In every exhibition there are documents and items that we have to leave out. We’re usually sad to do so, since each one tells another piece of a story that we couldn’t tell you about.
One story that features in our WWI Prisoners of War exhibition is that of Private George Davidson, a soldier captured during the Battle of Mons in 1914. We can now share more of his touching and tragic tale here at the NRS blog.
George Davidson was born George Burnett in Peterhead in 1888. His mother was Eleanor Bruce Burnett of Fraserburgh, an unmarried domestic servant. He and his half-sister Elizabeth – “Lizzie” – were later adopted by a Mrs Margaret Davidson and were given the Davidson surname as their own.
They appear in the 1891 Census aged two years and eight months old respectively, living with the Davidson family – George, Margaret and Isabella – at Tanfield Court in Peterhead.
George had served in the army in India before the outbreak of World War One. In 1912, after his period of service had expired, George met Alexandria “Lex” Moir, a domestic servant, and they became engaged.
As a reservist, George was called up and shipped to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. He was captured along with many of his comrades during the Battle of Mons and interned in Sennelager POW camp.
During the four years that George was a prisoner, Lex spent almost all of her wages and savings to send him food parcels and cigarettes. George was able to respond from the camp with postcards, including this one sent in 1918.
On 16 November, the Commandant of Sennelager wrote to George’s family…
The Commandant hereby duly notifies you of the death of your son, an English prisoner of war, and begs to express his sympathy with you.
Your son died on 27th October 1918 from inflammation of the lungs after a short illness. The grave is in the cemetery Hoxter in Westphalia and is indicated by a cross with inscription.
After receiving news of George’s death, his half-sister Lizzie – who had emigrated to Canada – wrote to Lex on 29th December 1918.
In her letter, Lizzie wrote
“I hope you are all keeping well and strong this New Year of which we are so near. How Happy it shall dawn to many who will have their loved ones returned to them, and how sorrowful to others who have had theirs taken away.
But we must not despair for we see sorrow all around us and when we look at it, it seems so much greater sorrow than our own. That we feel we have so much still to be thankful for”.
George had died without making a will, and so his estate fell to the Crown as ultimus haeres – “Last Heir”. Most of the documents above are from George’s Ultimus Haeres file, which reveal more about his professional and personal life.
For You The War Is Over: Scottish POWs 1914-1918 is free to visit at General Register House, Edinburgh, on weekdays between 10 am and 4.30 pm until 23 November.