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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Sepia Saturday - Band of Brothers

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

This week's prompt asks us to pay tribute to our ancestors who fought in the First World War.  I am proud to have covered this topic before several  times in  my blog, most recently in November 2013 when I took part in the Remembrance Day Challenge.  

Few  families in the land could have escaped the impact of the First World War  and my mother's Danson family  was no exception.  What must  it have been like for my widowed great grandmother Maria Danson (nee Rawcliffe) seeing her five sons going away to war ?  

One of the many embroidered cards sent home by my grandfather

William (Billy) - my grandfather who was awarded the Military Medal for action  at Givenchy  and fought at the Bottle of Paschendaele.
He never spoke of his war experiences.  
John (the eldest)  - died in army camp 1917
leaving his motherless daughter 
Annie an orphan,
             George (the youngest) - a          stretcher bearer killed 
on the Somme in 1916 aged just 22. 

Frank who was wounded and hospitalized on Malta


Also remembering:
  • Arthur William Matthews, my great uncle on my father's side, killed at Gallipoli in 1915, leaving a wife, four young children and eight siblings. 
  • John Thomas Matthews, Arthur's brother,  killed in France in 1916 leaving a wife  and six children.

  • Frederick Donaldson, my husbands great uncle,  killed on the Somme, in 1916,  the same day as George above  and remembered on the Thiepval Monument.  

The reality of war faced by so many families is epitomized in this  photograph of George' Danson's grave, sent to his mother Maria Danson.  It conveys in a stark way the  horrors of mud and blood that our ancestors must have experienced and contrasts with the pristine white of the more lasting memorials that we recognize today.    


 Just one extended family's experience of the First World War

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights  



  1. So many young mens' lives wasted. So many young wives left without husbands. So many children left without fathers. So many mothers left without sons. What is the answer to it all? I wish somebody knew.

  2. Your great grandmother must have been sad and worried to see her sons go to war, but proud too.

  3. The photo of the grave is eerie. You are right that it represents how horrible war is.

  4. Somehow I don't think that 'Souvenir from France' would have compensated for the losses suffered by the families you nave shared with us.

  5. My great-grandmother had four sons go off...three came back home. What a horrible waste war is, anyway!

  6. Such beautiful young men. Bur look at their eyes. Some of them look confident but Frank doesn't. To me he looks sad.and Frank has the eyes of a thinker. Man's inhumanity to man.

  7. You have so many commemorations of that awful time. I am glad we are sharing these here today. I love the embroidery

  8. For many families who received a photo of a grave marker like George Danson's, it might have been the only memento they ever got of a fallen soldier's burial site. The wooden crosses were temporary and many graves were moved after the war with new replacement stone markers. Most Canadian, Australian, and American families were never able to visit the cemeteries and see the rows and rows of graves. But the photographer who pointed the camera at each grave, developed rolls and rolls of film, and printed the thousands of photos, must have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the war's cost in life.

  9. In many ways the women were as brave as the men. Although not being shot at, they had the constant anxiety of not knowing how they were getting on, and to send so many sons! You must be proud of your grandfather's MM.

  10. Five sons! My Great grandma lost three - thank goodness the youngsest was only 8 years old, but I can’t imgaine worrying constanty about five of them. So sad that she lost two but at least your grandfather (like mine) survived. Neither of my grandfathers spoke of their experiences in the war.

  11. Much like in my post, it is a sobering sight when you see all of these crosses and monuments in those cemeteries dedicated to the fallen ones. The number of lives extinguished too soon is staggering...

  12. I can't imagine what it was like for your great-grandmother each time there was a knock at the door or a telegram arrived.

  13. there was something in the paper today about overturning the myths about World War 1 which was claiming that it wasn't the scale of slaughter that some previous wars had been. But it was a scale of slaughter that touched practically all British families and which coincided with photography and family history records. Thus it is still a way which touches us all.

  14. Such sadness of lives cut short and those left behind you have so poignantly shown. A family story repeated so many times in all the countries taken to war.


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