Sunday, 8 November 2015

Letters from the Western Front

Mr and Mrs Davison and their son, date unknown
I am coming to the end of the project to scan and read the war letters of George Davison.*

It has been a moving experience and one that has taken me from his first letters and postcards to his death on the Western Front just five months before the end of that war.

But the collection is bigger than even this because it starts with his school records, includes the letters he sent to his future wife and finishes with the terse official correspondence from the War Office and along with all these is a series of further documents taking us into the 1950s.

They cover his enlistment in Manchester, his time in Woolwich and Ireland before his arrival in France and also reveal the changing addresses of his family.

I have yet to read them in detail but as I move to scan the last letters of May and early June I know that I will soon record his last letter because he was killed on June 17 1918.

And nothing quite prepares you for the knowledge that soon there will be no more letters from George and that the link with his wife of seven years will be severed.

His final letters talk of the irritations of moving around the Front including the loss of personal equipment and the varying quality of the accommodation and on June 15 wrote

The last letter from George to his wife, June 15, 1918
“You would be surprised to see some of our living places – at present we have an excellent dug out about 20 feet below the surface. 

It has however two drawbacks – poor ventilation and only artificial (candle) light.  

Compared to some it is a Palace.”

And this was where he died on June 17 when the dugout received a direct.  All three men in the dug out were “killed instantly” and according to the Royal Engineers who inspected the position “it was not considered safe to recover the bodies.

The dug out was then filled in and is marked as the resting place of your brother in law and his comrade. ”**

Now I have read and reread those last few letters and they still have the power to move me.

I was prepared for the fact that he was killed but you can never quite shake off either the manner of the death or that the description in the letter of July 6.

And that I think is all that needs to be said.

Picture; of George and Nellie Davison and additional material courtesy of David Harrop

*George Davisonhttp://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/George%20Davison

*extract of the letter sent to Bdn W.F.Evans, R.A.F, July 6 1918

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