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Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Sad Watch Tale - Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.This week's prompt is A CLOCK (in a rather dilapidated office). It  led me onto a sad tale about my great uncle's watch. 

This watch was in the box belonging to my Great Aunt Jennie and was thought to belong to her youngest brother George, as it was with other memorabilia on George.   This is the sad story of his short life.

George Danson was the youngest of eight surviving sons 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.   George 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.

George outside a W. H. Smith's station bookstall

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.

A photograph of George, with his brother Tom on the left,

 Taken by W. J. Gregson & Co, Photographers, 92 Talbot Road, Blackpool.
One of the many embrodered cards sent back from Flanders to George's mother Maria Danson

Also amongst the family papers were two letters written  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, his 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 of George's grave,  sent to his mother Maria Danson  

The later memorial to George

Captain Macleod in writing to his mother who had four other sons serving, said "He was one of my stretcher bearers and was gallantly doing his duty over open and dangerous ground which suddenly became subjected to severe shell fire. He continued steadily bearing his burden and was only stopped by the shell that took his life. We mourn his loss and are very proud of him".

The death announcement in the local paper read:

The bugle may sound, the war drum may rattle
But no more they arouse their young hero to battle
For his King and his Country his life he nobly gave
And now he lies sleeping in a soldier's grave.

From Mother, Brothers, Sister, 2 Bull Street, Poulton-le-Fylde.

  George's Victory Medal and British War Medal which remain in the family possession.

The War Memorial at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.
George is remembered below the name of his brother John Danson
Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


To see how other bloggers have interpreted this week's theme,  look here


  1. An excellent post Sue and I applaud your research skills. This is a fitting tribute to a brave young man. We are fortunate that we are able to use our blogs to give our relatives a lasting memorial in this way and introduce them to a wider audience. You may like to read my own account about my great uncle who died at the same time as yours on the

  2. So many killed and for what purpose? Will people ever learn? A moving post Sue, thank you!

  3. It is sad that so many young men had to die in that and other wars.

  4. What a handsome young man. He wrote a fine letter. I think he'd have been my favorite uncle too. Thank-you for sharing his story.

  5. A moving tribute to a young man sadly lost. My father and one of my uncles served in France in WWI but cme back safely; neither would talk about their experiences.

  6. I echo Bob's remarks. A fine tribute indeed and a very special account of a cherished family member. Thank you.

  7. Your story brought a tear to my eyes. Such a loving tribute, thank you for sharing it with us.

  8. I've never seen one of the original grave crosses before, what a sad thing for a mother to receive. Such sacrifices were made to the madness of war.

  9. So many sad stories in war. Thank you for sharing George's.

  10. What a tribute - and I loved how you used the photos to tell the story!

  11. You did such an excellent job on this post! I am glad that his letter was sent before he died and received. War is awful, but the people who fight in them are very brave. Thank you for sharing George's story with us.

    Kathy M.

  12. Thank you to everyone for their kind comments on a post which I was proud to write. It was very satisfying to bring all the family memorabilia together in this way to tell the story of George's short life - and also the futility of war.

    To Bob - my grandfather was the same. He won the Military Medal at Givenchy but never talked about his war experiences to his children.

    To Joy - I, too, had never seen a photograph about the original war grave crosses - and find it a very powerful image.

  13. What a very moving post Sue! You wrote a fine tribute to George. The photos are amazing too. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Sue, just so you know, this post is listed in the online newspaper Ephemera World at http://paper.li/gen_freak/1330099731?edition_id=2b15eac0-f4ff-11e1-a7f2-002590721286


  14. Oh, how tragic. The many photos and mementos you present really bring him to life...and also give us a sense of how grief stricken his family must have been.

  15. The loss of life in the wars is horrible. The sadness of this post comes also from his last letter with his comment that he hoped they would all be there to join in for a good time after the war. I think it's wonderful that you chose to honor him in this way.

  16. a tragic story beautifully researched and told, thanks for sharing Sue

  17. It is such a sad ending for George, and from his letters you could feel he worried about them coming back home again. war is so senseless. I enjoyed his letters, the descriptions of what was going on, his use of blooming, what a fun chap (another of his favorite words) he must have been. He certainly looked very handsome at his book selling booth, with his tall boots even! But oh my can you imagine a man 5'3" and 109 in weight! Thanks for such a fine tribute to a man who should have come home, married and had more little Georges!

  18. To my latest readers, thank you again for such lovely, thoughtful comments. I am so pleased that the post struck a chord and a special thanks to Jana for the reference to Ephemera World - a new site for me.

  19. Yes, he should have been there to join in the good times. A touching post.

  20. Sue, what a wonderful tribute to your great uncle George. I too feel it so important to remember these people, whose short lives might otherwise have been forgotten.

  21. Oh that was such a sad story and to have all those photos of george made it even sadder. And that death announcement in the paper - so so tragic.

  22. Oh that was such a sad story and to have all those photos of george made it even sadder. And that death announcement in the paper - so so tragic.

  23. A very moving post and tribute to George. I had a great uncle who died while on a WW11 mission and another who was a POW. What a waste of life. Jo

  24. A sad story, so beautifully told, with appealing pictures. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Hi Sue,

    Just wanted to let you know your blog post is listed on today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2012/09/follow-fridayfab-finds-for-september-7.html


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