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Monday, 4 November 2013

Remembrance Day Challenge: John Danson - Tragedy and Mystery

REMEMBRANCE DAY CHALLENGE is the prompt from Julie at Anglers Rest who invites us to first present a photo collage  and write about  our ancestors and family  who served in war. 

John Danson (1879-1917)  was the second of eight surviving  sons of James Danson (1852-1906) and Maria Rawcliffe (1859-1919) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  

In the 1901 census John was described as a joiner, like his father.  Three years later he married Sarah Haydon Lounds with the certificate giving his occupation as postman. 

Tragedy, however, struck when Sarah died in 1906 of TB at the young age of 21, a year after the birth of their daughter Annie Maria.  

John moved with Annie back to his childhood home.
Right -  Annie with her grandmother Maria Danson and young aunt Jennie.

Many World War One Service records were destroyed in the Second World War and little is known about John's soldier role. 

He became  a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and  died 17th May 1917, aged 38,  buried in Moorland Cemetery, Poulton. 

Something of a mystery surrounds John's  death, with a story that "Granny had to fight to get his name on the Poulton War Memorial in the Square" and he was not listed  on the memorial in St. Chad's Church (left)  below the name of his brother George Danson. 

I have a distinct memory of my mother's cousin, (John's niece) telling me  about 12 years ago that John had committed suicide as a prisoner of war.

This was a puzzle, as John was buried in Poulton Cemetery which did not seem possible if he died in Germany.  Nor could I trace any records for World War One prisoners of war. 
John's death was recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website  but no details given as to circumstances and other World War One sites on casualties and service records failed to find any information.
A local historian researching the names on Poulton War Memorial found that John had died at Tidworth Hospital whilst training at army camp without serving abroad.   

The local paper  "The Gazette News" of 25th May 1917 reported:
"Gunner John Danson, RFA who has died in Tidworth Hopistal, Hants was interred in the Poulton Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.  The deceased soldier who lived at 2 Bull Street, Poulton has been in H.M. forces nine months.  He was formerly a postman and steward at the Poulton Institute.  Three of his brothers are still serving with the forces, two in France and one in Malta, and another the youngest was killed eight months ago".
Because John had not served abroad, he was not entitled to any medals.

So the "prisoner of war story" proved incorrect.  Had I assumed the POW context from hearing the word "camp" - I will never know.   So far I have not gone down the route of obtaining a death certificate which should clarify the cause of death.

John died as happiness was beckoning.  For he had become
engaged to be married to Dorothy Chisholm (left).  In the collection of Jennie Danson (John's sister)  was a postcard photograph of John and Dorothy addressed to young Annie with the date May 4th 1917, thirteen days before John died.

John's fiancée Dorothy became one of the thousands of women of her generation  who after the war never married.  But the  Danson family continued to maintain a close link with her. She lived alone in a   bedsitter and I have  memories as a child  of visiting her with my mother and aunt.  


Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Res


  1. So much sadness in these stories Susan. I feel for those men who died before they went overseas yet were treated as if their service meant nothing. The death cert would be interesting.

  2. What a sad story, I would have to call for the death certificate and try and unravel the mystery of the mention on the war memorial. Perhaps the newspapers have something of time. Very sad, both for John and Dorothy.


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