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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sepia Saturday - Comrades in Arms

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

I have featured  berets before, have nothing on food parcels or magazine covers, so my choice here is to illustrate  something of the camaraderie  of war.

I must admit I know nothing at all about this first photograph which was in my Great Aunt Jennie's collection.  She was usually good at labeling the photos on the reverse, but there was nothing here to indicate who it was or where it was taken.   I am presuming they are First World War soldiers and Jennie had five brothers who served - William Danson  (my grandfather), John, Tom, Frank and George. from Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool, Lancashire. I could possibly say Tom or Frank are among the soldiers here.  

Was it a group of new recruits?  How many, I wonder survived the conflict.  The background looks very like the many terraced rows of houses and bed & breakfasts you find in Blackpool.  Does anyone have any ideas? 

The photographs below show Frank Danson who was injured and sent to a hospital in Malta. 

This seems  to be some kind of celebration.  Frank (front left)  is dressed formally in his cap, but what about those two colleagues on the back row dressed in what looks like pyjamas and beanie hats

This photograph was again unfortunately unidentified, but I think Frank could be on the right on the front row.  In hospital, wounded soldiers, fit enough to go out, wore a distinctive uniform of blue flannel suits with white revers and a red tie - as shown here.

A photograph I have shown before, but it is such a  good illustration of the camaraderie that could exist amongst soldiers.    The photo  intrigued me when I first saw it as a child. There was no Scottish connection that I knew of on my mother's side, so why was Granddad wearing a kilt and a tammie?   The story was that he became friendly with some Scottish soldiers, and as a laugh he had dressed up in one of their uniform and had his picture taken to send home.  It must have been taken in France as the reverse of the photograph  indicates it is a "Carte Postale" with space for "Correspondance" and "Addresse".  

Onto stories of the Second World War:

This signed menu of December 25th 1939, written in French and typed on flimsy paper, was found amongst  the papers of my Uncle Harry (Danson) who died in 2001.He was in France with the British Expeditionary Force, 9/17th Field Battery.  

In the Sergeant's Mess,  breakfast was cold ham with piccalilli, eggs, coffee and roll and butter;  for dinner  - turkey with chestnuts, pork with apple sauce, potatoes, and cauliflower followed by Christmas pudding, apples, oranges, and nuts, with cognac, rum and beer.  

Five months later, Harry was one of the many men evacuated from Dunkirk, saved by the flotilla of small ships.  Sadly many of the men who were at this meal may not have survived or been taken prisoner.   

Harry later served in north Africa and here he is on the left)  enjoying a donkey ride with a fellow solider.  

My Aunt Peggy (1922-1989),   christened Margaret Olwyn, was the youngest daughter of William and Alice Danson, of Ppulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  She was born after the First World War, so very much the baby of the family to her much older brothers and sisters.

In World War Two she served in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), with a note In the family photograph album that she was  in a Barrage Balloon Squadron in Hull, on the east coast of Yorkshire.  

Aunt Peggy (left) with a WAAF friend
 The barrage balloon was simply a bag of lighter-than-air gas attached to a steel cable anchored to the ground. The balloon could be raised or lowered to the desired altitude by a winch.  It was a passive form of defence designed to force enemy raiders to fly higher, and thus bomb much less accurately.
You Are My Sunshine 
I recently read a novel ("You are My Sunshine" by Katie Flynn)  set against the  background of girls serving in a barrage balloon team.  It gave a graphic picture of the spartan living conditions,  and hard physical, and at times dangerous work, but also the friendship  that could develop during times of war.  

And my aunt Peggy was part of this.  For it was at Hull that she met her husband - Harry Constable, known as Con.

Click HERE to march across to other blogger contributions on this week's theme.


  1. I'd never heard of Barrage Balloons before - but then living in the U.S. there are probably many things from 'across the pond' I've not heard of before. What an inventive idea they were! Passive they may have been, but it seems they provided a good measure of help.

  2. Your granddad looks good in a kilt.

  3. When I saw your menu, I was reminded of a menu from my father's time in the Army. I just looked for it, but couldn't find it...

  4. I have not heard of Barrage Balloons either. Your photos and stories illustrate camaraderie so well. I can see how strong lasting friendships are formed in the service, particularly in times of war.

  5. Although I was only a child during the war I do remember those barrage balloons. Fine collection of photos.

  6. What an interesting post...and I certainly was educated about barrage balloons also.

  7. Great photos! So interesting!

  8. So much that could be commented on. But the photo of Frank Danson. . Those two soft headdresses that you called beanies, I have a vague feeling of having seen images of Turkish soldiers wearing something similar. Could they be trophies of war ? As for Aunt Peggy - those caps with the rolled hair underneath were so..... flattering ! She was lovely.

  9. What a great collection of photos. Camaraderie was a good choice.

  10. Your grandfather may have donned that kilt as a prank, but he certainly looks authentic in it!

  11. Great photo choices. At least the poor guys with the BEF had one decent Christmas dinner. I want to read "You are my Sunshine" - your Aunt Peggy must have been brave.

  12. Wonderful response to the prompt. Isn't it great when you can read fiction based on fact?

  13. Thank you to everyone for such lovely comments. I must admit I had only a very vague idea of what a barrage balloon was until I read the novel which brought it home to me very vividly.

  14. Now that was a good avenue to explore, providing lots of interesting stories and photos.

  15. Very interesting. I especially like the photograph of Aunt Peggy and her friend, and that book sounds like a good one to look out for.


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