The R.A.F.'s Account of the Earthquake in Quetta in 1935

Category: Famous Connections

Harvey's grandparents were in Quetta, which was then in British India, during the devastating earthquake in 1935. I've published a page about the event which includes an excerpt from the RAF Operations Books giving an account of the earthquake - Harvey's grandfather was in command of No 5 (AC) Squadron at the time. As the account is quite long I've selected some extracts which are featured below...

The time at which the first shock of the earthquake occurred is given officially as 0306 hours on 31st May, 1935. The night was fine but dark as there was no moon.

The Royal Air Force lines comprising No. 3 (Indian) Wing, No. 5 (AC) Squadron and No. 31 (AC) Squadron were in the direct line of the Earthquake.

The greatest shock awaited the rescue party when it reached the airmen's lines. What had once been the Airmen's Barracks was now nothing but a series of detached heaps of brick rubble with the tin roofs resting, torn and twisted on the top. A few survivors were wandering among the ruins in a stunned condition, calling to trapped inmates. A few were desperately digging down with their bare hands trying to release their buried friends.

... there was no light, great clouds of dust, cut off what little help they could have hoped for from the stars, all electric light cables were down, dawn did not come until about 6.30 a.m.... they had nothing to dig with except their hands... their work was continually being undone, by fresh tremors, which occurred at frequent intervals during the first few hours, often reburying a victim who had just been on the point of release...

Immediately before dawn a battalion of the Punjabis, who had been on a night march, came to our assistance and, as they brought with them their trenching tools, were of immense value and greatly speeded up the rescue work. At about 8 a.m. a section of light tanks arrived and were at once set to work pulling the heavy roofs off the ruins.

The last survivor was extracted at noon. The last body was removed at about 4.p.m. A bull terrier was found alive and uninjured 36 hours after the disaster...

It was found that many of the victims died from suffocation.

Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935
Aftermath of the Quetta Earthquake 1935

If possible the buildings occupied by the Indian Air Force personnel and followers were in an even worse condition than those of the British Airmen and not a single man escaped uninjured. Owing to the fact that many of the followers had entire families sleeping in their quarters the death roll was enormous and it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the casualties in this part of the camp.

The aircraft hangars which were of steel construction stood up to the earthquake, though most of the brick walled flight offices fell in or were damaged. Such was the violence of the shaking, however, that all the aircraft had been thrown about inside and dashed against each other or into the walls. Inspection showed that only three out of the twenty seven held by the wing were fit to fly.

After some hours work these three aircraft were extracted from the hangars... By 10 a.m. the machines were in the air.

The main effected area was found to extend about 70 miles South from QUETTA many small towns and villages being completely wrecked. The death roll was later estimated as 56,000 of whom 25,000 died in QUETTA.

...during June, the entire R.A.F. personnel less a small salvage party were moved to R.A.F. Depot, Karachi.

Digging for kit and the bodies of Indian Followers continued during the first week of June. For the first two nights the airmen lit fires between the ruins of their bungalows and slept in tents under whatever blankets and kit they had been able to salve... By the 2nd the camp had become very insanitary. Decaying bodies in the gaol and nearby villages began to smell very strongly, drains were blocked... All work was carried out by men working with first field dressing pads tied over their mouths and noses.

It was decided to evacuate the camp and airmen moved into tents in the Queen's Lines... The Officers lived in tents on their Mess Lawn and had their meals in the open.

On 1st July, 1935, only a small salvage party remained in Quetta collecting documents equipment and furniture. The remainder of the Squadron in Karachi continued to repair the damaged aircraft.

Site Updates - Surnames: Stenlake, Northcott, Martin, plus US Troops in Tavistock Photos.

Category: What's New at

Hibbitt Family Tree section

Place names: Holsworthy, Tavistock and East Budleigh in Devon. Curry Rivel in Somerset.

Hibbitt Family Picture Gallery > Places > Tavistock, Devon section

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Follow Friday: Family Tree Wall Art gift ideas for Christmas and other occasions

Category: Handy Family History Links

Having been contacted by Kimberley at Urban Twist, I promised I'd feature their novel gift ideas for the family historian. Kimberley writes....

When it comes to finding a gift for the genealogist on your list, it can sometimes prove to be a long and tricky task. Whether you're a spouse, sibling, parent or child and you're on the hunt for a special gift for that historian in your life, you've come to the right place!

A personalised family tree is a truly unique gift. These distinctive wall art pieces give the family historian a special opportunity to preserve and celebrate their family history – giving that extra special touch that a subscription or gift certificate cannot. The range of products allows you to incorporate from 6 up to 17 names, a family name, plus up to two beloved pets.

These personalised family trees are ideal for Weddings, Anniversaries, Christmas, Christenings, significant Birthdays, and any other family milestone.

The pieces themselves are visually stunning, coming in a range of colours and finishes: Pine Effect (Light Wood), Limited Edition Aged Pine Effect (Dark Wood), Shimmering Gold, Shimmering Silver, Matt Black and Matt Royal Blue – again adding a personal touch. The detailed tree designs and names are laser cut and framed giving a floating effect which really brings them to life!

View Urban Twist Family Tree Wall Art and
Personalised Mini Artwork gift ideas here

Family Tree Wall Art
Family Tree Wall Art by Urban Twist

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Urban Twist or their products.

[Why Follow Friday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Battle of Trafalgar veteran or a tall story?

Category: Famous Connections

When Israel Edwards died in Australia in 1877, there were a number of obituaries printed in the press in both Australia and England. There are, however, some inconsistencies in Israel and his wife, Susanna's, story.

Just how old was Israel?

Israel's obituary mentions he was aged anything bewteen 102 and 106 years old when he died. Nevertheless, assuming he was baptized as a baby in 1786, he was more than likely about 91 years old.

One article says that Israel was widowed at the age of 60 and implies that Susanna died before the family emigrated in 1847. Israel would indeed have been about 60 in 1847 but Susanna didn't pass away until 1860 after the family had been living in Australia for 13 years so Israel was nearer to 74 years old at this stage.

Susanna was supposedly 21 when she married Israel in 1818 and he 45. There were apparently objections raised by her friends because she was so young. Her death record states she was 23 years old when she married and he would actually have been about 32, approximately 9 years age difference rather than the exaggerated 24 years.

Did Israel really assist Vice Admiral Lord Nelson when he died?

The age discrepancies are not the only problem. Israel was supposed to have served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and to have been present at the Battle of Trafalgar on the Victory when Nelson was killed. One artcicle goes so far as to say that Israel ran to pick up Nelson as he fell.

Death of Nelson
Detail from The Death of Nelson by Daniel Maclise (Houses of Parliament, London)

This sounds a little far-fetched to me and further investigation shows no surviving evidence to support the fact that Israel was in the Navy and he does not appear in a search on the Trafalgar Ancestors website. The story goes he left the navy before he was entitled to a pension which may give him a little benefit of the doubt.

Israel's brother, Angel, did enlist in the Army Reserve in 1803 but Israel's contribution may have been a tall story which he told his children, either for fun and they believed it, or for any number of other reasons. We shall probably never know the truth.


One thing to say is that the journey to Australia in 1847 would have been a brave thing to do at the time, not least because the ship they sailed in lost her main top mast near Madeira in a heavy gale and so they had to return to Plymouth and set sail again almost a month after setting off the first time.

The family moved from Adelaide to Victoria in about 1852 and, if the obituaries are to be believed, Israel worked on the diggings for a couple of years. Victoria's first Gold Rush started in 1851 so the reason for the move to Victoria appears obvious. What is not so clear is why they emigrated in the first instance but this may have had more to do with conditions at home.

The Irish Famine was ongoing in 1847 and this would have affected mainland Britain too. Indeed, Israel's nephew and niece-in-law, Israel Edward Ball & his wife, Ann (nee Dearing), both died in that year along with their infant son. The effects of the Corn Laws and their Repeal may also have contributed to the decision to emigrate. This link gives an example of the hardships these laws brought about and which were suffered by a North Devon farm labourer and his family. There's just no knowing what life in North Devon was like for Israel and Susanna but it must have been hard and they probably looked to Australia for a better way of life.

The obituaries can be found on Israel and Susanna's family page.

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Site Updates - Surnames: Reckett, Edwards, Saunders, Bowden, Dashper

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Richard Fryer (1663-1710) - Last Will and Testament: new document in the E-Shop

Category: What's New at

At last, following on from the publication of my series of articles in the Discover Your History magazine last year, my final article is now available for download in the E-Shop.

Last Will and Testament

Complementing the document, 'Richard Fryer (abt. 1663-1710) - Biography', Last Will and Testament is a commentary examining Richard's will and the inventory drawn up after his death, placing his story into an historical context.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

1 month's access to the British Newspaper Archive for £1

Category: General

The British Newspaper Archive is offering a month of access for £1 (usually £9.95). Subscribe before midnight on 20th July, choose the 1 month subscription and enter the promotion code SUMMERSALE.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

Tuesday's Tip: Cornish ancestors? View Cornwall parish records.

Category: Handy Family History Links

If you have Cornish ancestors, you may be interested to know you can browse images of the original parish registers at FamilySearch.

If you're a member of Ancestry, these images are also available at

Tip: try using the Cornwall Online Parish Clerk database to obtain a date for an event before looking up the original image.


[Why Tuesday's Tip? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

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Explore 2 million new Non-Conformist records on FindMyPast

Category: Handy Family History Links

Just a quick note for anyone with Non-Conformist ancestors, FindMyPast have now added Non-Conformist baptism, marriage and burial records to their collections.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

240,000 extra newspaper pages now online

Category: Handy Family History Links

Thousands of historical newspaper pages are added to The British Newspaper Archive every week, so the coverage keeps getting better and better.

In the last month, 240,000 extra pages from 1790-1954 were made searchable. 56 English and Scottish newspaper titles were updated, including the Aberdeen Journal, the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Morpeth Herald.

The additions also included three brand new titles:
  • Dundee, Perth and Forfar People’s Journal, covering 1858-1861.
  • Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, covering 1913, 1915 and 1924.
  • Penny Illustrated Paper, covering 1862-1870.
You'll find more information and a full list of recent additions here.

[Note: All content on the Hibbitt & Barnes Family History website and blog is copyrighted. Click here for conditions of use.]

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