View Full Version : STEPHENS, Percival James, Aus to Amiens, Fran

19-01-2009, 1:53 AM
I'm interested in this person, who would have been my grand-uncle ... well, my Mother's uncle to be sure!
Percy was a Sargeant with the Australian Graves Services (AGS), formerly of the 3rd Field Ambulance, 1st AIF.
He applied to be demobilised from the AGS in Amiens, France, on July 8th 1921. His reasons were that he had a French wife (who had lost three sons in the 1914-1918 war), had a contract for lease of house and land, and had a deed of gift of business and promises (goodwill?) from his wide's parents. I believe that they began life together in or about Amiens.
The Australian National Archives have images of a number of documents, but nothing with more detail than that mentioned above.
Percival's sister (my grandmother) was Laura Lydia Stephens, who married Henry West Farnell. They lived at Neilborough, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia.

19-01-2009, 8:44 AM
Hi Trevor,

Would I be correct in assuming you are after information about his post military life in France?

If so this thread may be more suited to our European forum and I can move it for you - I would also update the title.

19-01-2009, 11:09 PM
You're correct in your assumption ... and I'd be most grateful if you would shift the notice. Any thoughts about a more effective title?

19-01-2009, 11:18 PM
Thread moved and title updated (titles have character limitations)

19-01-2009, 11:40 PM

01-02-2009, 4:11 AM
Percy was a Sargeant with the Australian Graves Services (AGS), formerly of the 3rd Field Ambulance, 1st AIF.
He applied to be demobilised from the AGS in Amiens, France, on July 8th 1921. His reasons were that he had a French wife (...) I believe that they began life together in or about Amiens.

Can you explain to an ignorant Pommy what Percy would have been doing while he was in the AGS, please?

Do you know/think/believe that he married his French wife before he was demobilised?

02-02-2009, 8:04 AM
Thanks for your message pottoka!

Percy served in the 3rd Field Ambulance, and stayed on in France in the AGS. My assumption has been that the Australian Graves Service did work similar to that of the Imperial War Graves Commission, eventually becoming part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I have to say that I've found it difficult to find out much about the AGS, let alone Percy!

As for marriage, I have no idea at all! There is a great void in our family about the somewhat mysterious Percival!


02-02-2009, 9:20 PM
As you are looking for information less than 100 years old, it has to be obtained directly from the Town Hall where the wedding took place (difficult if it happened in Walkabout Creek, but people said Amiens because it sounded better!).

I tried to ring the Town Hall in Amiens today but no-one answered, either because it was five to twelve and they'd all gone off for lunch or, more charitably, maybe they were short-staffed as the north of France is snow-bound. I'll try again during the week.

The problem is that we have very little information to go on - no date and no name for the wife. There are ten-year tables where all marriages during a particular decade are listed in alphabetical order (by the man's surname, luckily!). However, with more and more people doing genealogy, more and more Town Halls, especially the bigger ones, refuse to do anything which approaches research and will only deliver a certificate if you can give a fairly close date. That's why I want to ask them how flexible they are. So keep your fingers crossed!

04-02-2009, 11:00 AM
Well, I got through to the Town Hall today, but the conversation was quite surreal ... I don't know if the French have the monopoly on not listening, or not taking in what you've already said, but when she told me to write and ask for the birth record of your uncle's wife because it would have her marriage and death dates written in the margins despite the fact that I had said from the beginning that I didn't know the wife's name, I think I could have cheerfully strangled her!!

She also kept saying that she wouldn't be able to send me a marriage record of a Percival James Stephens, Australian, to a widowed Frenchwoman ... because it might not be the right one!! I suggested that there was a likelihood of there being less records under that name than under Jean Dupont (= John Smith), and she immediately thought that the groom's name was Jean Dupont and panicked ... I suppose it takes all sorts! |banghead|

Is there any way of finding anything more out about your uncle? His date of birth and his place of birth (these are recorded on a marriage certificate in France). His parents' names, including his mother's maiden name?

That way I can write to the Town Hall with as much information about him as possible so that it can be checked against a record if they find one.

05-02-2009, 9:16 AM
Pottoka! Thank you for taking up this quest ... dnd the French bureaucracy to boot ... do mind that brick wall!

Percy was born in 1892, I think in September, to Albert William Stephens and Lydia Stephen, nee Randall.

That's as much as I have.

Best regards,


09-02-2009, 11:29 AM
Letter in the post. Cross all possible fingers and toes as tightly as possible!! http://bestsmileys.com/fingers/1.gif
It might take time as it's a big Town Hall (I forgot to ask); Rouen told me three weeks and took two months - so long that I wrote to them again and ended up with two certificates! |doh|

10-02-2009, 12:24 PM
His service file says that he was discharged in England on 12 March 1922.

Also there is a letter in the file from your grandmother, dated 1915, where she asks if her brother enlisted as a single or married man - a young woman having introduced herself as his wife. Perhaps this is the Ivy Green who also wrote asking after him.

On the back of that letter asking to be discharged in London (to return to France) is his wife's signature declaring that she has no objection to him being discharged there. Her name is given as Henriette Stephens. She has two sons, aged 5 and 7 from her previous marriage who he does not want to bring to Australia as they would be disadvantaged by not knowing the language. The three sons mentioned who have died are in reference to her aged parents - being her siblings - for which reason she does not want to leave France while her parents are still alive.

He declares he had not employment to return to - but the Lunacy Department kept writing to ask if he was coming back as they were keeping his job for him!

It appears that he was in the 3rd Ambulance until he was shot in the head 1919, then in the Army Pay Corps until joining the AGS in 1920.

His address on discharge was 142 Rue de Moulin, Amiens, France

11-02-2009, 7:02 AM
Elaine may well be ruing the lack of detail available prior to writing to Amiens Town Hall, in which case I thank you Christine, and apologise profusely to you, resolute Pottoka!

23-05-2009, 10:15 PM
I've still not heard from Amiens Town Hall which is more than a bit off after three and a half months. I'll write to them again (and say that I wrote ages ago!) - with the extra information - and hope that they'll get their flippin' finger out!

I've also put a request for a volunteer to go there and look up the information on a French website. Normally requests are for records which are older than that because you have to be able to prove a relationship to be able to get a record which is less than 75 years old (I'd thought that it was 100 years). This might work as the forum is for records at the Archives départementales (Central Record Library for the département of the Somme), and it just so happens that it is in Amiens as well.

Just so that you know that I haven't forgotten you!

24-05-2009, 11:03 AM
I remain indebtted and sincerely grateful to you Pottoka!:)

25-05-2009, 9:24 PM
Don't be too grateful, Trevor, or you might be counting your chickens before they've hatched! http://www.topsmileys.net/smilies/animal/chicken.gif (http://www.topsmileys.net) http://www.topsmileys.net/smilies/animal/chicken.gif (http://www.topsmileys.net) http://www.topsmileys.net/smilies/animal/chicken.gif (http://www.topsmileys.net)

13-06-2009, 11:34 PM
They say that things come in threes, and this time it's bad news, I'm afraid.

First, the volunteer on the site where I put a request turns out to work alone and, at the moment, is not available to take requests for family reasons. Another member wrote to me to say that I had not given enough information in my request but declined help when asked for advice. :(

Second, I received a really snotty letter from Amiens Town Hall telling me that their personnel cannot undertake genealogical research for private individuals (I knew that!) but that I could get permission from a bigwig judge and go and look in the Archives myself. Presumably they'll pay for the travel expenses and hotel bills?

I thought that was in reply to my "reminder" letter as it came fairly soon after, but in fact, it was the reply to my first letter of 11th February. I don't know what kind of reputation people who work in town halls and government administration have in Australia, but in France, it's not good. Taking four months to send a stock reply to a letter is a good example! (like clearing their desks half an hour before going home time and clock-watching until they can dash out)

Then, third, my reminder letter came back to me with a post-it on it, saying:
"1914-1924 no marriages under the name of Percival STEPHENS RANDALL".
Some kind soul must have taken pity on us and looked through the ten-year tables for a marriage under Stephens and, just in case, under Randall as well.

So I'm afraid that it would appear that Percival and Henriette didn't get married in Amiens itself and, without any more precise information, I don't think it's going to be possible to find them.

I've just found a site covering the region, but the terms and conditions say that members cannot make any posts about people or events less than 100 years old. As I said before, I believe the law has changed and reduced the time limit to 75 years for consulting BMDs, but the site has not updated its rules, so I can't even post a question on there. I'll ask around, but I can't hold out much hope. I'm very sorry to have to disappoint you like this.

15-06-2009, 10:04 AM
Well, Pottoka, you have been magnificent in your endeavours and should feel no sense of underachievement as far as I'm concerned! The prevailing view in our family has been that Percy chose to simply disappear from view, and it appears that he did a jolly good job of doing just that!
Thank you sincerely for the efforts you have made on my family's behalf. Should we ever discover what happened to Percy I shall try to let you know, for you have earned an answer!

Best regards,


07-02-2013, 10:29 AM
Dear Trevor, I am Dawn, Granddaughter to your Grandmother's younger sister, Honor Richards nee Stephens. Have you been able to find out any more information. I was thinking Henriette and Percy married while they were in England.
Hoping you have some more information about the mysterious Percy, that our poor Grandmother's never knew.