Captain Arthur Brian Rabone
So I consulted my brother's genealogy of the family, and found that he was a captain in the 6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and had died in France on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme offensive by the British and the French. I believe that the Battle of the Somme is considered to have been one of the most wasteful of the war in terms of massive casualties for a very small gain in territory. The bodies of many were never recovered, and there is a cemetery, and a memorial to the missing soldiers, at Thiepval in the Somme. It is the work of the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The sixteen pillars are engraved with the names of 73,367 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the First Battle of the Somme between July and November 1916 and who have no known grave. Our records say that Brian (as he was known) was buried at Thiepval. He was 29 and had been married two years. He left no children.
Thiepval Memorial and cemetery
And that is where his story becomes my story. Because Brian Rabone was an only child, and left no children of his own, when his mother, already widowed, came to dispose of her personal estate, she chose to leave it to her three sisters. One of those was my grandmother, and her investments have eventually come down to me through both my mother and my mother's unmarried sister. Without that inheritance, my family's life, and my own, would have been very different. My great aunt died in 1938, which is why, in 1939, my father was able to give up trying to sell cars in Birmingham, which he hated, and become semi-retired. We moved to a country smallholding near Worcester, where he was able to work hard, and happily, raising fruit and vegetables for market.
My great aunt Mary Maude Rabone
My great uncle by marriage Arthur J Rabone
In 1949, at the age of 21, I was given my first holding of shares in John Rabone & Sons, makers of rules, tape measures and spirit levels. When I eventually came to sell these shares in 1972, as a member of the family I was able to keep the original share certificate as a souvenir. Also out of sentiment, and as a frequenter of antique markets, I have added considerably over the years to the one or two Rabone rules and measures that I already had in my possession. The collection has now passed to my son. So my inheritance has enabled me not only to indulge my own interests, such as collecting, but also to live comfortably on my own for the last 23 years.
Like so many family firms John Rabone & Sons eventually merged with another, becoming Rabone Chesterman in 1963, and finally being taken over by Stanley in 1990. Below is a picture of the original Birmingham works, taken from a price list and catalogue dated 1878.
I reflect often on how my great aunt's great sorrow has meant comfort and support for my family. But this year, in the context of the commemorative TV programmes, and with the additional information I have found, I feel that I have come a little closer to this cousin who died before I was born, and to whom I owe so much.