Carter had served as a ‘Black and Tan’ in Ireland; in WW2 he was an anti-aircraft gunner in London; after the war he drove a petrol tanker for a living.

Both grandson and great-grandson have accepted an invitation to take part in the Mons centenary celebrations in 2018, when the family’s connection with the ‘First and Last’ town in Wallonia will come full circle.