Our Story – How We Became The Online Book Company

This month, rather fittingly, as it’s a new year, we’ve been talking beginnings. We’ve just sent out our first Online Book Company monthly newsletter and are looking forward to sharing our clients’ wonderful stories, what’s new with our books and, by popular demand, a seasonal photograph of Cornwall.

Everyone who works here is familiar with our deeply personal origin story but we thought it may be time to share it with our many clients, friends and connections:

Finding Meaning in Tragedy

The idea behind the venture that was eventually to become The Online Book Company was born of our founders, friends, Jonathan and Hugh, both losing their brothers. Keen to keep the memories of their loved ones alive, they realised that this very human need would be shared by others the world over and so, in early 2006, the concept behind our initial business, Friends and Relations, was born.

Making the most of emerging technology, Jonathan and Hugh came up with a way of creating individually dedicated, interactive online sanctuaries, far removed from the bustle and noise of social media platforms. Intuitively designed and translating the familiar experience of perusing a book or writing an entry, online, the books focused on offering a seamless user experience.

Keeping Memories Alive

Stories, photos and videos could be added, shared and commented on, milestones remembered and celebrated, and feelings expressed. Time and again, family members and friends, no matter where in the world they were, could turn to these online books for solace, and find comfort in actively keeping memories alive.

Making A Difference

Some of Friends and Relations’ early clients suggested that it would be great if the books could be used for a wider good. Their desire to make a difference – offering the opportunity for people visiting their loved ones’ books to make a donation to a charity or organisation that had meant a lot to the person being remembered – was just one of the developments that saw Friends and Relations evolve into The Online Book Company we are today.

Fast Forward To The Present Day

Our unique, interactive online books serve charities, businesses and other organisations: promoting causes, fundraising, recognising donors and legators, and celebrating supporters and service.

Their original purpose, however – a means for people to connect with one another, tell their stories and honour individuals and causes – remains firmly at the heart of everything we do.

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Eva SeymourOur Story – How We Became The Online Book Company

“Sgt Allen Was My Father”

How one Online Book helped shape our business

The story of one particular Online Book – the British Cyprus Memorial Book – played a significant role in the developments that have seen us become The Online Book Company we are today.

This book was established a decade ago (2009) to commemorate the fallen British servicemen of what became known as the Cyprus Emergency that ran from 1955-1959. Much engaged with to this day, the Online Book enables friends, family and comrades to discover and share stories of, and pay tribute to their loved ones as well as remembering them on special days. Its establishment marked the first time official recognition was given to those who had lost their lives in the campaign.

A son’s discovery

Company founder and Managing Director, Jonathan Haward recalls,

“An entry in the book on 28th July 2009 by David Clifton is one I shall always remember.

Opening with the words: “Sgt Allen was my father” it went on to say how, in coming across The British Cyprus Memorial Trust’s remembrance of Sgt Allen in the online book, he had learnt, for the first time, how his father had died.

Too young to remember much of his father himself, and with a mother who had been reluctant to talk of that terrible time, he had grown up not knowing anything about his father’s death.

Sgt Allen, a 28-year-old Regular from Clare, Suffolk was murdered by three masked gunmen who had intended to take him hostage in retaliation for an EOKA man facing the death penalty for the murder of RAF Cpl Hale three months earlier. The unarmed Sgt Allen put up such a fight that they shot him dead. His killers were never caught and he is buried at Wayne’s Keep in the British military cemetery in Cyprus.

How one online book helped shape our business

Finishing with the words, echoed in other tributes, “I am very proud of him,” it brought home to me, with heart-rending poignancy, the immeasurable value of what we had created and was instrumental in my decision to sell my other business concerns and make Friends and Relations my over-riding passion.”

Helping the Cyprus Veterans organisation

Now running to over 1600 pages, The British Cyprus Memorial Book, has been instrumental in the Cyprus Veterans organisation’s work in finding and contacting the families of the 372 British servicemen who died on active service during the four-year Emergency, and offering them recognition for the sacrifices made by their loved ones.

A growing number of families have now attended special ceremonies and been awarded the Elizabeth Cross* as well as honouring their loved ones with General Service Medals and Memorial Scrolls.

The book also carries an additional section “Also Remembered” that pays tribute to the 26 servicemen killed on the island before the end of 1959 but not included within the UK Government’s time frame of the conflict.

Late last year we learnt the wonderful news that some 10 UK-based veterans, now in their 80s, were able to attend the Remembrance Sunday Service in North Cyprus last November. And at the beginning of 2019 we helped Cyprus Veterans track down the son of Sgt Alexander Mills Brown who had posted a moving tribute to his father in late 2015. Preparations are now under way for Sgt Mills Brown’s son, Duncan, to receive the Elizabeth Cross.

* Note: The Elizabeth Cross was introduced in 2009 and is awarded in national recognition of the loss and sacrifice suffered by the families of those service personnel killed on operations in the line of duty.

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Eva Seymour“Sgt Allen Was My Father”

Online Books of Condolence

Losing someone is hard, but what do you do when a bereavement happens at work? There are so many people who want to send their condolences and share memories with not only colleagues but the family. What is an appropriate way to remember and celebrate their life? We have the answer.

An Online Condolence Book provides an Online Memorial which will last forever. Not only does it mean each member of staff has plenty of room to leave messages of remembrance, colleagues from across the globe can contribute, there is no deadline, no rush to get a card in the post and it is an appropriate outlet for your colleagues and employees to share their grief.

We have created many Online Books of Remembrance for colleagues, organisations, charities and individuals over the years so we know what a delicate subject this can be. We work with you to create a fitting tribute and a special place to remember.

But it doesn’t have to be a dedicated book, if your loved one is no longer with us their name can be added to one of our existing charity books, like the RAF Benevolent Fund Book. These allow to remember your loved one and share their story with the world while raising money for a cause close to your heart.

To find out more about our Online Books of Condolence and Remembrance please contact us on +44 1872 226800 or email


Contact Us – personal Online Book enquiry form.

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Katherine GeorgeOnline Books of Condolence

Employee Spotlight: Julie’s time to Shine

Julie with Kate Bottley at the NFE


Julie has been with The Online Book Company since its formation and has played a pivotal in developing not only the books, but other areas of the business such as customer service standards and staff training. But most of all, Julie is a fantastic person to work with and keeps everyone in the office smiling with her positive attitude and sense of fun! Here’s what Julie had to say about being an employee of The Online Book Company and life in general…

What I like best about working for TOLBC…

The very different organisations we make contact with and the lovely people we meet and work with.

Best Job?

Contacting clients

Worst Job?

Tidying the ‘shared’ kitchen.

I’m happiest when…

Everyone else is happy.

I’m proudest of…

Setting up and achieving ISO9001 and ISO27001 status.

Favourite pastime?

Probably cooking or gardening – nothing very exciting

Best holiday


‘Before I die I would like to’

Visit South Africa and also Italy

Favourite song, movie and book?

Ooh! Difficult to choose, but today my favourites would be:

Movie – The Secret Garden

 Book – Labyrinth by Kate Moss

Song- Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Surprising/funny fact about myself…

I used to play the violin!

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Bethany HibbsEmployee Spotlight: Julie’s time to Shine

Employee Spotlight: Introducing Mr Harry Haward

For our first ‘Employee Spotlight’ feature, Bethany ‘interviewed’ a very unnerved Harry, but it turns out the questions weren’t as bad as he had anticipated!

We hope that you enjoy getting to know us all a little better, and that you like reading Harry’s story as much as we all enjoy working with him.So with no further ado, I introduce to you all, Mr Harry Haward, age 29 from Truro!

Harry outside of TIC

Harry outside of TIC

What is your role at TOLBC?

My role at the Online Book Company is largely about sales generation, it is my job to contact Charities and Organisations and make that initial contact to hopefully get them on board as clients.

Before working at TOLBC what was the most unusual/interesting job you had?

Before working at TOLBC I worked at Iceland Frozen Foods in addition to being a Special Constable, which was a real buzz for me and I particularly enjoyed making the ‘Blue Light runs’.

Describe TOLBC in 3 Words

Unique, Engaging and Empowering

What element of your role have you found most challenging?

Answering these sorts of questions!

What do you enjoy most about working for TOLBC?

I enjoy talking to the Customers the most, reaching out to them and engaging with them, I like to look for practical solutions as to how we can help them and develop a good working relationship.

What has been your favourite project so far?

My favourite project to date has been the Jubilee Hour project, which was a Nationwide Initiative we launched at the time of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, where people would pledged 60 minutes of their time, doing some legal, decent and honest to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the Throne.  The project became the largest mobilisation of volunteers since World War 2 and this was formerly recognised by Number 10 Downing Street and MP Eric Pickles invited us to a Tea inside the House of Commons

Where would you go for your dream holiday?

My dream Holiday would be to go to New Zealand as I have seen some really interesting pictures of the landscape there and have heard a lot of stories of the relaxed life out there.

‘I’m happiest when…’ 

I’m happiest when I am actively engaging with clients in my job and when I’m not working, I’m happiest when I’m with those I love and Cherish and taking part in my Rotary International work.

What did you want to be when growing up?

I have always wanted to be a Police Officer and this is something that I think I may well still pursue in the future, the Communication and Customer Service skills I have developed whilst being at TOLBC have been second to none.

What book did you last read?

I am a massive fan of the Jack Reacher Thrillers by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop who goes round putting the World to right.  As the book’s blurb’s always say, he’s the sort of bloke who men want to be and woman want to be with!

Thank you to Harry for being the first member of the team to take part, keep your eyes peeled for the next employee to come under the spotlight, you never know what surprises we may have in store!

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Bethany HibbsEmployee Spotlight: Introducing Mr Harry Haward

Plan your Weekend as you Plan your Week!

We all know how important it is to plan your week at work. Daily ‘To Do’ lists scattered on desks; post it notes stuck to everything, salesforce prompting calls to clients. Without planning, ‘doing business’ falls apart, time is wasted and people get distracted, working without cause or structure is just silly.

And so we come to an insight on weekends that people resist: a good weekend needs a plan. I’m not talking a minute-by-minute plan, or a spreadsheet full of costs, not even a Gaant chart, but just a few (preferably fun) anchor events penciled in ahead of time.I love the weekend

On some level, people are already attuned to this. In one study by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, he studied people being told they’d won a free dinner at a posh restaurant. When asked when they would like to schedule the dinner, most people wanted to wait, on average for a week before heading over-to savor the anticipation of their free dinner and to optimise pleasure gleaned from the experience.

Planning a few fun events for the weekend or even an hour or two just to relax gives us something to anticipate, something to look forward to, even if at the time it isn’t that enjoyable- That feeling of ‘at the weekend I am going to….’ is something very beautiful.

For those that don’t plan, yes you may feel spontaneous and free to chop and change right up until the last moment when the weekend hits…but what if you use essential free time up negotiating with friends, family or loved ones trying to decide on what to do? The restaurant you fancy may be booked up (by planners) but even if you do get a table, surely the food would taste better if you had looked forward to it, for me, those thoughts serve to magnify the pleasure once it finally arrives.

In all if you want to enjoy your weekend, give yourself something to look forward to. We all work hard during the week and deserve to make the most of our time away from the post it notes and spreadsheets. Don’t burn up willpower thinking about what to do, make a plan go with it, if it goes off on a tangent enjoy it, but always start with a bit of forward planning.

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Bethany HibbsPlan your Weekend as you Plan your Week!

Sue Bradbury talks to Jonathan Haward, Managing Director of Friends and Relations and The Online Book Company.

You’re marking 10 years of running Friends and Relations with the launch of The Online Book Company. How are they different?

Friends and Relations was conceived as a way of memorialising loved ones online. We began with branded websites which then evolved into commemorative books. A lot of charities use them to raise funds – the RNLI, for example, has been with us from the start and we have recently completed a fully accessible book for the Royal National Institute for the Blind. The Online Book Company represents an expansion and enhancement of all that we offer. We’re no longer just about commemoration but about celebration and education too.

What inspired the original idea?

My brother Group Captain David Haward was killed in a flying accident whilst on duty and my old friend and work colleague Hugh Hastings had also lost his brother through terminal illness. We wanted to share photos and memories of them online and that sowed the seed for Friends and Relations.

What were you doing before that?

I founded and ran the County Homesearch company for 22 years. It’s the largest property finding service of its kind in the UK and the popular Channel 4 programme Location, Location, Location was developed on the back of it – we are still acknowledged in the credits.  I sold the business in February 2013 because, although it was one of the best jobs in the world, I had become passionate about building up Friends and Relations. It felt like I was on a journey and providing an online platform for tributes and comments – some of which make you laugh and others cry – has been very cathartic. It’s also been hugely exciting.

What have been the highlights of your online book journey?

So many lovely things have happened that nothing surprises me anymore. Becoming involved with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was particularly special. We created an online book to celebrate the occasion that encouraged people to give sixty minutes of their time to help good causes. It was a huge success with a record-breaking number of volunteer hours pledged. More recently we’ve been working on an official Waterloo 200 e-book that encourages school children throughout the country to find out more about the battle that shaped British history by doing their own research and posting their findings. I was invited to the Waterloo 200 memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral as a result and so were some of the many pupils who have been contributing.

You’ve also been working with organisations overseas?

Yes – in fact if it wasn’t for the wonders of superfast broadband technology that enables me to Skype, I’d probably be spending one week a month in America. One of our biggest projects at the moment is Fort Miflin, the oldest fort in Philadelphia. Our online book honours the patriots and veterans who have served there, raising funds to maintain it as a living landmark in the process. As well as searching for information about ancestors or adding memorial pages of their own, people can buy a brick to add to the memorial pathway that is being built. It’s an exciting example of the digital world complementing the physical.

How many people do you employ?

There are seven of us in the core team plus we use a number of Cornwall-based consultants and associates.

What are your aspirations for the business?

There’s a lot happening because we’re always looking to expand and improve on what we do. We’re working with The Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth to launch our first online wedding album towards the end of this year and we’re now putting hard covers on our books to make them even more special and individualised. Our mantra is simplicity. What we try to aim for is a combination of Apple’s design genius and John Lewis’s ‘never knowingly undersold’ objective. We’re also very proud to have ISO 27001 accreditation for our information security management and ISO 9000 for quality assurance.

What makes all your hard work worthwhile?

The feedback we get. To give you an example I had a call from a man in New Zealand who saw from one of our military books that his dad had died. He hadn’t seen his father for many years because he’d been asked to leave home when he was fifteen. He asked us if we could find out if his mother and sister were still alive. We did and the family was reunited. There are many, many stories like that and each one is special.

How do you relax?

By sailing my boat and shooting competitively. I’ve shot for Great Britain in the past and love the sport as a hobby.

Thank you to Jonathan Haward for this fantastic insight into The Online Book Company!

Jonathan Haward - Managing Director

Jonathan, Managing Director of Friends and Relations – The Online Book Company





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Vicki MayrickSue Bradbury talks to Jonathan Haward, Managing Director of Friends and Relations and The Online Book Company.

Waterloo 200 Schools


 Here, we see pupils and teachers acting as representatives for the some 200 schools, from throughout the country who were invited to attend the 200th anniversary service that took place at St Paul’s Cathedral last week. The feedback from The Waterloo 200 schools who have been interacting with the Online Book we created for the event has been terrific. The students have really done an outstanding job of researching the Waterloo soldiers and artifacts, with some fascinating write ups being uploaded!

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Bethany HibbsWaterloo 200 Schools

Marking the bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo, with Waterloo Teeth!

Today marks the bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo, but with so many fascinating stories to pick up on, deciding what we wanted to share on our blog was indeed, a challenge. We decided however, to mark the occasion with a look at ‘Waterloo Teeth’.

Kindly shared with us by Zac Fine of ‘Fine Content’, and published in The Sutton Guardian, our attention is drawn to an ancestor of ‘George Thomas Keppel’, Dr Tom Keppel, a Surrey based dentist, who is using the bicentenary of the battle to remind people how fortunate they are to live free from toothache.

Dr Keppel told Zac, “200 years ago most people lost many teeth and experienced agony in the mouth throughout their lives” adding, “Waterloo flooded the dentures market with ‘Waterloo Teeth’- good front teeth ripped from young soldiers killed in the battle”.

Similarly it was great to see the BBC feature ‘Waterloo Teeth’ on their news site:

‘The prospect of thousands of British, French and Prussian teeth – sitting in the mouths of recently-killed soldiers on the battlefield at Waterloo – was an attractive one for looters.The teeth would have been pulled out with pliers by surviving troops and locals.’

I think we are all very grateful for dental technology and practice having come so far over the last 200 years, but how fascinating to see how the advanced technologies we now utilize, developed and tie in with the narratives of historic events such as The Battle of Waterloo.

To read the full article from Fine Content please visit: Fine Content Article

Waterloo Teeth BBC article : BBC News Article

 Find out if any of your ancestors fought in the battle: Waterloo Descendants BookWaterloo 200 Bicentenary

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Bethany HibbsMarking the bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo, with Waterloo Teeth!

Setting off for the National Funeral Exhibition

The last few weeks for The Online Book Company have been very busy. We have all been gearing up, and getting set to exhibit at the National Funeral Exhibition taking Place at Stoneleigh, between the 12th and 14th of June. The NFE is a bi-annual exhibition that attracts a range of people involved in the Funeral Industry, from all over the country and beyond. But why are we going?

Well, at The Online Book Company we produce bespoke, online books for a range of different people, organisations, events, and much more. We are, at the exhibition,  presenting our ‘Individual Online Memorial Book’ whereby families and friends can choose to celebrate the life of a loved one in a unique, special and online place. Families can share memories, photos, video, from all over the world, and can even link the books to their social media and submit donations to charity through a simple ‘donate’ option, whilst maintaining the look and feel of a more traditional Book of Remembrance.

Families have told us what a great resource our books are, with many going back to a book again and again to share family news, or to add photos. Instead of simply commemorating a life, the books allow a life to be truly celebrated, acting as a hub for people to visit and to enjoy stories they may not have otherwise heard. 

We can’t wait to get to Stoneleigh, and to see faces old and new and to show people just how fantastic our Online Books are! 

All packed and ready to go!

All packed and ready to go!


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Bethany HibbsSetting off for the National Funeral Exhibition