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Museum display reveals family’s search for missing Somme solider

01.	Sgt Hugh Victor Hember. 5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade) London Regiment - Images courtesy of Hugh, Ruth and Chris Garnsworthy

01. Sgt Hugh Victor Hember. 5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade) London Regiment - Images courtesy of Hugh, Ruth and Chris Garnsworthy

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The remarkable story of a family’s desperate attempts to find a soldier who went missing on the first day of the Battle of the Somme is featured in a special display in Islington. 
 
Islington-born Sergeant Hugh Victor Hember went missing in action 100 years ago, on 1 July 1916, at the start of what was to be one of the bloodiest battles of World War One. The Battle of the Somme lasted 141 days, before it ended on 18 November 2016. 
 
The ‘Searching for Hugh Victor Hember’ display is based on personal photographs, artefacts, and original letters written by Hember, then aged 27, and later his family in a desperate effort to find out what happened to him after he was reported missing.   
 
The Islington Museum display – which marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme – includes Hember’s will, which he sent to his father on 27 June 1916. His last letter, addressed to his younger brother, Frank, was written on 29 June, just two days before he went missing.
 
It says: “I have heard of our post being stopped and everything is being censored. Don’t be scared or worried if a sentence has had a rubber to wash it out… Tell mother I received Isobel’s letter. I must close now. Love to you all, Vic.” 

In April 1917, his family were informed that he had died. 

Ruth Garnsworthy, Hember's neice and Frank's daughter, said: "The letters - written by Victor to his brother, parents, and friends, dating from Christmas 1914 to June 29th 1916 - were kept by Frank. Victor was posted as Missing in Action on July 1st 1916, but it wasn't until April 1917 the family discovered that he had been killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme... These letters, with all the artefacts and souvenirs, make a powerful and moving archive." 

Islington Council’s Heritage Manager, Cheryl Smith, said: “We are very proud of this display of this fascinating yet heart-wrenching story of just one of the many, many young men who went off to fight for his country, but was never seen or found again, and the tragic impact this had on his family. 
 
“It serves as a strong and pertinent reminder that, 100 years on from one of the worst battles of the First World War, many of those who served and died were from right here in Islington.

“One hundred years on and many Islington residents, with family and friends still in the borough, continue to support and serve in our armed forces at home and abroad.”
 
A memorial to Hember, who previously lived on Carleton Road in Tuffnell Park, can be found on Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. His entry in the Islington Online Book of Remembrance can be seen here: http://www.islington.gov.uk/HughVictorHember
 
The exhibition is on until Saturday 27 August 2016.

For more information contact:

Eugene Grant
Senior Media Officer
0207 527 2530
eugene.grant@islington.gov.uk

Notes to editors

The photograph (attached) of Sgt Hember in trench on the Western Front, 1915/16, was taken by his friend Gerald Paterson. Soldiers were banned from taking photos at the Front from April 1915. Gerald smuggled film back and forward from the front line by cutting out the middle of his shaving stick. 

Gerard Paterson - Hember’s good friend and photographer.jpg

Gerard Paterson - Hember’s good friend and photographer

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Sgt Hember in trench on the Western Front, 1915-16.jpg

Sgt Hember in trench on the Western Front, 1915/16 - Images courtesy of Hugh, Ruth and Chris Garnsworthy

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