What’s in a name: researching Robert Ivermee (1888-1916)

What’s in a name: researching Robert Ivermee (1888-1916) by Research Volunteer Lyn Turpin

As one of the volunteer researchers on the Boys on the Plaque project, I selected Robert Ivermee to research as I had already come across his name in conjunction with the four Pimm brothers I was researching. In 1910, Robert had married Alice Dorcas Pimm, sister of Charles, Fred, Harry and Mark Pimm and stepsister of Harry Nye – all men whose names also appear on the plaque.

I hadn’t realised when I started the research just how many questions the documents relating to Robert would raise or how many variations of ‘Ivermee’ I would uncover. The first mystery (spotted also by his grandson, Roger Ivermee) is why he is listed as Private Robert Ivermee on the plaque when the few army records which survive show that, at the time of his death, Robert was a Corporal. The government’s own General Record Office got it wrong on the GRO War deaths army other ranks (1914 to 1921) index which records him as a Private but surely whoever decided to add his name to the plaque should have known his correct rank?

The ‘wild card’ search options on the genealogy websites, Ancestry and Findmypast, proved invaluable when researching facts about Robert Ivermee and his immediate family. The surname was variously misspelt or mistranscribed as Ivernee, Ivernce, Ivernice, Ivermen and Ivermer. Even the index records for Robert’s British War Medal and Victory Medal record his surname as ‘Ivernice’ although they do give his correct rank and regimental number.

From British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 (with wrongly spelt surname)

Even with these alternative spellings, I have been unable to trace a great deal about Robert’s military career, apart from facts about his enlistment, his death, his burial place and his medals. But from his regimental number (SD/3375), we can deduce that he was one of the original enlistments to the Royal Sussex Regiment, 13th Battalion which was formed on 20 November 1914 by Lt Col Claude Lowther, MP and owner of Herstmonceux Castle (original enlistments were given the ‘SD’ (South Downs) prefix to their regimental number). We can then follow the battalion’s path from training in Cooden Camp, Bexhill, via camps in Kent, Hampshire and Surrey, to Southampton in March 1916 when they sailed to France to join the British Expeditionary Force.

13royalsussex02
13th Bn Royal Sussex at Cooden Camp early 1915

Robert’s death (from wounds) is recorded as taking place on 14 July 1916. It seems likely that he was active, possibly wounded, at the Battle of the Boar’s Head which took place on 30 June 1916 to divert German attention away from the Battle of the Somme which started the following day. This battle saw huge casualties for the 11th, 12th and especially the 13th Battalions (the ‘Southdown Battalions’) and came to be known as ‘The day that Sussex died’. But I have been unable to substantiate whether Robert was injured during this attack – we just know he was killed in France and buried in the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, one of several cemeteries where soldiers who fell at Boar’s Head were interred.

Unable to discover many army records for Robert, I was forced to find clues from his regimental number and the history of his battalion during the early part of the First World War. And, of course, to make widespread use of the * wildcard in my searches. It was slightly easier to plot his early life in London and his marriage in Brighton but there is a whole other mystery regarding his mother, Caroline. Why did she call herself a widow while her husband, Henry Ivermee, was still alive; was she previously married to John Smith or Henry Albert Smith, and was her daughter, Rebecca, the sister or stepsister of Robert? Intriguing – but for another day.

Postscript added May 2016

Curious to find out whether I was correct in assuming that Robert Ivermee had been wounded at the Battle of Boar’s Head, I borrowed a copy of The Day Sussex died: the history of Lowther’s Lambs to the Boar’s Head Massacre by John A Baines (Royal Sussex Living History Group, 2011). There, in a list of casualties at the back of the book, was Robert Ivermee’s name, confirming my suspicion that it was wounds at this battle that led to his death.

I borrowed the book via the Jubilee Library’s inter-library loans service but this month I noticed that a revised paperback edition (3 May 2016) has been published by FireStep Press and is available from Amazon. The Royal Sussex Living History Group, founded by John A Baines, has both a website (http://www.royalsussex.org.uk) and a Facebook presence and will be commemorating the centenary of the Battle on 30 June.

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4 thoughts on “What’s in a name: researching Robert Ivermee (1888-1916)

  1. Many thanks for this most interesting and well-researched item of information, Ross.

    I would have written using the Comments Box only I wished to add a couple of attachments; on looking through my documentation on newspapers, periodicals, etc. which I went through when researching my book, I note one reference to a Private Ivermee contained in the South Sussex Journal of 28.10.15, which is now doubtless available at the Keep.

    Although I did keep the front page of this journal, it was more for the date reference than anything else, hence the full page is not available for you to view. I nevertheless attach it, together with the brief ‘key’ to the people depicted on that page.

    I hope you find it useful/interesting.

    Kind regards

    Douglas

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  2. A very interesting article regarding my grandfather, Apart from the varied surname spellings of our family name it has been a very interesting and somewhat frustrating journey attempting to trace the family through history. I am not sure how much more I can find out about my grandfather apart from what has been researched already but am very thankful to all those that have tried.
    My grateful thanks

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Roger – we’ve really loved finding out about Robert’s story as part of the project. And so pleased that it led us to meeting and hearing from his relatives. Who knows, we might still find out more, if other researchers come across the project in the future.
      All the best
      Clare

      Like

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