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First World War: ‘Most bizarre thing ever’ - man discovers family fought on both sides

Stuart Forster had family on both sides during the first world war Stuart Forster had family on both sides during the first world war

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
6:59 PM

Millions of people have this week been paying tribute to relatives who fought for their country in the First World War - but not many can say they had family on both sides.

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One man who can is Stuart Forster, of Shepherds Close, Chadwell Heath, who recently discovered his paternal great uncles fought for the Germans in the war, while his maternal great grandfather was in the British army.

“It’s the most bizarre thing ever,” said the 42-year-old. “The Royal Family had in-fighting with Kaiser Wilhelm II and King George V being cousins, and so did mine.”

Stuart’s paternal great grandfather was German-born Maximilius Schleif, who moved to England in 1912. He was the youngest of six, and his brother’s stayed behind in Germany before joining the army.

At around the same time, in December 1915, his Romford-based mother’s grandfather, private Alexander Pearce, joined the British army. He was discharged in March 1918 after having his leg amputated and losing a finger, and went back to his job as a painter.

Stuart has little information about his great uncles’ involvement, although he “can’t help but wonder” what happened to them.

He mused: “Did they survive? Were they injured? How did they cope with defeat? At the moment, I have so many questions, but unfortunately not many answers.”

So how did he feel on Monday when the nation was marking the 100-year anniversary of the UK’s entrance into the war?

“Very sad. Both sides of my family were fighting in battles for countries they believed were right, and possibly fighting each other.

“What if the German side of the family were responsible for launching the shells that caused my great grandfather to lose his leg and finger?”

Read more:

First World War centenary: The New Zealand and Maori soldiers who enlivened Hornchurch during the conflict

Romford pictures: Havering commemorates 100 years since Britain joined the First World War

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