Friday, 25 October 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 - A Stretcher Bearer in the Field


Fun, quirky, informative, nostalgic, poignant  -  all descriptions of so many Sepia Saturday challenges and contributions. 

When I first saw this week's prompt,  one  of my previous posts immediately came to mind.  It is one that I was proud to write  and I valued the comments I received - what was it?   The story of my Great Uncle George. a stretcher bearer in the First World War.  He died at the Somme in 1916, a week after his 22nd birthday - and three weeks after he sent a letter home.   It seems also particularly appropriate to feature it,  as we near Remembrance Sunday.     Here it is again, with some further  images to complete the tribute.


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Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

This week's prompt shows the  kitchen of a hospital train in the First World War



"I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field."  

These were the words of my great uncle George Danson, written three weeks before he was killed on the Somme. 

One of the many embroidered cards sent from Flanders by her sons 
 to my widowed great grandmother, Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  

George Danson was the youngest of eight sons (surviving infancy) of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Born in 1894, he was followed three years later by the birth of an only daughter Jennie.  The photographs and memorabilia here come from Jennie's collection.




George (above) was the favourite uncle of my mother and aunt,  and they had fond memories of him, perhaps because he was nearest to them in age and took on the role of the big brother. I can see why in the photograph of him above.  George worked on W.H. Smith bookstalls at different railway stations in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

George joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1916 and I was lucky enough to trace his service record on www.ancestry.co.uk  as many were destroyed  in the Second World War.  On his enlistment,  George's  medical report stated he was 5'3" tall,  weighed 109 lbs. (under 8 stone), with size  34 1/2 chest and he wore glasses - so a slight figure to be a stretcher bearer in the turmoil of war.


Also amongst the family papers were two letters written on  headed paper of the British Expeditionary Force.  A letter of 19th March 1916 to his eldest brother Robert said "I will tell you one thing it is no easy job the army life today and I am of the opinion as most of the chaps are here they won't be sorry when it is all over."

The second letter of 23rd August 1916 was to Frank, the brother nearest to him in age:

 "At present we are abut 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. As I write there are blooming big guns going off abut 50 yards away every few minutes. Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in."
 Three weeks later, and a week after his 22nd birthday,  George was killed on 16th September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, near Albert.
 
 


 A photograph, sent to his mother,  of George's grave.  
It conveys in a stark way the reality of war amid the mud and blood that George must have experienced - and contrasts with the pristine white of the more lasting memorials that we recognise today. 

 



George remembered on Poulton War Memoral  along with his brother John who died in 1917.

 I have written about George before on my blog but it is such a poignant tale,
that  I make no apologies for telling it again.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE 200 ANNIVERSARY MEMORIES  FROM FELLOW SEPIANS


 



21 comments:

  1. Ah you are so right, his story is one that is just as wonderful to read over and over. Excellent choice, a fine collection of photos to show his story as well.

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  2. Super post, Susan. His words written before his death were so poignant.

    Dee

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  3. Ah, that's sad. One can only hope they are enjoying that "good time" together for all eternity.

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  4. You put this post together in a most meaningful way. I had to take a long deep breath when I finished reading it. War is such a waste of life!

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  5. I remember this one and it's beautiful embroidered card. Almost the centenary of the Great War, so many young lives lost!

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  6. Snap. I too chose to repost a story about WW1.
    I can see why you're proud of this one Sue, and I'm sure your family are as well.

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  7. I Know Poulton Quite Well...next time I'm there ....I Will Make A Point Of Visting The War Memorial & Thinking About George.

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  8. "There's a good time coming ..." - oh those words! Yes, Sue, this is the story worth immortalizing in the book.

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  9. How sad. If only it really had been the War to End All Wars...

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  10. I ditto what Sean says. If only George could have come home and had that good time.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the Grove

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  11. My heart weeps for the many young men who lost their lives in the World Wars. The saddest lines in this whole post, Sue, are these: "Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in." I'm so glad you memorialized him with this post.

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  12. Countless old photos of soldiers from the Great War have no letters, no clippings, no family even. So your story of George will serve as a memorial to those unknowns too.

    You might find this book of interest. It has a lot of detail about a soldier's life on the Western front. Sapper Martin: The Secret Great War Diary of Jack Martin, by Albert John Martin

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  13. I have been unable to trace the WWI records for my father and uncles who served throughout the war, They were some of the ones lucky enough to survive. You story and photos are so interesting. We have none to remember them by.

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  14. What a beautiful tribute. It's a great post for Sepia Saturday 200!

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  15. A good choice for the book Sue. It sums up what Sepia Saturday is all about.

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  16. A wonderful tribute to George. His is absolutely a tragic tale that cannot be told too often

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  17. I remember reading this one previously. A great choice for this week. I think it is terrific to remember the fallen soldiers. My favourite post is about a fallen soldier (but it wasn't a Sepia Saturday post or I would have included it).

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  18. Thank you to everyone for such wonderful comments on my post. I am pleased that it struck a chord with so many people. It was moving to write and we should never forget what ordinary members of our family had to go through in the two world wars and other conflicts.. .

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  19. It is a wonderful piece of history. Life is tough and the two men lived at a very bad time in history. Irony that the uncle died so soon after he wrote the letter. I am glad the graves are kept and honored so well.

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  20. I hate that such a promising life got squashed like that prematurely.
    They all deserved better, but in times of war, nothing is fair.
    Touching post!!
    Well done remembering him,
    especially with Remembrance day today as I read this.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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