John Best 1897


A family's sad tale

My maternal grandmother had 2 brothers John and William although she was living with her paternal aunt as her mother Elizabeth had died soon after her birth in 1904. These were sons of Patrick Best and brothers of my Grandmother Eliza Best. I found the family in the Irish census of 1901 and 1911, they were easy to find as there were very few Patrick Bests living in Dublin who were Catholics, most Best families lived in the North of Ireland and were Presbyterians. My g. grandfather Patrick was the only man of the right age to be my grandmothers father living in Dublin. Anyway I told my aunt what I had found and she said that she never knew that her mother had a brother called John as she only knew her uncle Willy Best, this puzzled me as I knew I had found the right family and I wondered what had happened to John, as I could find no record of his death or any further information.

However, soon after joining a paid for website I found prison records for John Best which show that he was in Mountjoy prison twice at a very young age. The first time was in 1912 for stealing a bag of apples worth 1 shilling and the 2nd time in 1914 for having a pair of boots to which he was not entitled to. On these occasions it appears that he lied about his age as in 1812 he said he was 18 and in 1914 he said he was 20. This was not true as the 1911 census shows that he was only 15. I know the John Best in prison is the right John as it states that the address where he was born was the same address the family were listed at in 1901 on the census and it states that his father was Patrick Best.

I noted on the prison record in 1914 that someone had written some notes with an army no. an army regiment and some dates. I then decided to search for Army records. I initially found an Irish memorial for Irish Soldiers that had been killed in the 1st Wld War.

Anyway it appears that soon after he got out of prison in 1914 he joined the British Army. The Royal Leinsters. He was posted to Flanders on 17/02/15 and sadly he was killed in action on 15th March 1915 less than 1 month after he arrived in Flanders. The record states he was only 18 when he died. He must have lied about his date of birth to get into the army as he would have not been posted overseas had he given his real date of birth. The army's rule was that a soldier had to be 19 to be posted overseas and to serve on the front line. The saddest part is that his body was never buried and he has no grave, his name is on the Menin Gate memorial which is a memorial for Soldiers killed who are without a grave. It also states that he was the son of the late Patrick and Elizabeth Best. It is also very sad as it also appears that John Best's Army record no longer exists. It appears that his record may have been amongst the 60% of soldiers records that were destroyed during the bombing of the army records store in the 2nd Wld War.

I have also found some more information about the family. My grandmother Elizabeth (Eliza) Best was in the workhouse twice, once when she was 2 years old in 1906 as she was ill and placed in the workhouse hospital for 3 months. She was then put in the workhouse again when she was 5 years old in 1908 and was in there for 2 years until her father took her home to live with her aunt, her fathers sister. Her father Patrick also went into the workhouse in 1913, but he only stayed there for a few days., it must have been desperate times for the family, in them days. 

I then found some British Army records for John's father Patrick, it appears that in 1917 Patrick joined the British Army as a Pioneer in the Road Construction Crew of the Royal Engineers. He was 50 at the time so would have been too old to join as a fighting soldier. He was posted to France and served there until the end of the War. He named my grandmother Elizabeth as his next of Kin on his army papers.

I then found a message from a man with the surname Best. He had written information about John Best on a special army memorial website. He wrote that John was his father's uncle. He stated that Patrick's other son William (Willy) also joined the 1st Wld War in the 8th Hussars luckily enough both he and his father Patrick, managed to survive. I believe this man was the grandson of my grandmother's brother Willy.



Additional Information
Date of Birth 11th Aug 1897  
Date of Death 15th Mar 1915  
Mother (First Name/s and Maiden) Elizabeth Reilly  
Father (First Name/s and Surname) Patrick Best  

Communities Associated with this Ancestor