Daniel Radcliffe discovers great-uncle’s wartime death

Daniel Radcliffe will discover that his great-great-uncle Ernie was killed during the First World War in ancestral TV show Who Do You Think You Are?

According to editors at The Daily Mirror, the Harry Potter star learns of the fate of Ernie McDowell, who was one of his great-great-grandmother Flo’s four brothers who went off to fight, in the BBC show. Ernie, from Banbridge in County Down, Northern Ireland, where Radcliffe’s father Alan also grew up, was the only one of the brothers not to make it home.

The soldier had provided inspiration to his actor relative during the filming of My Boy Jack, a 2007 TV movie which told the story of author Rudyard Kipling’s grief when his 18-year-old son John, played by Radcliffe, died in the conflict.


“I kept a picture of Ernie in my trailer as a personal connection to the period,” he explains in the show.

The 29-year-old later discovers, via handed down family letters, that Ernie and his sweetheart Jeanie married in 1915, when he was recuperating in Ireland from frostbite and a leg wound.

However, after the letters stopped in 1916, the actor then finds out that a soldier from Ernie’s unit had written to his mother Elizabeth, explaining what had happened.

“We were just after arriving in the trenches and your boy and two more chaps from Belfast was going into a dug out to take off their packs when a shell landed which killed the three of them,” he tells her in the letter.

Daniel concludes: “To have played at being a soldier in the trenches, I definitely feel a lot more connected to all those stories now I’ve learned what my own family went through.

“It’s given me such an insight into what it would have been like to have your children leave for the war.”