Lisa Hammond Who Do You Think You Are?


Lisa Hammond

Celebrity genealogy series. Actress Lisa Hammond wants to get to the bottom of why her grandfather never spoke about his experiences in World War II.


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Transcript


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Actor and Londoner Lisa Hammond is best known as sharp-tongued market

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stall holder Donna Yates from EastEnders.

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Being from an East End family, I grew up watching EastEnders.

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Julia Crampsie, who cast it, her words to me was,

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"We wanted a gobby market stall trader

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"and you're the first person I thought of."

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Up here, next to the smelly fish stall, is my stall.

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I thought you was over him?

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Or are you hoping to get back under him?

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Donna! I'm sorry.

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-Happy birthday.

-Yeah, thanks.

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What?

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There's something about being disabled

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that people have no expectation of your life,

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in terms of what you do as a job.

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So when you become an actor or a creative, people are like, "Great!"

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Lisa began her career as a child actor on Grange Hill.

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Since then, she's appeared regularly on stage and television.

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I think I'm from London.

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I feel very connected with city.

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I like the fact that, if you might fall over,

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someone might step over you.

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That's why I like it here.

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I like anonymity.

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In London, I could be fat, thin, tall, small, wheelchair user.

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No-one cares.

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I used to cry buckets when my mum used to take me

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to my Aunt Linda's house in Oxford and I'd be going, "It's too green!

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"I don't like it! It smells!"

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Lisa's parents separated when she was six.

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Although she's always stayed in touch with her dad,

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she and her older sister, Nicola, grew up with their mum.

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My mum's mum died when she was around 17.

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And my mum's dad died when she was around six.

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So the connection to the past was gone,

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because she didn't even know about my grandad.

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Very, very rarely saw my dad's dad.

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So I don't know anything.

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But I hope to discover...

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..that I'm not from the country!

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Lisa's starting her search with her paternal grandfather, Harry Hammond.

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On my hands, I can count the times that I met Harry,

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so I know nothing about Harry.

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Where he came from, nothing.

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The story in my family was that he was in the army,

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but there's conflicting sort of stories as to what part.

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Harry's a bit of a mystery.

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She's come to north London to visit her Uncle Chris.

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Lisa's grandparents separated when Chris was ten and he stayed with his

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father, her grandfather.

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-Hello!

-You all right?

-Yeah, you?

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Lisa's Cousin Katy and Aunt Angela are also here to see her.

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Do you remember him?

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I'm younger than you so I probably know even less.

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Yeah, our family is a total mystery.

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Absolutely, honestly.

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I lived with Grandad for about 15 years.

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-Right.

-Just us two.

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Wow.

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-But, as I say...

-You still sort of don't know him?

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Not really, not his earlier life.

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He's not been dead that long and he's lived with you

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but yet none of us...

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don't know what's...

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None the wiser. He would just clam up about his earlier life.

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After her grandparents died,

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Lisa's Uncle Chris inherited their few remaining family photographs.

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And there's Grandad Harry.

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-What's he drinking?

-My milk.

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I was busy eating a toffee apple.

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And that's got to be 1960.

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He looks quite handsome, doesn't he?

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See, it's so strange, Chris, cos I can't picture him, in a way.

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-Really?

-Like, I sort of picture him as a sort of still person.

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I can't imagine him again.

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-Yeah.

-But it's cos I didn't see him much.

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What was he like, like, as a person?

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Well, to the people he knew, he was quite gregarious.

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-Yeah.

-But he loved his horse racing, his couple of pints.

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He was not an excessive drinker.

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There's the family portrait.

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Grandad again, Annie, Daddy and me.

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Thing is, everybody knew him as Harry, but he was born

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Henry George Hammond.

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Henry.

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And there's a death certificate.

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As you can see, Henry George.

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And he passed away in October 1995.

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Did Grandad ever tell you about what he did in terms of his job?

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There was talk of sort of an army background.

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I did have a picture, it was either of me or Daddy in his arms,

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but I cannot, for the life of me, remember what uniform it was.

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But he would never talk about the war.

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Whether something really bad happened to him

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or he lost a lot of friends

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and just blocked it out and never wanted to talk about it.

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I'm really not sure.

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There's no information about Harry.

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So I'd like to find out more about what he did in the war,

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what is this war connection and what happened to him

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to make him not want to talk about it.

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So I'm going online to look at a register of everyone

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when the war broke out.

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So search for relatives.

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Henry...Hammond.

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1923.

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There he is, straight away.

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Henry G Hammond.

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1923, Shoreditch, London.

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Preview.

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Oh. Here he is.

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Hammond household.

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Minnie JE Hammond is also on this record.

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Who's Minnie?

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Female, was born 17th March, 1878.

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Is that his mum?

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It's just them two.

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Where's his dad?

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And we've got Henry, Harry, as "S".

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Single?

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And Hammond, Minnie JE - "W".

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Widow.

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So his dad was dead, he was living with his mum and he was only 16

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and he was working, clearly, as a wheel builder.

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And Minnie... "unpaid domestic duties".

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They're clearly not rich people, they're working-class people.

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So if the war started in 1939, did he get called up?

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If he was signed up, then he should be here.

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Search Second World War.

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British Army casualty list.

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I wonder what happened to him?

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So they're all Hammonds.

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I've got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven Hammonds.

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One of them must be him.

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Must be.

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So he was in the war.

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To discover what happened to her grandfather, Harry,

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also known as Henry, during the war,

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Lisa's come to the Imperial War Museum in London.

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She's meeting with historian Dr Amy Fox.

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Thank you. A little bit of research of my own.

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-OK.

-In order to help you narrow down your search for your grandfather.

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-Thank you.

-And came up with this list here.

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There he is, Hammond.

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10th.

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So 10th Battalion.

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-Right, Royal Berkshire Regiment.

-Yep.

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And it says, "Date of casualty 11/11/1943."

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Italy.

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So, to give you a little bit more information,

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I've got Henry's service record.

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So record of service paper.

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Hammond, Henry.

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Deemed to have been enlisted, 19th of the 2nd, '42.

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So this is an 18-year-old boy.

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He spends four months doing general training before he joins this

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particular battalion, the 10th Battalion,

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the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

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And what's important to note is, in August 1942,

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he goes overseas to Italy.

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So he's just an East End boy with only his mum in the house

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and then he does a tiny amount of training

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and then the journey to Italy.

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It's then actually happening, isn't it?

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I can't imagine what was going through his head.

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In October 1943, Harry Hammond's battalion landed in Salerno,

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southern Italy.

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The Italian campaign was one of the most vicious and costly

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of World War II, with over 300,000 Allied casualties

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during 20 months of fighting.

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After only basic training,

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Harry fought his way up the west coast of Italy towards Rome.

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Someone like Henry is having to fight in some of the most atrocious

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weather conditions.

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I mean, it's rivers you have to forge,

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you have to fight in mountains,

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it's cold, the wind cutting through them like a knife.

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It's really, really miserable conditions.

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You're not especially trained for this.

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So this is really, really tough going.

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And the Germans have been here a long time,

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-they have lots of defensive lines.

-They're well-established.

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Very well-established.

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-And also, the other side know that terrain.

-They know they're coming.

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So, you know, they've got knowledge of what's coming next,

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so they can catch people out, you know.

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In order to keep going up their advance towards Rome,

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they needed to take Monte Camino,

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which is a gateway almost to the capture of Rome.

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He's holding a position called Bare Arse Ridge.

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Presumably because it's very exposed!

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And is subject to a number of German counterattacks.

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When you think of the mountain tops with all those crevices,

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it's really, really difficult to work out where everyone is

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at any given time.

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These conditions will test any man's mettle.

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And in that kind of hubbub, the confusion of battle,

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Henry goes missing.

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Missing?

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And it tells us the date that that happens.

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-What happened?

-That could mean all manner of things.

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Whether Henry's deserted.

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So, gone absent without leave.

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-Right.

-He could have been seriously wounded.

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Or he could have been captured by the other side.

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So where would he have gone missing?

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So he would have gone missing just around here,

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between Caserta and Cassino.

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I can put you in touch with someone who was there at the time

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and will be able to explain to you what Henry would have experienced

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and what kind of conditions he would have had to have faced.

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I'd love to find out.

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Well, it's a bit of a weird one, isn't it?

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I don't know whether I want to find out, it sounds horrible.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

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Amy has tracked down a veteran of the Italian campaign

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for Lisa to meet, 97-year-old Doug Wayhort.

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-Very pleased to meet you.

-You, too.

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Like Lisa's grandfather, he fought in the Allied assault

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on southern Italy.

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The beginning of November,

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the second attack went in and your grandfather's regiment

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was in that attack.

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The same one as you?

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-Yeah.

-So it's possible, is what you're saying,

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-that you met my grandad?

-We were on Monte Camino at the same time.

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Fighting next to him.

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Yes.

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What was it like there?

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Fairly...

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Fairly intense, the fighting.

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Many, many casualties, cos the Germans,

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they were looking down on us, and their snipers were very good shots.

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Amy talked a lot about the mountains and how the terrain was so bad.

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It was. The mountains were mainly rock, you couldn't dig in.

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The German artillery fire along the mountains,

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shells landed and there was rock pieces flying all over the place.

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They were quite lethal.

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My grandad apparently went missing in Monte Camino in November 1943.

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-Yes.

-I still don't know what happened to him.

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Well, it says here...

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-What's this? His service record?

-Yeah. The POW denotes

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he was a prisoner of war from 11th of April 1943,

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till he was released on 26th April 1945.

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Wow. That's amazing.

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That's a long time.

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So I'm totally not surprised that he didn't want to talk about it.

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No. I mean, I'd understand that.

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Many men didn't talk about anything.

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Meeting Doug was amazing.

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The fact that he was in the same place as Harry, at the same time,

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I thought was extraordinary.

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And discovering Harry was a prisoner of war.

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So I want to find out where he was, and what that was like.

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I'm a bit nervous about it.

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I feel a bit...

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..I don't know, a bit shaky,

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cos it's becoming more of a reality for me now.

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Lisa's come to the British Red Cross Museum in London,

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which holds one of the country's biggest archives

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on prisoners of war.

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She's meeting military historian Stacy Astell.

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My grandad was a prisoner of war for almost 18 months.

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I don't know where he was.

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So, here for you, we've actually got your grandfather's POW record

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from when he was released.

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So we've got...

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General questionnaire for British, American ex-prisoners of war.

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Harry Hammond.

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Original place of capture, Italy.

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Main camps or hospitals in which imprisoned.

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Location - Mooseburg.

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Muleburg.

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Hartmansdorf.

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So he was in three different camps.

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After being captured in Italy,

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Harry was taken through enemy territory to Mooseburg,

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a vast camp in Nazi Germany.

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Here, he was imprisoned with tens of thousands of other Allied soldiers...

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..before being moved to another camp, and then another.

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So Minnie, Henry's mum,

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would she have been told that he was now in the camps?

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So she might not have found out immediately,

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but this is an example postcard that they get filled out.

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So you can see it's got the German post stamp on it there.

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So this would have been sent from the camp to the next of kin,

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to the person at home?

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SHE READS:

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This must have been horrific for Minnie, my great-grandmother.

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I don't know what's worse, in that sense,

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whether it's worse to not know anything

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or to start imagining what the conditions are like

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for your loved one in that case.

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So, "Please do not write to this address."

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Because they were going to maybe get moved?

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So a lot of people would get moved

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after they'd initially been registered.

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So this is with Mooseburg, that's what happened to Henry.

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He started out in Mooseburg but was there for a very short period

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of time and then be moved off to the next camp.

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And then after a few months there, was moved on again.

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What would these camps have been like?

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So the first camp he's in is Mooseburg

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and this was one of the larger camps for the prisoners.

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Initially, this was designed to hold about 10,000 people.

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But actually, later in the war, it was holding about 70,000.

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So, definitely when he was there,

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it would have been very crowded and a very hard situation

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for him to be in. The prisoners were kept in long, low bunks,

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sometimes huts, which would hold quite a lot of people.

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There would be a huge amount of prisoners all in one space,

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so there wasn't much private time or personal space or anything like that

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-either.

-It says here that he was working on the railway.

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So, some of the railway work,

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we do actually have a photograph of some prisoners of war

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-working on a railway.

-Wow.

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You can see here, this is some of the heavy labour

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that they would have been engaged in.

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So you can see here, they're carrying the huge beams.

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These are the prisoners of war. God, that looks tough.

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Yeah. So you can see the weight of the things that they're carrying.

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Near these camps, it was actually very cold.

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In the winters, the prisoners would sometimes have to clear the snow and

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they could be cutting out up to a foot square of snow

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to move blocks of it.

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What would their day have looked like, in terms of what they ate?

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In some cases, their breakfast would consist of an ersatz coffee,

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which was essentially just crushed chestnuts

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or something to that effect.

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For midday, they sometimes got some food, they sometimes didn't.

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So it might be, like, quite a thin soup.

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And then for evening meal, it was usually again a thin soup,

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which may sometimes have some bits of meat in it, or some vegetables.

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So some of these men were very severely malnourished.

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And I have a picture here of some of the men sat around in a camp.

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That's horrific, isn't it?

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It's the sort of skeleton-y look that they...

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You know, like, so prominent.

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It was a very tough time, obviously.

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Some of the prisoners could end up weighing something like six stone

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by the time they finally got home.

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So they were very severely malnourished.

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It's making me think about Harry and the fact that my Uncle Chris

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and my dad know nothing of this, of his experience there.

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He did not talk about the war.

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So I wonder how, mentally, he... where he put that.

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I don't think it's possible to go through a situation like

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that without some issues.

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One of the things that came out of it was a condition which men would

0:20:410:20:44

sometimes refer to as being stalag loopy, or barbed wire madness.

0:20:440:20:48

And that could lead to men just literally sitting, staring out

0:20:480:20:51

through the barbed wire and that would be them.

0:20:510:20:54

They would sometimes end up engaging in quite repetitive behaviour

0:20:540:20:58

and sometimes rocking backwards and forwards.

0:20:580:21:00

It was a very hard situation for them to be in.

0:21:000:21:04

Harry was there for 18 months.

0:21:040:21:07

So what happened to him after he was freed?

0:21:070:21:10

So I actually have his service record here for you.

0:21:110:21:14

And just down at the bottom, it'll actually tell you a little bit.

0:21:140:21:17

As you can see, towards the end of the war,

0:21:170:21:19

it'll tell you what happened then.

0:21:190:21:21

So it says, "PA, number five, civil resettlement unit.

0:21:210:21:27

-"Bally..."

-Ballymena.

0:21:270:21:29

"Ballymena, NI.

0:21:290:21:32

"Northern Ireland, UK."

0:21:320:21:35

In April 1945,

0:21:450:21:47

Harry Hammond was freed from the camp and returned to London.

0:21:470:21:50

To discover what happened to him once he arrived home,

0:21:550:21:58

Lisa's come to Kneller Hall in Twickenham.

0:21:580:22:00

She's meeting historian Dr Alice White.

0:22:030:22:06

I found out that my grandad went to a civil resettlement unit,

0:22:070:22:12

and I don't know what that is.

0:22:120:22:13

Civil resettlement units were special places set up,

0:22:130:22:18

created by psychiatrists to help prisoners of war

0:22:180:22:22

who had returned to the UK to readjust

0:22:220:22:25

to being back in civil society.

0:22:250:22:28

It was on a voluntary basis, so they could choose to go.

0:22:280:22:32

So it was a way to get them used to back in their own country?

0:22:320:22:36

It helped them to reconnect with society, which, in many ways,

0:22:360:22:40

had changed a lot in their absence for many people.

0:22:400:22:42

-Yeah.

-And for Henry,

0:22:420:22:44

we've got a reason why it would have been a particular change for him.

0:22:440:22:48

So that's where...

0:22:480:22:50

31 Bridport Place is where Harry lived with Minnie...

0:22:500:22:54

-Yeah.

-..before the war.

0:22:540:22:56

-Yeah. This is a report of bombing.

-Oh!

0:22:560:22:59

So we can see what's happened to the property throughout the course

0:22:590:23:02

of the war.

0:23:020:23:04

"Damage...major."

0:23:040:23:07

So his house is no longer there.

0:23:070:23:09

Was Minnie involved in the bombing?

0:23:090:23:11

No, Minnie was fine.

0:23:110:23:12

OK. So he thinks he's going to get back to his life, his home,

0:23:120:23:17

and there was no home to go to now.

0:23:170:23:20

Yeah, so he's coming back from...

0:23:200:23:22

God, it's even worse, isn't it?

0:23:220:23:25

Like, being freed to come home and then you've not even got that.

0:23:250:23:31

Yeah. And it's great that Harry did attend the civil resettlement unit,

0:23:310:23:36

cos of the amount of time that he spent in the prisoner of war camp,

0:23:360:23:39

he was deemed to be a high-risk person.

0:23:390:23:43

So he was traumatised by his experience?

0:23:430:23:46

Yeah. He would have been one of the people they were particularly trying

0:23:460:23:49

to target with this sort of a programme.

0:23:490:23:51

One of the fascinating things is that until around 1941, '42,

0:23:510:23:57

nobody thought that returning prisoners of war

0:23:570:23:59

would have any psychological issues because they were believed

0:23:590:24:02

to have been insulated from danger and, therefore,

0:24:020:24:05

insulated from psychological trauma.

0:24:050:24:07

Which...

0:24:070:24:08

Well, that's completely not the case in hearing the conditions

0:24:080:24:12

that they were in.

0:24:120:24:14

There were horrific things that happened in the camp.

0:24:140:24:16

So there's a real rethink on that point of view in the early 1940s,

0:24:160:24:21

and as a result of that rethink,

0:24:210:24:23

the army psychiatrists frantically try their best to sort of figure out

0:24:230:24:28

what is the case for people like Harry?

0:24:280:24:31

What sort of symptoms would he have had?

0:24:310:24:34

This is his medical card and, as you can see,

0:24:340:24:37

what we've got on his diagnosis here.

0:24:370:24:39

It says...

0:24:390:24:41

"Physical defects - physically fit.

0:24:430:24:46

"Chronic field anxiety state."

0:24:470:24:49

So he was struggling mentally at that point.

0:24:510:24:55

Yeah, it suggests that he would have been experiencing symptoms

0:24:550:25:00

such as a persistent state of general anxiety,

0:25:000:25:04

but also things like nightmares and depression, potentially,

0:25:040:25:07

-were connected with this kind of...

-Right.

0:25:070:25:09

..kind of diagnosis. So he had real psychological trauma,

0:25:090:25:14

judging by this.

0:25:140:25:15

So in terms of...if a soldier, or someone in this day and age,

0:25:150:25:21

were to be diagnosed with something like that,

0:25:210:25:24

what would the comparison be like?

0:25:240:25:26

Nowadays, people would be diagnosed

0:25:260:25:28

with something like post-traumatic stress disorder.

0:25:280:25:31

That diagnosis didn't exist back in the Second World War,

0:25:310:25:34

that was something that came out of Vietnam,

0:25:340:25:36

but you can see some overlaps in the sort of symptoms.

0:25:360:25:40

So would he have been treated for that?

0:25:400:25:42

What the returning prisoners of war, like Harry,

0:25:420:25:45

very often didn't realise was that there were a lot of psychological

0:25:450:25:48

underpinnings to what they were doing.

0:25:480:25:50

So there were things like group therapy,

0:25:500:25:53

but it wasn't called group therapy.

0:25:530:25:55

It was just an opportunity to have a group discussion with a group of

0:25:550:25:58

other repatriated prisoners of war.

0:25:580:26:00

And at that time, the world would not have been used to psychiatry

0:26:000:26:03

and stuff like that.

0:26:030:26:04

So it would have been even more edgy than it is today.

0:26:040:26:07

Yeah, that's exactly it.

0:26:070:26:08

And the psychiatrists were worried about men being frightened off if it

0:26:080:26:12

looked too psychological.

0:26:120:26:14

I wonder if he talked about it in the group.

0:26:140:26:16

I wonder how open he was about what happened to him.

0:26:160:26:20

This would have been a place where everyone there would have understood

0:26:200:26:24

what it was like to be a prisoner of war.

0:26:240:26:26

And we're here at Kneller Hall

0:26:260:26:28

because this was a civil resettlement unit.

0:26:280:26:30

To deal with their post-war trauma, many ex-prisoners of war,

0:26:320:26:36

like Harry Hammond,

0:26:360:26:37

took up the offer to go to civil resettlement units.

0:26:370:26:40

Harry will have learnt new skills and joined group discussions

0:26:420:26:46

and social events, all carefully designed to ease his transition

0:26:460:26:50

back to normal life.

0:26:500:26:52

Here's a newspaper article about the unit in Ballymena.

0:26:550:27:00

-Which is where my grandad was.

-The specific one he was at, yeah.

0:27:000:27:04

It says, "Every dish was served at the table by ATS orderlies."

0:27:040:27:08

-Yeah, so that would have been a member of the women's army.

-OK.

0:27:080:27:12

"The employment of the girls for the work was a vital factor because the

0:27:120:27:17

"repatriates, through their long segregation,

0:27:170:27:21

"had, in many cases, become frightened of women."

0:27:210:27:25

Exactly, and they would have dances

0:27:250:27:27

so that they could get used to being in female company again,

0:27:270:27:29

-which I'm sure...

-I bet that was nice after so long!

-Yeah.

0:27:290:27:33

And I think that, in the short term,

0:27:330:27:35

it seems to have worked well for Harry,

0:27:350:27:37

because he continued to serve.

0:27:370:27:39

-He did.

-He chose to remain in the army and linked with the army.

0:27:390:27:44

I don't know if I'd want to do that after that experience,

0:27:440:27:47

but good on him.

0:27:470:27:48

We've got his military conduct and testimonial here.

0:27:480:27:50

"Military conduct - good."

0:27:500:27:53

"Honest and trustworthy and a good worker under supervision."

0:27:550:28:01

-Aww.

-So he had a glowing report, erm...

0:28:010:28:04

-..later on.

-Oh, that's brilliant.

0:28:050:28:08

So he managed to overcome at least some of his anxiety.

0:28:090:28:16

Oh, good on him.

0:28:160:28:18

-It can't have been easy for him.

-No.

0:28:190:28:21

-Finally.

-A bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

-Yeah.

0:28:210:28:24

Maybe the CRU helped him at the time,

0:28:280:28:31

but it sounds like my grandad had still some trauma going on.

0:28:310:28:38

But he was working towards getting on with his life,

0:28:380:28:41

moving on in his life.

0:28:410:28:43

Two years after leaving the civil resettlement unit,

0:28:440:28:47

Harry Hammond married Lisa's grandmother, Lillian, in 1947.

0:28:470:28:52

Lisa's father, Peter, was born in 1950,

0:28:520:28:55

followed in 1958 by her uncle, Chris.

0:28:550:28:58

Harry never spoke to his sons about the war.

0:28:590:29:02

He died aged 72.

0:29:070:29:08

His ashes are buried at Worthing Crematorium in West Sussex.

0:29:110:29:14

I've got details of a Henry George Hammond, who died

0:29:170:29:20

on the 19th of October 1995.

0:29:200:29:22

And his ashes are interred into one of the communal plots

0:29:220:29:26

at section 35/21, which is on our main lawn up here.

0:29:260:29:31

Before this journey, when I pictured Harry,

0:29:400:29:42

I had no image, even, in my head.

0:29:420:29:45

I can't even remember his face.

0:29:450:29:47

And now when I think of my grandad

0:29:470:29:50

I have something to think about,

0:29:500:29:53

rather than just a name - Harry, Henry.

0:29:530:29:56

I have someone in my head.

0:29:560:29:58

And that's really lovely.

0:29:590:30:00

So this is where you ended up!

0:30:060:30:08

I know much more about him than even his sons do.

0:30:130:30:18

So, yeah.

0:30:190:30:21

That's for Daddy.

0:30:250:30:26

That's for Chrissy.

0:30:270:30:28

Lisa has returned to London and is on her way to see her mother, Janet.

0:31:000:31:05

I know a little bit about my mum's dad and her mum,

0:31:050:31:07

but not very much because she lost them when she was so young.

0:31:070:31:12

Together, we did a bit of searching on the family tree,

0:31:120:31:15

but I think she knows a bit more than I do.

0:31:150:31:19

I'm expecting it to be fully London stock, like, going back.

0:31:190:31:24

Hello?

0:31:300:31:32

-Hello!

-Hiya, kid! You all right?

0:31:340:31:36

That's me at school.

0:31:390:31:40

Aw...

0:31:400:31:41

So that's the age I would have been when my dad died, probably,

0:31:410:31:45

-I would have probably been about six there.

-OK.

0:31:450:31:48

So this is my mum and dad.

0:31:480:31:50

My dad is Richard Henry Hilditch,

0:31:500:31:55

and this is the family tree.

0:31:550:31:58

-So there is...

-So we've got me, Lisa Hammond at the bottom, then you,

0:31:580:32:02

my mum, Janet Ann Hilditch and then we've got Richard, your dad,

0:32:020:32:07

Richard Henry Hilditch, born 1908.

0:32:070:32:11

Mile End. Died 1962.

0:32:110:32:15

Shoreditch. His dad, your grandad...

0:32:150:32:20

My grandfather, yeah.

0:32:200:32:22

..was Richard Thomas Hilditch, born 1874, Mile End,

0:32:220:32:26

dock labourer.

0:32:260:32:27

So, East End, East End, again.

0:32:290:32:31

It is pretty self-explanatory, dock labourer, isn't it?

0:32:310:32:34

However, if you go back one generation...

0:32:350:32:37

Can't keep up with it!

0:32:370:32:39

Henry Hilditch, again, another Henry.

0:32:390:32:42

Born 1836, Stepney.

0:32:420:32:46

Again, East End.

0:32:460:32:48

Corn porter.

0:32:480:32:49

Corn porters used to pack the corn into bags.

0:32:490:32:53

-What, on the dock?

-No, off the ships.

0:32:530:32:56

So we've got your great-great-granddad,

0:32:560:33:00

my great-grandad of three times, William Henry Hilditch,

0:33:000:33:07

born 1797, Limehouse, died 1875, Mile End.

0:33:070:33:13

And then, this is the 1851 census for William Henry

0:33:130:33:20

and he is living at Limehouse.

0:33:200:33:24

He's got Ann, who is his wife.

0:33:240:33:28

So one, two, three kids.

0:33:280:33:31

William Henry Hilditch, head of the family. Lighterman.

0:33:310:33:35

-Lighterman?

-I thought it is one of these ones that go around

0:33:350:33:38

putting the gas lights out. But I can't see it.

0:33:380:33:40

Dock labourer, foreman, painter, dock labourer, corn porter,

0:33:410:33:46

it's all by the river.

0:33:460:33:48

So we've got Stepney.

0:33:490:33:51

I'm not surprised at all that my mum's side of the family

0:33:510:33:55

is all from the East End.

0:33:550:33:57

So that pleases me, in a way,

0:33:570:33:59

because I feel connected with London.

0:33:590:34:02

My three times great-grandfather William Henry Hilditch

0:34:020:34:07

was a lighterman.

0:34:070:34:08

I've not a clue what that means.

0:34:090:34:12

I mean, they're round by the docks, so maybe something to do with that.

0:34:120:34:15

But...I think were going to have to go to my manor, the East End.

0:34:150:34:21

We are headed toward Limehouse,

0:34:430:34:46

which is where William Henry Hilditch was born.

0:34:460:34:51

And he was... All my family, all the great-grandfathers,

0:34:510:34:55

all worked around the docks area,

0:34:550:34:57

so we are now in the territory of where they worked.

0:34:570:35:00

They're all luxury apartments now, obviously.

0:35:000:35:03

But I guess they might have been quite poor.

0:35:070:35:09

Not like the old days.

0:35:130:35:14

-ANNOUNCEMENT:

-When leaving the train please remember to take all

0:35:140:35:18

your belongings with you.

0:35:180:35:20

Lisa has travelled to one of London's oldest pubs,

0:35:290:35:31

by the city's 19th-century docks.

0:35:310:35:34

Her three times great-grandfather William Hilditch lived in this area.

0:35:340:35:37

To find out more about his profession,

0:35:390:35:41

she is meeting the historian Fiona Rule.

0:35:410:35:44

So what did a lighterman do?

0:35:440:35:47

So this picture is really interesting, actually,

0:35:470:35:49

because it shows the London docks

0:35:490:35:51

and in the foreground you've got a lighterman in his craft

0:35:510:35:55

-which, as you can see, is just like an open barge, really.

-Yeah.

0:35:550:35:59

And so what is a lighterman, then?

0:35:590:36:02

There's a lighterman in his barge, but what's he doing?

0:36:020:36:05

What they did was they went right up alongside the ships

0:36:050:36:08

and they took the cargo from the ships off the side,

0:36:080:36:11

it was called unloading it offside,

0:36:110:36:13

straight into their barges, the lighters were big, open barges,

0:36:130:36:17

and stacked it up high and then took it out of the docks

0:36:170:36:20

into the River Thames and along to the warehouses.

0:36:200:36:23

In the 1820s, London was the world's busiest port...

0:36:260:36:30

..bringing in goods from across the globe,

0:36:310:36:33

including sugar from the Caribbean and spices from the Far East.

0:36:330:36:37

Skilled lighterman, like William Hilditch,

0:36:410:36:43

would gather in the docks, often at local pubs,

0:36:430:36:47

in the hope of picking up jobs from ship captains and wharf owners.

0:36:470:36:51

What would his life have been like?

0:36:530:36:56

I wonder how poor they were.

0:36:560:36:59

They were very hard-working people on the docks for very little reward,

0:36:590:37:03

and a lot of the communities there were just,

0:37:030:37:05

it was grinding poverty, all the time and feast and famine, really.

0:37:050:37:09

You know, you'd get a lot of work coming in

0:37:090:37:11

-and so you would make the most of it.

-A bit like acting!

0:37:110:37:14

It's like champagne one minute, and Savers' Beans the next.

0:37:140:37:20

William had three kids.

0:37:200:37:23

You said it was unpredictable.

0:37:230:37:25

What did he do for money? Did he do well?

0:37:250:37:27

What I've got here is an interesting document,

0:37:270:37:30

which is incredibly difficult to read.

0:37:300:37:33

-Wow.

-You can have a go, if you want.

0:37:330:37:34

"To the..."

0:37:380:37:39

-Nah!

-Here's a transcript.

0:37:410:37:44

The petition of William Henry Hilditch, citizen and Carman.

0:37:440:37:49

He's a carman, not a lighterman now.

0:37:500:37:52

Yeah. Basically, I think we can read from this that the lighterman stuff

0:37:520:37:57

simply wasn't as well paid enough for him to support his family,

0:37:570:38:02

so he became a carman, which was, basically, the same thing

0:38:020:38:05

as a lighterman, except they were transporting goods by road

0:38:050:38:08

-instead of on the water.

-From the dock?

-From the docks.

0:38:080:38:11

OK, so it says,

0:38:110:38:13

"Hilditch citizen and carman candidate

0:38:130:38:16

"for the office of Deputy Corn Meter."

0:38:160:38:19

What does corn meter do?

0:38:190:38:21

He was there to make sure that the sacks of corn that came off the boat

0:38:210:38:24

and went out of the warehouses did indeed have the weight of corn

0:38:240:38:29

or, in fact the corn, in the sacks that they should have done.

0:38:290:38:32

"Showeth that your petitioner has a wife and three children

0:38:320:38:36

"entirely dependent on him for support.

0:38:360:38:40

"That owing to losses in trade was reduced,

0:38:400:38:43

"has reduced him to very slender means for support of himself

0:38:430:38:47

"and his family."

0:38:470:38:49

So we were struggling at this point.

0:38:490:38:51

I think he was really struggling.

0:38:510:38:53

He's applied for the post of corn meter because his previous jobs

0:38:530:38:56

just haven't paid well enough.

0:38:560:38:57

-So this is his application.

-Yeah.

-Did he get the job as corn meter?

0:38:570:39:02

He did get the job is corn meter,

0:39:020:39:04

and I guess that he's just thinking that the office of corn meter

0:39:040:39:08

is just going to provide him with more regular work.

0:39:080:39:11

Stability, as well, that he wouldn't have had with the self-employment.

0:39:110:39:14

Exactly. Exactly.

0:39:140:39:15

So he's...on the up?

0:39:150:39:19

Well, I've got a document here that shows you,

0:39:190:39:21

tells you a little bit more about how he was getting on

0:39:210:39:24

a few years later.

0:39:240:39:25

Joseph Hilditch's will.

0:39:250:39:28

Now, Joseph Hilditch was the brother of your four times

0:39:280:39:32

great-grandfather.

0:39:320:39:34

So that means that he was William Hilditch's uncle.

0:39:340:39:36

In 1835.

0:39:360:39:38

Mm-hm.

0:39:380:39:39

"I give, and bequeath, unto to Mrs Elizabeth Hilditch,

0:39:390:39:44

"the widow of my late brother, Richard Hilditch,

0:39:440:39:49

"and my two nephews, Joseph Hilditch and William Henry Hilditch..."

0:39:490:39:54

My three times great-grandfather.

0:39:540:39:56

"..the sum of one shilling each."

0:39:560:39:58

"Had they not behaved the most rude and unfeeling manner towards me,

0:40:000:40:05

"they would have shared a larger portion of my property."

0:40:050:40:08

-They've obviously displeased their uncle in some way.

-Wow!

0:40:110:40:14

"Most rude and unfeeling manner."

0:40:140:40:16

The mind boggles as to what they did.

0:40:180:40:21

Well, we all know that rude and unfeeling runs in the family,

0:40:210:40:24

so maybe we've got it from them.

0:40:240:40:25

Lisa has found out that her three times great-grandfather,

0:40:340:40:37

William Hilditch,

0:40:370:40:38

his brother and stepmother were only left a very small sum

0:40:380:40:41

in the will of his uncle, Joseph Hilditch.

0:40:410:40:44

To try and discover why,

0:40:520:40:53

she's come to Gray's Inn in London's historic legal district.

0:40:530:40:57

She's meeting with historian Professor Alistair Owens.

0:40:580:41:02

So, William Hilditch...

0:41:020:41:05

His uncle, Joseph Hilditch, dies and leaves him an inheritance,

0:41:050:41:11

but only of one shilling.

0:41:110:41:13

-What happened?

-Well, that's right.

0:41:130:41:15

I mean, the one shilling thing is quite interesting

0:41:150:41:18

because it was a very deliberate act to disinherit William.

0:41:180:41:22

It acknowledged that they hadn't been forgotten,

0:41:220:41:24

it was a public statement that, "I am annoyed at this person."

0:41:240:41:27

It almost seems worse, doesn't it?

0:41:270:41:29

If he hadn't have been cut out of the will

0:41:290:41:31

and all those three been given one shilling,

0:41:310:41:34

how much would they have been given?

0:41:340:41:36

So this tells you how much Joseph Hilditch was worth.

0:41:360:41:41

It says, "Joseph Hilditch died

0:41:410:41:45

"possessed of 5,000..."

0:41:450:41:49

-Is that 5,000?

-That's right, yeah. £5,000.

0:41:490:41:51

So he was worth £5,000.

0:41:510:41:53

-That's a lot of money, isn't it?

-It was a lot of money in 1834.

0:41:530:41:57

So...

0:41:570:41:58

It's very difficult to convert historical values

0:41:580:42:01

to contemporary values but, roughly speaking,

0:42:010:42:04

maybe worth about £500,000...

0:42:040:42:07

-Wow.

-..by today's standards.

0:42:070:42:09

It would have been around the sort of top 10% of wealth holders

0:42:090:42:12

at that moment. So this guy is pretty comfortable.

0:42:120:42:16

So he must have really peed him off.

0:42:160:42:19

-Quite.

-What's the gossip behind the family feud?

0:42:190:42:22

So this document here tells us about a court case that took place

0:42:220:42:26

very soon after Joseph had died,

0:42:260:42:29

a court case that was about determining

0:42:290:42:31

the validity of his will.

0:42:310:42:32

So someone's questioning the will.

0:42:320:42:35

Exactly, and the people questioning are Elizabeth, Elizabeth Hilditch,

0:42:350:42:39

-so the stepmum of William, and also Joseph, his brother.

-OK.

0:42:390:42:44

And the testimony that we get,

0:42:440:42:47

and in this case it is testimony from someone called Edward Bridger,

0:42:470:42:51

and he was the person who wrote Joseph's will.

0:42:510:42:54

-So he knows everything about that case.

-That's right.

0:42:540:42:58

"He mentioned to me that he had been very ill-used by his relations

0:42:580:43:03

"and particularly mentioned this Mrs Hilditch, and his two nephews,

0:43:030:43:08

"Joseph and William.

0:43:080:43:09

"He said that they had decoyed him out of his lodging in Duke Street,

0:43:090:43:14

"Smithfield, and taken him to Lambeth poor house,

0:43:140:43:18

"whence he had been sent to the mad house in Brixton

0:43:180:43:22

"and there they had kept him six weeks.

0:43:220:43:25

"He had been put into the same room with two or three mad people

0:43:260:43:31

"and whose language was shocking and dreadful and he was,

0:43:310:43:34

"as well as the said two persons, fastened down to a bed."

0:43:340:43:39

What's he sent there for?

0:43:390:43:42

Like, what did he do to get to that?

0:43:420:43:44

It's something that's very difficult to know, to be honest.

0:43:440:43:48

So he may well have been showing signs of mental ill health,

0:43:480:43:52

mental illness of some kind, and maybe his relatives,

0:43:520:43:54

including William, thought that the best thing

0:43:540:43:57

was to have him admitted to this mad house.

0:43:570:44:00

-In that way they get the money.

-Exactly.

0:44:000:44:02

"He made a will very shortly before he was taken thus away, in favour

0:44:020:44:07

"of Mrs Hilditch and his said nephews whom, at the time,

0:44:070:44:11

"he really had intended to leave all his property to,

0:44:110:44:16

"and that they should have had it,

0:44:160:44:18

"have not used him in a cruel manner."

0:44:180:44:21

So he was going to leave the money to them before this happened.

0:44:210:44:27

That's right.

0:44:270:44:28

"I asked him how he got out of the mad house and he said

0:44:280:44:31

"that people at last found that there was nothing the matter with him."

0:44:310:44:35

Did they win? Were they successful in contesting the will?

0:44:350:44:38

No, they weren't, actually.

0:44:380:44:40

So all the evidence that was given at the court case

0:44:400:44:43

suggested that Joseph was of sound mind...

0:44:430:44:46

-Right.

-..when he made the will.

0:44:460:44:47

And, therefore, they inherited nothing.

0:44:470:44:49

Having missed out on a share of his Uncle Joseph's fortune,

0:44:530:44:56

Lisa's three times great-grandfather William Hilditch continued to work

0:44:560:45:00

on the docks until his death in 1875, aged 78.

0:45:000:45:06

So there's something else really interesting, actually, about this court case,

0:45:060:45:09

in terms of some of the detail it tells us about the family

0:45:090:45:11

and about Joseph Hilditch.

0:45:110:45:14

"He said his...

0:45:140:45:17

-Native.

-"..native place was Wales."

0:45:190:45:23

-Wales?

-Was Wales, exactly.

0:45:230:45:25

"And he intended to return and end his days there."

0:45:260:45:30

He wanted to go back to Wales to die.

0:45:300:45:31

-That was his wish.

-That was one of his wishes,

0:45:310:45:33

but he wanted to return to his place of birth.

0:45:330:45:35

-So he came from Wales?

-Yeah. So the family...

0:45:350:45:39

So my family come from Wales?

0:45:410:45:43

That's right, yeah.

0:45:430:45:44

That is so weird.

0:45:460:45:48

Was not expecting that.

0:45:480:45:51

So this is a register from the parish of Denbigh in North Wales.

0:45:520:45:57

-OK.

-So this is actually, you can see at the top there...

0:45:570:45:59

Oh, yeah.

0:45:590:46:01

"Christenings of the year 1759."

0:46:010:46:05

-So we're kind of 80 years...

-Wow.

0:46:050:46:07

..prior.

0:46:070:46:09

"Richard, son of Joseph Hilditch."

0:46:090:46:13

Richard, there, that's your four times great-grandfather.

0:46:130:46:17

-Richard.

-Yeah.

0:46:170:46:19

And then his father there, in other words,

0:46:190:46:21

your five times great-grandfather, is another Joseph, Joseph Hilditch.

0:46:210:46:26

-Farmer.

-Yeah.

0:46:260:46:27

That is hysterical.

0:46:310:46:33

That was what I was saying to my mum!

0:46:340:46:35

I was like, "Oh, my God, can you imagine if we're farmers?!"

0:46:350:46:38

-You are. So that is your...

-Oh, that is so funny.

0:46:390:46:42

That's your great-great-great-great grandfather.

0:46:430:46:47

He was a farmer in North Wales.

0:46:470:46:49

We come from the country, is what you're telling me, Alistair.

0:46:500:46:53

You're not East Enders at all.

0:46:530:46:54

Ah...!

0:46:540:46:56

That's brilliant.

0:46:560:46:58

That is so funny.

0:46:590:47:01

Can't wait to tell my mum.

0:47:010:47:02

She's going to go crazy!

0:47:040:47:05

But I hate the country!

0:47:070:47:09

And I'm not fit for purpose, am I?

0:47:120:47:15

Blocking the middle of a field!

0:47:160:47:18

OK. Just breathe...

0:47:220:47:24

It's fine. Just won't be able to wear my heels.

0:47:260:47:29

Get some new tyres.

0:47:300:47:31

That's a complete bolt out of the blue.

0:47:350:47:38

I thought we were all from London because we've all sort of got that

0:47:380:47:42

London thing, you know?

0:47:420:47:44

But turns out we've got the farmer thing.

0:47:440:47:46

Although four generations of her ancestors were born in London,

0:47:490:47:52

Lisa's four times great-grandfather Richard Hilditch was born in Wales

0:47:520:47:57

and his father, Joseph, was a farmer.

0:47:570:48:00

To trace her rural ancestry, she's come to Denbighshire in North Wales.

0:48:060:48:10

Here we are in deepest countryside

0:48:200:48:24

and, yeah, I'm shocked that I'm not a city girl,

0:48:240:48:28

and I'm not used to all this greenery

0:48:280:48:31

and these country winding lanes and all the animals,

0:48:310:48:36

hence why I wore my horse top, in honour of my Welsh routes.

0:48:360:48:39

I can appreciate the beauty of it.

0:48:410:48:43

I mean, it's gorgeous.

0:48:430:48:45

But again, do I want to live here?

0:48:450:48:48

I can't see any sheep yet. Oh, there they are!

0:48:510:48:53

Don't even know where we are.

0:48:550:48:57

Lisa's come to St Marcella's Church in Denbigh

0:49:060:49:08

to meet Welsh historian Nia Powell.

0:49:080:49:11

-Hello.

-Hello.

-You must be Nia.

0:49:110:49:15

Welcome to Wales, Lisa.

0:49:150:49:16

-Thanks.

-And welcome to St Marcella's.

0:49:160:49:19

Nia's researched the Hilditches and prepared a family tree for Lisa.

0:49:190:49:24

Down at the bottom we've got me

0:49:240:49:27

and we've got my mum and we've got all people of the East End

0:49:270:49:32

jump to Wales and farming.

0:49:320:49:34

I know that Richard Hilditch,

0:49:360:49:38

because I've seen his parish records,

0:49:380:49:41

he was christened in Denbigh.

0:49:410:49:43

In this church, actually.

0:49:440:49:46

-In this church?

-Yeah.

-And his father, Joseph Hilditch,

0:49:460:49:51

my five times great-grandad was a farmer.

0:49:510:49:57

But it says here, it doesn't say farmer,

0:49:570:49:59

it says that he was yeoman of Denbigh.

0:49:590:50:03

Right, well, yeoman is a label, if you like, or a status.

0:50:030:50:09

-OK.

-It's just below the gentry and it generally meant

0:50:090:50:15

quite prosperous farmers.

0:50:150:50:17

And, indeed, prosperous he was.

0:50:170:50:20

So they were well-off, they were not working-class.

0:50:200:50:23

Status of yeoman implies that he actually did work,

0:50:230:50:28

he did some of the work.

0:50:280:50:29

So he didn't sit in his house and let his workers do...

0:50:290:50:34

He was an actual worker, but he wasn't gentry.

0:50:340:50:36

That's the difference between being gentry and being a yeoman.

0:50:360:50:41

I see. And this is 1735.

0:50:410:50:43

He was born in 1735.

0:50:430:50:46

What is even more interesting, perhaps for you,

0:50:460:50:51

is that as you move back, the status of the family seems to rise.

0:50:510:50:57

That implies, of course, that there's some kind of a fall

0:50:580:51:01

as you come the other way.

0:51:010:51:03

That wouldn't surprise me!

0:51:030:51:05

But if you look at Joseph's father, William Hilditch,

0:51:050:51:09

he was actually of Kilford Farm, which is opposite the church...

0:51:090:51:13

-Oh.

-And the father of William Hilditch,

0:51:130:51:16

-we are going back now to...

-1701.

0:51:160:51:20

..another William Hilditch.

0:51:200:51:22

William Hilditch of Whitchurch.

0:51:230:51:26

-Yes.

-So that's my seventh great-grandfather.

0:51:260:51:31

That's your seventh great-grandfather.

0:51:310:51:33

OK. Of Whitchurch.

0:51:330:51:35

Right, well, Whitchurch isn't the name of a town.

0:51:350:51:39

It's here. This is the white church of Denbigh.

0:51:390:51:43

-Amazing!

-And within this church,

0:51:430:51:46

there is evidence of William Hilditch's role within this area.

0:51:460:51:50

So he was actually here?

0:51:500:51:52

He was, and he was churchwarden, and he commissioned a board,

0:51:520:51:58

but at the bottom is his name, if you want, if you think about it...

0:51:580:52:02

-And so where...?

-Well, just look behind you, there it is.

0:52:020:52:05

-Can you see his name?

-Oh, my God, I was right in front of it!

0:52:080:52:10

In bold letters, yes.

0:52:100:52:12

William Hilditch.

0:52:120:52:14

Yes, churchwarden.

0:52:140:52:15

Now, we're quite lucky to have a bond relating to the marriage

0:52:170:52:22

of this William Hilditch with a woman called Jane Lloyd.

0:52:220:52:28

And perhaps you would like to read it?

0:52:280:52:30

Yeah, you've got no chance.

0:52:340:52:35

It's in Latin, the first part of the bond.

0:52:370:52:39

Well, that would explain it, then!

0:52:390:52:41

So we've got the marriage bond of William Hilditch, 1701.

0:52:410:52:46

"All should know by these present that we, William Hilditch,

0:52:460:52:51

of the parish of Denbigh, in the county of Denbigh, gentleman..."

0:52:510:52:57

So that really places him amongst the toffs.

0:52:570:53:01

My seven times great-grandad is now a gentleman.

0:53:010:53:03

Yes. So we are in a different social stratum altogether, really.

0:53:030:53:10

We're amongst the people who had sufficient money to employ servants

0:53:100:53:15

to do all the work for them...

0:53:150:53:17

So we now are no working.

0:53:170:53:19

Exactly.

0:53:190:53:20

-We are in the house watching the workers do the jobs for you.

-Yeah.

0:53:200:53:24

Oh. Jane Lloyd, who he married, it says, under her name, "of the Lodge".

0:53:240:53:30

So "of the Lodge," meaning...

0:53:300:53:32

Well, the Lodge was another property in this area.

0:53:330:53:38

It's closer to the town of Denbigh, really,

0:53:380:53:41

and within view of the Castle of Denbigh.

0:53:410:53:44

In relationship to where we are now, where is that?

0:53:440:53:47

-Well...

-And is it still there?

0:53:470:53:49

Well, it is actually still there.

0:53:490:53:52

Is that one house?

0:54:020:54:04

It is indeed. That's the home of Jane, Jane Lloyd,

0:54:040:54:09

wife of William Hilditch.

0:54:090:54:11

They married, of course,

0:54:110:54:12

in 1701, and this is where she was brought up.

0:54:120:54:15

It's been altered since, but it's a grand house.

0:54:300:54:33

-Yes.

-It's far larger than the normal farmhouse that you'd expect,

0:54:330:54:38

and this reflects really the prosperity of the family.

0:54:380:54:42

She was Lloyd, but her mother was this character

0:54:430:54:46

called Margaret Vaughan, and it was from her father, Thomas Vaughan,

0:54:460:54:54

that the holding came down in the family.

0:54:540:54:56

So Thomas Vaughan, gentleman of the Lodge, who died in 1691,

0:54:560:55:04

-was my...

-He was your nine times great-grandfather.

0:55:040:55:08

-Wow.

-So you can think of yourself, you know, as being a descendant...

0:55:100:55:15

As being a gentry...

0:55:150:55:16

-Oh, yes.

-..of the country.

-Yes, yes.

0:55:160:55:19

Of which I'm not used to.

0:55:190:55:21

They're huge.

0:55:260:55:27

You don't really realise until you're up close, do you?

0:55:300:55:32

Wow. I've probably been this close to cows maybe

0:55:340:55:39

three times in my life, and I'm knocking on 40.

0:55:390:55:44

So...

0:55:440:55:45

I appreciate them, but, you know...

0:55:470:55:50

This, no matter how random,

0:56:020:56:06

has sort of linked me back to the past.

0:56:060:56:10

I think it's going to sink in a little bit later, to be honest,

0:56:120:56:15

because I'm still in the "Oh, my God, oh, my..."

0:56:150:56:18

I want to carry on doing that, almost.

0:56:190:56:22

And it's awoken the thing, the instinct,

0:56:220:56:25

that made me and my mum start the family tree.

0:56:250:56:27

It has awoken that in me again.

0:56:270:56:29

I'll accept my rural Welsh roots, but do I like it?

0:56:310:56:36

I'm not going to be getting wellies or a rain mac.

0:56:380:56:42

I'm playing the city girl gone to the country,

0:56:440:56:47

but I do really feel connected with the city.

0:56:470:56:50

This is lovely to visit, but it's not my home.

0:56:500:56:54

Back to London.

0:56:560:56:57

Back to the pollution and the rudeness

0:56:590:57:02

and, quite frankly, the anonymity.

0:57:020:57:05

Because, if I lived round here, everyone would know my business,

0:57:050:57:07

and I would be a village idiot!

0:57:070:57:10

Best known as market trader Donna Yates in EastEnders, actress Lisa Hammond wants to get to the bottom of why her paternal grandfather Harry Hammond never spoke about his experiences in World War II. She uncovers the moving story of the trauma he endured and his efforts to overcome it.

On her mother's side of the family, Lisa is reassured to discover many generations of London stock as she finds the countryside unsettling. But her relief is short lived as, going further back, her investigations plunge her deep into rural Wales.