Tag Archives: second world war

Family Heirloom: Grandad’s Button

11 May

Here is another part of my grandad’s Second World War army uniform, a jacket button from his time serving in the Royal Engineers.

The button is about an inch in diameter and appears to be made from brass. The maker’s name is on the back, FIRMIN LONDON.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Postcard Album: Gibraltar – Gates to Spain

3 May

Continuing on the theme of my grandad’s Second World War army service the postcard below is presumably a souvenir brought back from his time in Gibraltar with the Royal Engineers.

Although you can’t tell from the scan the left edge is perforated, indicating that it has come from a book of postcards or maybe a string of postcards joined end to end. This is the only one of these I have, so I don’t know what happened to the others, if indeed my grandad brought the whole set.

It is of course possible that this didn’t come back from Gibraltar with my grandad, but rather it was something that he acquired later on as a reminder of his time there.

I imagine that the postcard dates from the 1930s but that is just a guess really, my grandad was definitely out in Gibraltar in December 1940, but I am not sure for how long.

I think it is quite a nice image, not particularly picturesque but an interesting historical record of the border. I love the wheelbarrow abandoned on the corner of the pavement.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Family Heirloom: Grandad’s Cap Badge

28 Apr

I have been showing you some mementos of my grandad’s army service during the Second World War. None of the earlier ones have really been obvious military items, but here is one heirloom that is undoubtedly military.

I don’t think there is much more explanation needed, the cap badge is made from plastic, presumably bakelite, for economy purposes. It has brass fittings on the back as well as the manufacturer’s name: A STANLEY & SONS, WALSALL.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Family Heirloom: Two Lumps of Rock

13 Apr

Continuing on from my previous family heirloom post, below is a photo of another family heirloom, or rather pair of family heirlooms. They are somewhat less practical that the shoe brush last time, in fact they serve no useful purpose other than to illustrate a part of my grandad’s army life.

The story (told to me by my father) goes that these two pieces of rock were pieces of the Rock of Gibraltar brought back from Gibraltar by my grandad who had been stationed out there whilst serving with the Royal Engineers during the Second World War.

Whilst I am pretty certain that he served in Gibraltar (and could confirm that with his service record), I have no way of knowing whether these are in fact bits of the Rock, unless I can find a geologist with some way of analysing them.

However I am quite happy to accept the story that these were souvenirs of his time spent in Gibraltar and have no reason to doubt it.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Family Heirloom: Grandad’s Shoe Brush

1 Apr

Some family heirlooms are more useful than others and this is definitely one of them. Some are meant to be put on display, but this one lives in the cupboard under the kitchen sink.

This is my grandad’s army issue shoe brush, used by him during has service with the Royal Engineers and used by me this morning to polish my shoes ready for work on Monday morning.

Although it is not particularly clear I know it was his brush because it has his service number (1879445) stamped on the top.

One side has the words “WARRANTED ALL HORSE-HAIR  1939”, which is presumably the year and on the other side are the words “BEECHWOOD LTD” which is probably the manufacturer and a War Department broad arrow.

I’m sure my grandad would be pleased to know it is still being used after all these years.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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From an old address book to a Victoria Cross hero

17 Jan

I never cease to be amazed at how one tiny snippet of information can trigger such an interesting chain of research and uncover an interesting story in the process. Unfortunately much of that information is not going to be directly relevant to my family tree, but the journey more than makes up for that.

The story begins with an address book which belonged to my grandmother. Amongst the names and addresses it has three addresses for Isabel KIPPS (my first cousin three times removed), one in Sussex, another in Nottingham and a third in Australia.

I thought it would be interesting to find out when she went to Australia and when she came back, because I already knew that she died back in England. It was fairly easy to find details of her trip, outward on findmypast.co.uk and home again on Ancestry.co.uk.

Essentially she was taking two young girls, to whom she was a nurse, away from England at the start of the Second World War to the relative safety of Australia. They left Southampton on the 13th July 1940 bound for Melbourne, Australia. They returned in 1945, leaving Melbourne on the 27th February, bound for Liverpool.

There were also details in the passenger lists of two previous trips, made by Isabel and the two girls, one to Malta in 1934/35 and Gibraltar in 1937. For a member of my family tree to be so well-travelled is extremely unusual, very few of my relatives ever seemed to have left the safety of dry land.

Of course by this time I was curious as to who was the father of these two globe-trotting girls. Fortunately their mother was with them on one of the voyages, so it wasn’t difficult to find out that they were the daughters of Robert St Vincent Sherbrooke.

Google was bursting with search results for Robert Sherbrooke, primarily because he had been the recipient of the Victoria Cross whilst serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and ended up as Rear Admiral. I won’t go into details here because it is pretty easy to find out plenty of information on the internet (he even has his own page on Wikipedia).

It is such a shame that such an incredible (and well documented) man is not much more than a footnote to my family history, but it is nice to know that my first cousin three times removed was part of his life and trusted with the care of his children.

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:



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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