Making the News: “An extraordinary double tragedy”

26 Nov

A couple of weeks ago I decided to follow up one of the mysteries that I uncovered in the National Probate Calendar, and it turned out to be one of the most heart-breaking stories that I have uncovered whilst researching my family history.

Whilst searching the probate calendar I came across the entries for a pair of GASSONs from Haywards Heath, Sussex. I wrote about my discovery and a few thoughts about what might have happened here. I suggested that their deaths might have been as a result of enemy bombing during the Second World War, but the truth is that although it could be attributed to the war, the story was far more tragic.

I will let the newspaper report from the Sussex Daily News dated Thursday 17th October 1940 tell the story:

COUPLE DIE IN DUG-OUT

HAYWARDS HEATH TRAGEDY

An extraordinary double tragedy which occurred at Haywards Heath was discovered on Tuesday afternoon at about 1.15, and the inquiry into it was held the same afternoon by East Sussex Coroner, Dr. E. F. Hoare.

Deceased were William Edward Gasson and his wife, Dorothy Gasson, of 3 North-road. They had been found dead in the dug-out in their garden.

In the dug-out was a brazier with coal ashes in it and an oil stove. The latter had not been used. There was also a candle.

Deceased were found in a sitting posture. Everything went to show that the previous night they had gone to their dug-out and had lighted the fire in the brazier, and that while they were sitting there the fumes had overcome them.

A neighbour made investigations on Tuesday on finding that the morning milk had not been taken in.

Evidence was given at the inquiry by the neighbour, Jesse Laker, and by the son, William Ernest Gasson, who did not live at the house.

The Coroner found death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning and recorded a verdict of “Death by misadventure.”

I have read some pretty sad stories in the course of my research, but this really touched a nerve and I was almost in tears as I read the article. I don’t know quite why it touched me so, they are not particularly close relations, but regardless of that it is still a really sad story.

The couple had only recently married (the son was from William’s first marriage) and to die in such an unnecessary and avoidable way when people were dying as a result enemy bombing (from which the GASSONs were trying to escape) seems desperately unlucky.

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