Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Letters home from the Western Front, June 1918

George Davison, 1916
Now the anniversary of the outbreak of war in 1914 was always going to bring forth a deluge of books, films and documentaries.

In just the last month I have bought three on Manchester and the Great War, received various newspaper features and seen a series of television documentaries and dramas.*

And I have added my own stories from the blog on everything from the contribution made by the Italian community from Ancoats to the forgotten Red Cross Hospitals and the sacrifices made by dozens of families.

Uppermost in these has been the account of George and Nellie Davison.**

George was born in 1885 and died on the Western Front just months before the armistice, and during his time in the army he sent lots of letters and postcard home
Nellie and young George, 1916

The collection is a large one and covers everything from his enlistment, his first posting to Woolwich, along with his time in Ireland during the Easter Uprising and his final year on the Western Front.

They are a wealth of detail of everyday life, including his concerns and enquiries about life back in Britain and the progress of their young son.

As you read them you begin to get a sense of what George was like, worry with him about the little domestic problems back at home and share his frustration when leave that was promised was cancelled.

But there is no escaping that simple fact that he did not survive and those last few letters sent in June 1918 were to be the last.

Extract from his letter June 15 1918
Now I thought long and hard about this but have decided to include extracts from one of those last letters along with a report of his death.

What ties them together is the dug out that George wrote was “excellent” but which received a direct hit just a few weeks later while he was inside.

He died outright and it was decided that it would prove too dangerous to dig the bodies out.

Extract from letter sent July 6 1918
The following day “an impressive ceremony was held over the dug out.”

To reproduce the story of his death might well be seen as intrusion but I think not.

Having read through the letters and having followed his life from his birth in Manchester it is appropriate to see the events through.

There is much more in the George Davison collection which is held by David Harrop who has featured some of the material in his permanent exhibition in the Memorial Hall i Southern Cemetery and on his site, George Davison Memorial Archive

Pictures; George, Nellie and their son, 1916 and letters from 1918, courtesy of David Harrop

*Manchester In the Great War, Joseph O’Neill, 2014, Manchester Pals, Michael Stedman, 2004, The Great War and the North West, Edited by Nick Mansfield, 2014, World War One Remembered, Manchester Evening News August 4 1914

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

**George Davison Memorial Archive, https://www.facebook.com/pages/George-Davison-Memorial-Archive/819065671448820

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