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.
On the back, someone has written in pencil, ‘Daphne & Gwen at Mt Cook’. This information is repeated underneath in my grandmother’s unmistakable pen scrawl (presumably in case the pencil faded) before adding ‘1939’.
Gwen, on the right is my grandmother, and on the left is Daphne, her best friend.
I know this because Grandma often spoke of her ‘best friend, Daphne’. I wish I could remember the stories – unfortunately, I don’t – but I definitely remember her name, Daphne. So when I came across this photograph again, I decided to learn a bit more about the woman who featured heavily in Grandma’s early life. I messaged my father and asked if he knew her surname. Morrison. She became a doctor and married a doctor, and Dad thought her married name was Adams.
Googling ‘Dr Daphne Morrison New Zealand’ resulted in only 2 appropriate hits. The first, a brief mention in what appears to be the ‘women’s section’ of The Press newspaper on Boxing Day, 1944. (It was interesting to see the surrounding wartime articles and advertisements aimed at women on the full page.
Dr. Daphne Morrison, who has been assistant house surgeon at Dunedin during this year, is visiting Picton for a week or two before taking up her new duties as house surgeon at the Waikato Hospital.
Second, a page on genealogieonline with her bmd information which showed Dad was correct – she was a doctor who did indeed marry a Dr Adams.
Of course, without confirmation I can’t be completely sure but the dates and places were very similar to my grandmother’s. My ancestry search didn’t yield anything although when I googled ‘Daphne Phyllis Morrison’ this information was found on the ancestry site. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I am still unable to find records or trees relating to Daphne despite this information apparently being there.
I found some other information here where it says she had 7 grandchildren but the ancestry links suggest that none are still alive (which I don’t really believe). So I post this information in the hopes that a family member may contact me for more adorable pictures of Daphne and Gwen’s friendship and perhaps have some of their own to share with me.
I mentioned in my previous post that I’d like to know more about Arthur BUCHAN’s next marriage as their children are mentioned in Roy Buchan’s book ‘From Peterhead to Passchendaele’. He had married his first wife, Christian BUCHAN in 1857 who had died by the 1861 census.
Marriage of Arthur BUCHAN and Christian BUCHAN 1857
I located Arthur and his sons on the 1871 census who were now living with Arthur’s new wife, Mary and their new half siblings – Andrew, Mary and Elspet.
Arthur & sons with new family on 1871 census
A search of the IGI located a marriage between Arthur and Mary BRUCE in 1864 which I then downloaded. Strangely, Mary’s parents are not listed.
Marriage of Arthur BUCHAN and Mary BRUCE 1864
A further search of the IGI uncovered the births of their children, Isabella and Peter. This Peter is ‘Uncle Peter’ who Roy refers to as “a shadowy figure who followed the family to New Zealand, arriving in about 1910”. Auntie Isa was also mentioned in letters written by Roy’s father and uncles during World War I. “a rotter who deserted his wife and children” (Buchan, R., From Peterhead to Passchendaele, 2003, p145).
I’m still reading Roy Buchan’s fabulous ‘From Peterhead to Passchendaele’ which has thrown up some more avenues of research but have been wondering about Jessie’s husband who was also a BUCHAN. John’s parents, Arthur and Christian BUCHAN sounded familiar but the same names do keep cropping up in these fishing villages. How closely related were they?
The first step was to download their marriage certificate to prove the parents of John.
Then I located the family on the 1861 census. Christian was deceased and 2 of her sisters were living with Arthur – most likely helping with the 2 young children.
I suspected she died during childbirth but she actually died shortly before the census was taken of consumption and pneumonia.
I then looked to the transcribed 1851 census. Christian and her sisters were there and again appeared in 1841 with their other siblings. Which I will soon look closer at as a study of the village of St Combs.
Roy lists other children of Arthur and Christian but mentions that he believes some are half brothers and sisters and therefore children of another union after Christian died. Before I look further into the BUCHAN – BUCHAN connection, I’d like to find out more about this second union.