Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Mystery Man in Uniform, July of 1919

My late father-in-law (Edgar James Wood, 1903-1986) received a camera for his 14th birthday, the start of a lifelong love of photography. 

In addition to snapping photos of his family in their Cleveland, Ohio home, he photographed their driving vacations to see family in other areas. 

Ed didn't always print his photos, but he usually saved the negatives. Now I'm scanning, inverting, and enhancing the negatives to reveal faces and places not seen for many decades. 

One packet of negatives was marked "Neg. Summer of 1919." 

Inside were photos of Ed's parents and brother, and some other people, including a mystery man in uniform. 

Also in the packet were a couple of photos of airplanes (see bottom).

Who was that man in uniform?

During the summer of 1919, World War I was finally over and those who had served were returning home.

Ed snapped a number of photos of this young man in uniform and dated the negatives as July 27, 1919.

My genealogy friends on Twitter were kind enough to identify this is a Royal Air Force or a Royal Canadian Air Force uniform (note the wings over the pocket and the design of the cap, as well as the general look of the uniform).

After looking at the Wood family tree, I suspect this young man is Ernest Slatter, one of my f-i-l's first cousins. 

I think Ernest was the only close relative who flew in World War I. 

He was a nephew of Ed's mother and the son of a military man born in London but transplanted to London, Ontario.

Ernest Slatter of the RAF

Research uncovered some paperwork about Ernest's World War I military career. He was in the RNRT (Royal Navy), 1657 D.A. before being discharged to join the RAF. He "attested" in March, 1918 and became a flight cadet in the Royal Air Force Canada in September, 1918.

By June of 1919, Ernest had been issued a protection certificate for "soldiers repatriated overseas"--meaning he was going home to Canada, with the rank of 2/LT (EXC). 

In fact, I found a record of Ernest crossing the border from Canada to the US in July, 1919 and again in August, 1919. The officials noted: "Came to Buffalo in uniform to visit relative and has decided to remain and work for brother-in-law." (That bro-in-law was the husband of Ernest's oldest sister, Maud.) 

So did Ed and the Wood family travel to Buffalo to see Ernest and Maud? Or did Ernest travel to Ohio or elsewhere to visit with the Wood family? Perhaps I'll find some answers as I continue to scan, invert, and enhance more of Ed's negatives.

Airplane, August 23, 1919

Here's one of two photos Ed took of an airplane on August 23, 1919, part of the "summer of 1919" packet of negatives. 

No notes, no captions, unfortunately. But a delightful photo to enjoy.


  1. This was an amazing story! The negatives are so helpful in identifying groupings of photos and how they are related. I hope you find more answers. And I love the photo of the plane.

  2. Talk about primitive airplanes! Wow.

  3. My grandfather was enamored with planes and I have so many photos. Like yours, they are not labeled. But I know they were important to him.