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Friday, 9 November 2018

Discovering a Third War Memorial to my Great Uncle George Danson

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My great uncle George Danson (1894-1916) of Poulton-le-Fylde,Lancashire has featured in a number  of my blog posts.  He was a stretcher bearer in the First World War and was killed on the Somme, a week after his 22nd birthday. He was buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs,  France and also remembered on the war memorial of his home town, below the name of his brother John. 
 
But  it is thanks to a reader of my blog, that I learned the existence of another War Memorial that lists George’s name - in Todmorden,  a cotton mill town in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, where George was working at the time of his enlistment.

THE TODMORDEN  CONNECTION

1916 saw Conscription introduced in Britain. George was working as a  W.H. Smith bookstall manager at Todmorden Station.   I was lucky enough to find  on Ancestry his service record, as many were destroyed in bombing in the Second World War. This 

At his enlistment, George's address was given as 17 Barker Street, Harley Bank, Todmorden.  His 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 slight figure to be a stretcher bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  


I turned to the 1911 census online  and found the Dodd family at  17 Barker Street, Harley Bank,  Todmorden, with head of household Elizabeth Dodd (occupation choring) and three daughters Amy aged 15 (a cotton weaver), Edna 12 (a fustian sewer)  and Lavinia  aged 9.  The photograph below  was found amongst the collection of George's sister Jennie, who wrote the inscription on the back.

 

 GEORGE'S WAR 
Two letters that George wrote to his brothers Tom and Frank are among  the family's treasures.  

The second letter of 23rd August 1916 was to Frank, the nearest to him in age of his seven brothers.  It reads 
"At present we are about 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 about 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".
Sadly  it was not to be.  George was killed on the 16th September 1916, according to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Below is a newspaper cutting from a local newspaper, sent to me by my Todmorden contact.

The article noted that George had worked at Todmorden for 12 months, lodging at Harley Street.  
 "He was well known and highly esteemed by his wide circle of friends in Todmorden and was a fairly regular attender at Todmorden Parish Church" 
 His corporal wrote:
"He was one of my stretcher bearers and gallantly doing his duty over open and dangerous ground, which became subject to severe enemy shellfire. He continued steadily bearing his burden, and was only stopped by a shell which took his life and that of his comrade beside him".

TODMORDEN GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE IN CENTRE VALE PARK
Approx. 670 names  are listed on the large war memorial. 


 






Unfortunately George's name has been  wrongly engraved as "Dawson", but there is no question that it is George Danson,  my great uncle.

 REMEMBERING  GEORGE

This photograph marks George's resting place and was sent to his widowed mother Martha Maria Danson.  It is a stark image and contrasts sharply with the sad beauty of the later gravestones at the Commonwealth War Graves sites across the world.
 
My cousin standing behind George's Grave at the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, France.
The War Memorial in the Square at Poulton-le-Fylde, George's birthplace.  In the background is St. Chad's Church where George sang in the choir. 
 
George's name below that of his brother John 

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George remains one of my favourite ancestors in my family history story. I must admit it had never occurred to me to look  to Todmorden for any information on him  and I was delighted to receive this contribution from my Todmorden contact. 

You will find more posts  on George at:
A Stretcher Bearer in the Field
George Danson, a Man of Many Roles 




5 comments:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful addition to your memorials to your ancestor. It's very timley as we have our Veterans Day to remember the end of WW I on Nov. 11, at 11 am.

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  2. Such a moving tribute to your great-uncle George. Stretcher bearer must have been one of the most difficult jobs in the Army.

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  3. What a great tribute to your great -uncle! Your post shows exactly why are blogging is so valuable. If it were not for your 1st post about George, you might not have ever learned about the other memorial.

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  4. A moving tribute to this man who died much too soon. The photos are wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Thank you for sharing and remembering this brave man! I imagine that being a stretcher bearer was a relentless and dangerous job. But he likely also helped save many lives before he lost his own. We will never forget.

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