The Perils of Passchendaele

Shows two French soldiers beside a muddy cemetery. (via National Army Museum)

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.

Through gas and smoke, our troops advance to the final assault of Passchendaele Ridge’, 1917.  (via National Army Museum)

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)
Wounded from Ypres at improvised hospital, Bailleul, nd. (via National Army Museum)
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…
Billy
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)
German pillbox on the Passchendaele battlefield (via NZHistory)

Perhaps it was merciful that their mother, Jessie had died before the onset of WWI in 1910.

Lest we forget.

Arthur & William Buchan (via From Peterhead to Passchendaele, Roy Buchan)

The information and excerpts contained in this post were provided by Roy Buchan from his book From Peterhead to Passchendaele (2003).

Addressing Up

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.

William Glaister appears in the 1865 Valuation Rolls

The next (and only other) Glaister mention was a Mrs Janet Glaister, occupying a house and stable at 56 Horsemarket, Kelso.

Mrs Janet Glaister appears in the 1875 Valuation Rolls

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.

William Glaister & family on board the Hydaspes (emigrating to New Zealand) in 1872

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)

Newspaper advertisement for William Glaister’s business (Kelso Chronicle 03 July 1863, p1 c6)

birth announcements;

“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)

Edward Glaister’s birth announcement (Kelso Chronicle 10 April 1863, p3 c6)

and court reports:

Report of theft from the Glaister shop on Bridge St (Kelso Chronicle 21 February 1868, p2 c6)

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.

[Fleming’s] Smithy as labelled on the 1857 Kelso Town Map

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)

1863 – Premises at Fleming’s Smithy, Bridge Street, Kelso (June 3) (newspaper advertisement)

1863 – 9 Forrest Field, Kelso (birth of son – register & newspaper)

1865 – Smithy (Bridge Street & Abbey Row), Kelso (Valuation Rolls)

1866 – Foot of Bridge Street, Kelso (Abbey Row – birth of son – newspaper announcement)

1868 – Bridge St (theft) (newspaper article)

1869 – House and shop in Bridge St, Kelso (until Whitsunday 1869)

1871 – 4 Coal Market Square, Kelso (then R Glaister & Co 18 Woodmarket)

1872 – New Zealand

 

 

 

Birthplace Pedigree Charts

You may have seen a lot birthplace pedigree charts posted online recently.

I created charts for my own and my husband’s family’s countries of birth knowing that it would visually represent something that I think is pretty rare.

My pedigree:

palmerbirthplacepedigreeMy husband’s pedigree:

ebbansbirthplacepedigree

Notice anything?

5 generations of English heritage on both the maternal and paternal sides, all the way through.

And this pattern has continued further back too.  In fact, the ONLY ancestor I’ve discovered not born in England (so far) was born in America (6th generation) to English parents, due to her father’s service in the British military.  Surely, she is considered English too?

Either way, I’d like to know anyone else who has this.  I’ve been led to believe it’s pretty rare due to a programme aired (ten years ago now) where people who thought they were completely English found out they were anything but.

Is it so rare?

If you would like to compile your own chart, head to AnceStories for a pre-made template.

Find A Brown

After contact from a distant relative, I’ve spent the weekend revising my BROWN information and basically doing a kind of stocktake on the records I have for the family.

James BROWN (abt 1801) had 3 successive wives, 8 children and one more potential child born out of wedlock (see Antenuptial Fornication).  These lives centred around the farm, Woodhead of Dardarroch in the Glencairn parish of Dumfriesshire.  After tidying up my records, I rewarded myself with a quick search for Dardarroch and lo and behold, the gravestone of James’ parents was revealed to me (or at least the location and inscription):

screenshot from findagrave.com

Birth: 

Jun. 11, 1793
Dumfries, Scotland

Death: 

Apr. 29, 1870
Dumfries, Scotland


In memory of Daniel BROWN who died at Moorhouse, Keir 29th April 1870 aged 77 years. Also William his son who died 1st May 1865 aged 34 years. Also Mary his daughter who died in 1848 aged 7 years. Margaret his daughter who died in Sept 1858 aged 28 years.
[West Side]
Here lyes Margret BROUN who died Mrch 14 1796 aged 2 months. Margt BROWN spouse to William CLERK, who died 27th Oct 1820 aged 25 years. Also Jean MAXWELL, spouse to John BROWN, who died upon the 19th Jan 1827 aged 66 years. Also the said John BROWN who died at Woodhead of Dardarroch the 15th of April 1840 aged 80 years. Erected by John BROUN, father in Crosford. 1796.

Burial:
Penpont Parish Churchyard
Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

 

This gravestone inscription has given me another child (Margret); death dates for John BROWN & Jean MAXWELL, as well as approximate birth dates.

It has also given me some other leads to follow, including 2 other ‘Brown’ graves on the Find A Grave website. Thankyou transcriber!

Adopting a New Approach

The 1881 census first told me that my second great grandfather, Alexander Gibson REID (also featured in my post, Dating Photographs) was adopted. I found it very interesting but soon realised that this created a problem for my research.

alexgibsonreidjanet
Alexander Gibson REID on a family outing circa 1928
see Dating Photographs post for more information

Finding Alex on the 1871 census confirmed the adoption and cemented the final stone in a very solid brick wall.  Unfortunately, it will probably take a minor miracle to break this one as there were no adoption records in the 1860s.  In fact, there were no scottish adoption records at all until 1930. This problem is not unique to Scotland either as many family historians have no doubt discovered.

REID family on the 1871 census

Both censuses state Alex was born in Dunoon, Argyllshire about 1863.  I have tried searching for birth records under that name but have got no results.  This indicates to me that Alexander may have been renamed by his adoptive family; which also indicates that he was probably adopted very young.  Possibly from a family member, possibly from the victim of a colliery accident, possibly this, possibly that… There could be so many other explanations – too many for me to list all the possibilities here.

In the hopes a miracle will be bestowed on me, I want to gather as many clues as I can by studying the adoptive family.  The key (or sledgehammer) may just lie in the family names or newspaper reports from the places they lived.

REID family on the 1861 census

Gibson REID had been a coal miner since he was at least 15 (source – 1841 & 1851 censuses) but by 1861, he was a colliery clerk in New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire.  He lived with his wife, Agnes (nee GIBB) in Knightswood (now part of Glasgow but then still a rural area with small scale mining source).

Gibson was 35 years old, born in Crichton, Midlothian; Agnes was 36, born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire.  They were living in Knightswood Cottage with their children; Mary, Alexander, Janet, Robert & Isabella, who were aged between 1 & 13 years of age.  All the children were born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire except the youngest, Isabella, who was born in New Kilpatrick the previous year.

Death certificate of Gibson REID – 27 Jan 1872, New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire

A brief timeline of Gibson REID:
About 1826 – born in Crichton, Edinburgshire.
1841 – living in the HOGG household (William and Euphemia) with Robert, John & William REID (siblings?) & 50 year old, Agnes REID (mother Agnes listed on death certificate)

Sometime after 1841 – moved to Bothwell, married Agnes and had their first child, Mary in 1848.
Between 1851 and 1860 – became a colliery clerk and moved to New Kilpatrick.
Between 1863 and 1871 – adopted Alexander Gibson.
1871 still living at Knightswood Cottage.
1872 died of chronic bronchitis.Next Steps:
Search for male births (first name Alexander, blank surname) for familiar or possible mother names
Check Argyllshire newspapers for local tragedies
Check 1841 census for Agnes Gibb and her family found 4 possible matches – 1 most likely in Bothwell (sisters Catherine & Jean?)