And then I forgot the box for decades.
After she died I found the box again and regretted that I had never asked her who these people were. Which of these solemn-faced individuals are my great grand parents, great uncles and aunts? Or indeed, from the age of some of the barely-visible images, my great, great grand relations.
My father's mother, Emily, had three brothers Edgar, Alfred and Albert and two sisters Caroline (Carrie) and Florence. I remember Carrie, just, as a small, elderly spinster in a long black dress. All I have of my other great-aunt and uncles are a few tattered picture postcards - "Dear Emmie, this is a photo we had taken at Eastbourne, we had a good time, will come and see you before long, from your loving brother and sister". Yes, but which brother and sister? - and those images of young men in three-piece suits and then uniforms.
But there, among the unexplained photos and their many untold stories is one that speaks all too clearly. A cross in a muddy field of crosses with the words:
"In memory of 572074 REN A ELLIS 1\17th London Regt.
Died of wounds 25.8.17"
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission I learn more. He is buried in The Huts Cemetery in Belgium, outside Ieper. The cemetery takes its name from a line of huts strung along the road from Dickebusch (now Dikkebus) to Brandhoek, which were used by field ambulances during the 1917 Allied offensive on this front. Much of the cemetery was filled between July and November 1917 and nearly two-thirds of the burials were of gunners from nearby artillery positions. There are now 1,094 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery.
Albert (the baby of the family) had joined the 17th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Poplar and Stepney Rifles) "A" Company.
He was just twenty-four when he died.