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VAN STOCKUM: Part 2: The Wonderful World of World Wide Web

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The process of learning about history has been made much easier by traveling across the World Wide Web. In the last of a series, a shipmate’s family tracks down the author and facts are learned about a father.

By Ron Van Stockum

The capabilities of the World Wide Web to extend the horizons of research continue to amaze. In writing about the Pacific campaigns of World War II, I described my fellow officer Don Beck as follows:

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“[In the Guam campaign] The enemy’s main blow was against our center, Company B, commanded by my good friend Capt. Don Beck. From his command position that night he watched as the Japanese, taking advantage of their knowledge of the terrain, attacked down the ravines, overpowering his command. Enemy shells, as well as our supporting mortar and artillery shells, were falling near his position.”

Capt. Beck commanded Company B in all three 3rd Marine Division invasions: Bougainville, Guam, and Iwo Jima. I know of no other Marine to remain in command of an infantry company through three such ordeals.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was unknown, or at least unrecognized, in those days.

Last year, Beck’s son, Barry, a Texas attorney, tracked me down through the Internet. By an amazing coincidence, Mr. Beck, my attorney son Reggie Van Stockum and my grandson, Thomas Van Stockum, a freelance videographer in New York, all had business in Houston at the same time. There they met, with Reggie delivering my book Remembrances of World Wars.

Later attorney Beck visited me in Shelbyville and bought six copies for his family.

But that’s only one story of the shrinking world and connecting history that is found via the Internet.

 

Marine Capt. William R. (Flip) Hughes

My first duty station, following a year’s training as a Marine second lieutenant, was the Marine Detachment on board USS Tennessee, a battleship commissioned in 1920. In writing about my service aboard this “Happy Ship,” I highlighted my Marine commanding officer, Capt. William R. (Flip) Hughes, praising his leadership qualities and implying a problem: “For Captain Hughes, the sun had gone over the yardarm too many times.”

Recently, to my great pleasure, I received a letter from his granddaughter, Carol Chandler, who had found my Sentinel-News columns “while snooping online for information about my grandfather.”

She and her mother, Jean Chandler, were planning to travel to Quantico, Va., to attend her daughter Alyssa Renosto’s commissioning as a Marine second lieutenant and to present her with her great grandfather’s Marine sword.

I was pleased to pass along this message to 2nd Lt. Renosto:

“How wonderful that you are to receive your great grandfather’s sword. He was an impressive Marine in his undress blues, carrying that sword. He was a charismatic leader of men, surpassed in command presence by few.”

 

Early Life of my father Reginald George Reginald George Bareham

While I had learned about my British father from my mother and through subsequent Internet research, I knew little about his life before he met my mother shortly before World War I. He volunteered for the British Army in 1914, married my mother, Florence Freestone in 1915 and was killed in the bloody battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. On that single day, a week before my birth, nearly 20,000 British soldiers, England’s finest, died.

As researchers of the Internet know, the entry of an unusual name or word is very helpful in narrowing the search. I decided to Google the name of my father in association with the remarkable name of his birthplace, “Steeple Bumpstead.”

The result was a classic find. Located in the Archives of Kings College, Cambridge University, England, I discovered this entry: “66 letters from members of the Bareham family to Oscar Browning. George and Winifred [Actually ‘Emily.’] were the parents of Reginald, a schoolboy protégéof Oscar Browning.”

I found that Browning, a renowned but eccentric Cambridge University writer, historian and educational reformer, had befriended my father by supporting his schooling, encouraging him to study, and sending him good books to read.

Reginald’s father, was a hard-working tenant farmer, initially struggling under the direction of an incompetent manager. When given the opportunity to operate the beautiful, well-organized Newton Hall Farm of noted archeologist Sir Charles Waldstein, later Walston, where he was not hindered in his management, he achieved success.

During the period from 1907 to 1913, Reginald Bareham’s letters to Browning record the development of his education and his character and reveal his feeling of responsibility for the farm and for his fellow workers. I quote from several of these letters:

May 12, 1912: “Everywhere is looking so pretty around us now. The trees and hedges nice and green and bursting into bloom, but what we want more than anything else now is rain. Our cricket season is in full swing now. Yesterday when we played at home we were watched by Prof. Waldstein and Mr. Sevison Gower and they both seem very interested in the game. I still keep my reading up and also try and learn everything I can, both at Farmwork and reading. I think I am doing finely so far. I can now turn my hand to anything on a farm and I have had my wages increased to full man’s pay, which for a boy of seventeen I think is very good.”

April 6, 1913: “I find plenty of hard work to do but I don't think it does me much harm. I stand just over 5'11" now and weigh twelve stone [12 x 14 = 168 pounds], and I shall not be nineteen until June 24.”

May 4, 1913: “The farm work is going on as nicely as ever, and we have every promise of a successful harvest. I am very often told I ought to get a better job, but I think it is my duty to stick to my people, and what is more I mean to do so, other people can please themselves. I think anyone who keeps steady and try hard can always succeed in life.”

Like thousands of British volunteers, on July 1, 1916, “success” for Reginald George Bareham consisted of giving his life for a few hundred yards of captured enemy territory.

 

Ron Van Stockum’s latest book, Remembrances of World Wars, as well as his others, Kentucky and the Bourbons: The Story of Allen Dale Farm and Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers,may be purchased at Terhune Style Shop in Village Plaza Shopping Center or from Amazon.com. He can be reached at  ronvanstockum@mac.com