Recently, I rediscovered a photo of my grandmother and her classmates in 1938, hidden in one of my family history books. On the reverse, in my grandmother’s scrawl, are written the names of her fellow schoolgirls.
As I recognise my grandmother, Gwen and her best friend, Daphne in the front row of the picture, I believe the girls in the photo are as follows (L-R):
BACK: Phyllis Jones, Joyce Clayton, Kay Bell, Pat Johnson
Dear Father, I think I have a little good news to tell you, but of course do not rely too much on what I am going to say as you know in the Army things may be altered at the last moment. We have just received news here that the Main Body are being sent home, and will probably leave any day. I think the news is fairly reliable as the old hands have had their names taken and according to what I hear they are making arrangements in England for the transportation home… …if that is the case I will be well on the way by the time this reaches you, and will be able to spend a very enjoyable Xmas at home. (20.9.17)
This letter was written to John Buchan (1858-1926) from his son Arthur from the battlefields in Belgium. Sadly, he never got to spend that ‘enjoyable Xmas at home’ as a week later, Private Arthur Buchan of the ‘Main Body’ was gassed and received gunshot wounds to his head and arm. He died only ten days after writing that hopeful letter to his father.
In 1893, Arthur was a 2 year old boy emigrating to New Zealand aboard the Rimutaka (seen in a previous post); the cousin of my great-grandfather, Charles Buchan (also aboard).
In 1917, Arthur was one of the 400 000 who died in the Battle of Passchendaele.
This year commemorates the centenary of this horrific event, also known as the ‘Third Battle of Ypres’.
A letter from a friend to Arthur’s cousin, Bill (my GGF Charles Buchan’s brother) gives more detail on the incident that led to his death:
We were in the old Hun front line at Ypres, in front of the village of St Jean & were to go into the advanced front line next evening. Early in the morning Fritz sent over gas shells & we had our masks on for 4 1/2 hours when we got word that it was clear. We were just settling down again to sleep when he sent a stray one over which landed clean on the duckboard in the corner of the bay. Arthur was lying in the transverse & it landed within a yard of his feet and in addition to gassing him wounded him in three places namely, temple, left wrist shattered & a bad smack in the right shoulder. He was very game &, bad as he was, insisted in walking out himself. He was carried out though and I can truthfully say was not in any pain. The gas is very poisonous & I think that is the cause of his death as another chap got only a small piece in the back and died the next day… A McLennan (24.10.17)
Cousin Bill wrote from his own hospital bed in Walton on Thames to his Uncle John in New Zealand:
I have often told you he was a son and a brother to be proud of – a brave and fearless soldier who was ever ready to volunteer for any dangerous work. From time to time I have met men who had been in the trenches with him and their frank admiration of him as a soldier and acomrade has made me proud that I bear his name. His many friends at Walton ask me to convey to you their sincere sympathy – his loss is deeply regretted by everyone he knew in the village… the real grief I met with on every hand is the best testimony to the manner in which he had endeared himself to all…
Perhaps even more tragic is the postscript of the same letter, which reads:
I have just seen the latest casualty list with Billie’s name on it. What can I say? May God be with you in your time of trouble and comfort you in your bereavement.
Billie was Arthur’s younger brother who died on October 24, 1917, less than a month after his elder sibling. A letter detailing the circumstances around his death was received by father, John from Billie’s lieutenant:
We had just made the attack on Passchendaele on the 12th October and were for a few days holding the line in front of the Village… We occupied a German pillbox as my [head quarters] and were in it when Fritz commenced a heavy gas shell bombardment. I was in the act of posting a Gas sentry when a shell burst in the doorway and filled the pillbox with gas. We all received a big dose before we could don our masks. We all took all known precautions against the gas, burning and fanning, and after having worn our masks for over an hour I took it upon myself the responsibility of ordering them off. The air smelled perfectly sweet and free from gas, but in about eight hours time most of us began to vomit and go blind. I sent all those affected out and followed shortly afterwards… Three others besides Corp. Cooney and Pte Buchan died as a result of this gassing and I feel sure their deaths in all cases were due to complications of pneumonia… I can only say that no one knew til afterwards that the gas destroyed the sense of smell and so prevented us from detecting its presence… (2nd Lieutenant David Williams (18.7.18)
Perhaps it was merciful that their mother, Jessie had died before the onset of WWI in 1910.
In my last post, I was trying to find a more exact address for Thomas Palmer, bookseller of Gosport. I had narrowed him down to ‘Upper South Street’ but not being a local, still had no idea where exactly upon the street he lived. The breakthrough came when I found a newspaper article reporting a robbery at his premises:
John Daly, a Royal Artilleryman, was charged with attempting to break into the dwelling house of Thomas Palmer, almost opposite the Police Station, on the previous night. The prisoner was heard at the shutter by a policeman who was going to bed, and he gave information to a brother constable on duty, upon which he went outside the station gate and there saw the prisoner, without a jacket, standing by the window of the house, the shutters being open and partially broken. On seeing the policeman he ran away and was afterwards taken by P.C. Gibbs in a passage in North-street. Mr. Palmer, the occupier of the house, proved fastening up the house about 9 o’clock the previous night. Prisoner was committed for trial.
So now I knew that he lived “…almost opposite the Police Station…”.
Unfortunately, the police station no longer exists on South Street after being destroyed by enemy action in 1941. I found a photograph of the building in 1949 on the Gosport Heritage site but it gave me no other details. Luckily however I found a c.1896 map which marked the location of the police station which made the description, ‘almost opposite’ make sense.
Interestingly, there is also a photo on the Gosport Heritage site captioned; ‘Portland Place; south side of South Street, running north-south almost opposite to the OLD police station.’ I’m pretty sure Palmer’s old book shop is just out of shot on the far left of this image (behind the first building).
That’s probably as close as I’m going to get but since the buildings on that block are long gone now, I still feel strangely accomplished.
Thomas PALMER was a book seller and book binder. I know this because of census entries, parish records and marriage certificates.
The first indication of his profession was his son George Wright PALMER’s marriage certificate, where Thomas’ profession was listed as ‘Bookseller’. George had given his place of birth as Portsea, Hampshire on the 1861 census which allowed me to locate his father Thomas in Hampshire on the 1851 and 1861 censuses despite George not being in the home (more about the 1841 later). Like any keen family historian, I wanted to know exactly where this family lived.
Thomas didn’t appear on the 1871 census but he DID appear in the 1867 ‘Kelly’s Directory of Hampshire’ as a secondhand bookseller in Upper South street, Gosport. This would’ve narrowed it down a bit except I had no idea which end of the street was upper?
The 1855 ‘Post Office Directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorsetshire’ specified number 53 Upper South Street (as did the 1861 census) but I recall the street numbers of the past may not necessarily be in the same location as street numbers today.
However, the 1859 ‘Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’ listed Thomas at 61 South street.
There were no other appropriate directories on the Historical Directories site for me to search. Thomas does not appear in the 1828 or 1844 Pigot’s directories of Hampshire, nor have I found him yet in the 1841 census.
So, the address list compiled so far is as follows:
It’s been a while since I looked into my Scottish forebears but was enticed back to search the Valuation Rolls held by Scotlands People. Happy to find William GLAISTER, smith, listed as occupier at the Smithy in Kelso (Bridge St & Abbey Row). The owner of the property was David FLEMING, Blacksmith.
The next (and only other) Glaister mention was a Mrs Janet Glaister, occupying a house and stable at 56 Horsemarket, Kelso.
This threw me for a bit, as by 1875, William had emigrated to New Zealand. The 1872 Hydaspes passenger list shows that his second wife, Janet, travelled with him so how could she be listed as tenant in Kelso? Then I realised this Janet was the wife of William’s brother, Thomas who died in 1870.
This encouraged me to find out more about exactly where the family lived and worked in Kelso. I trawled the Kelso Chronicle for any GLAISTER mentions and managed to find address details through advertisements;
“W. GLAISTER begs to intimate that he has removed to those commodious Premises in Bridge Street known as FLEMING’S SMITHY.” (Kelso Chronicle, 03 July 1863, p1 c6)
“At Forest Field, Kelso, on the 9th inst, the wife of Mr William Glaister, smith and bellhanger, of a son.” (Kelso Chronicle 10 April 1863, p3 c6)
and court reports:
The valuation rolls, birth records and newspapers have thus helped me to more accurately trace the movements of this family around the town between the census years and enabled me to pinpoint buildings in which they lived and worked. The historical maps on the National Library of Scotland site, have allowed me to be even more precise. For example, the Bridge Street smithy is actually labelled on the 1847 Kelso town plan. Also, modern Forestfield is now a street name – old Forestfield seems to now be addressed as Inch Road.
So, the addresses I have pieced together so far are:
1841 – Woodmarket, Kelso (with mother)
1843 – Kelso (marriage certificate)
1851 – Roxburgh Street, Kelso
1853 – Kelso (birth of son – parish record)
1857 – Forrestfield, Kelso (marriage to 2nd wife)
1858 – 9 Forrest Field, Kelso (birth of daughter)
1860 – 9 Forrest Field, Kelso (birth of son)
1861 – 4 Forrestfield, Kelso (transcription error for 9?)
1862 – Shop at the foot of Horsemarket, Kelso (May 26) (newspaper advertisement)