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Benjamin Magnus was my husband Michael’s grandfather. Benjamin was born in 1886 in Stepney, East London and he had nine brothers and sisters who were born between 1880 and 1900. Benjamin’s parents were Barnett and Phoebe Magnus both born in London’s East End. Benjamin’s father was a Fruiterer who actually died in 1914. Phoebe, Benjamin’s mother, lived until 1930.

Benjamin was married to Sarah Ann Starling in 1909. She was born in 1886 also in East London and her parents were Robert and Sarah Starling. Benjamin was employed as a General Labourer in the London Docks and by the time of the 1911 census he and Sarah and their two children were living in one room at Number 51, Planet Street, Stepney, East London.

When the First World War started Benjamin and Sarah had four children and during the next eighteen years they had eight more including Harry born in 1915 and Elizabeth born in 1917.

A few weeks ago I thought I’d come to the end of my Family History stories about those ancestors who actually served in the First World War. I started looking at our grandparents to try and get an idea of what their lives were like during those four difficult years. I don’t know what made me go back to the Ancestry website and conduct another search but I think I’ve discovered new information.

Magnus is an unusual surname and the 1911 census only records 342 individuals in the whole country who were called Magnus. Of these only two men have the first name Benjamin and one of these would have been over 40 in 1914. There is only one Medal Record for a Benjamin Magnus and I think that this could be our ancestor. It now seems highly likely that Michael’s grandfather served in WW1.

The medal record shows that Benjamin was awarded the British Medal and the Victory Medal which means that he left Britain to serve and that he did actively serve in a war-zone.

Initially Benjamin was a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He was then transferred to the Army Service Corps before finally going in to the Royal Engineers. There is no further information about  what he did and where he was sent.

However, what is known is that Benjamin survived the Great War, lived a long life in the East End of London and didn’t finally die until he was nearly one hundred years old.

[Also see Michael’s other grandfather: Maurice John Arthur Murray.]

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