Project volunteer Mary Jessop offers an insight into the process of researching the glass plates and the common trap of making assumptions… ”
“Anyone who has attempted family history research will know how easy it is to get your wires crossed and end up researching the wrong person. Our information on this young man was that his name was Dobbyn Esq. RN. A Navy man with a very unusual name, he should be easy to trace. He appeared on the Navy Lists – Lieutenant Aubrey Dobbyn, the son of a Royal Navy Surgeon living in Norwood, South London. Some discussion ensued as to why he came to Sutton to have his photograph taken when there were many photographers’ shops closer to his home. Well, there could be lots of reasons, friends or relatives in the area perhaps? And he did marry a girl from Wallington after the war.
Once the image on the small glass plate had been scanned onto the computer I took a print of it home to research and write up. I looked at his slight frame in what seemed to be a slightly too large uniform, he looked very young and vulnerable and I was pleased that I knew that he had survived the war. Then I noticed something was wrong – he was wearing an army uniform – he was not in the Navy, R.N. were his initials.
Lieutenant Robert Newport Dobbyn came from an old established Protestant Irish family that had lived in Ballinakill House in Waterford for several generations. He was the only son of Robert and Annette Dobbyn and had two sisters, Mary and Iris. Robert is wearing the uniform of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) in these photographs but he later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the RAF) which had been formed in 1912. He appears to have been based at Croydon Aerodrome, which was a used for training pilots and air crew at this time. Robert was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on the 4th August 1916. Sadly, Robert died, aged 23, in an air accident while flying over Hounslow on 23 November 1916. He was buried in the private family graveyard at Ballinakill House.”
www.askaboutireland.ie (The Waterford News, 1st December 1916, page 8)
www.ancestry.co.uk Ireland, Casualties of War 1914-2; Medal Rolls, World War 1
The First Croydon Airport 1915-1928, ed. Douglas Cluet, published by Sutton Libraries