Saturday, September 08, 2018

Great uncles

We've just watched The Last Night of the Proms, in which they remembered the First World War and sang some of the popular songs from that time, such as "Keep the Home Fires Burning". This made me think of my long-dead Great-Uncle Alexander, who as I said in the previous post, was gassed in the war and died in 1919. Here he is, with his little sister, my Granny.

She always said that he was a lovely boy, but he died at 25 and left little behind that has survived: only a few photos and a vase that he gave to Granny. Granny remembered him saying that she - a little person - was "just the right size for dancing underneath the bed".

Because he died after the war, though from its effects, his name is on no war memorial. Effectively there's no one to remember him. So I thought I'd at least write this.

Here they are again. 

And again. And that's more or less all there is of him apart from a couple of snaps. He never married. His name was Alexander Anderson Watt.

Even more sadly, as I said in the previous post, there was a sister younger than my granny: Agnes. She had TB from an early age and there are no photos of her, even though she was only two years younger than my Granny so must have been alive when the top photo was taken. Presumably she was too ill to go to the photographer's?

And this - I think - is the army death list for my Grandpa's brother, John Campbell, who died in the war at the age of 33.  There he is, right in the middle of many other young men who died tragically young. It's not an unusual name in Scotland but the dates and his age match up with the information I have, so I think this is the right chap. I assume there will be no death certificate in the Scottish records because he didn't die here. My Grandpa was also shot at Gallipoli, but he survived, though the forefinger of his right hand was permanently bent and useless. We don't even have a photo of John. I have no idea what he did or what he was like. I'm sure my Grandpa would have told me, but I never asked, which I now regret.

And that's only that side of the family. Those of us who came after are so lucky compared to that generation.


  1. He should be on a war memorial somewhere. All wars a r e terrible, but this one was beyond that. How good that you're keeping his memory alive.

  2. Try I believe you can put up a memorial to them there.

  3. So many tragic stories. We seem to focus so much more on WWII and don't know much about WWI. My grandfather, a Scot, fought in WWI in France, although he wasn't yet a U.S. citizen. I wish I had asked him for stories growing up. There is so much that has been lost because people were reticent about sharing those experiences, and many of us were(at the time) not as interested as we are now.

  4. Isn't family history fun? I'm always amazed at how much we can find out, given such little information. People back then, did indeed, have it much harder. I often wish my grandparents or great grandparents were still here -- as you've said, so many unanswered questions!

  5. Anonymous5:20 pm

    The furthest back I can go is to my Paternal Grandmother, little Amelia whom I knew, and loved, very well. I believe that I inherited her rebellious nature...

  6. This is a heartbreaking story. Your great uncle looks like such a fine young man....And just multiply his story by a few millions. It's difficult to take it in.

  7. I think he has a hint of P (Doctor Son) about the eyebrows.