How did chisel, plane and saw
Become rifle and Lewis gun?
When did grease, oil and sand
Creating the Centena
This is a photograph I have known all my life.
It was taken 100 years ago as a gift for my great grandfather John Robert Anderson to mark his return from the First World War. It shows his five daughters May, Dolly, Muriel, Christina and Edie and was taken at Simnets Photographers in Burton on Trent.
His youngest daughter at the centre of the frame is Muriel, my maternal grandmother. Born in 1915, she’s three years’ old in this photograph. She didn’t meet her father until he returned from the war.
Family history has it that John Robert Anderson served in the Army in India. I turned to the online archives to see if I could find out more about him, what unit he served in, where he was stationed.
I found the family in census records. He was born in Parton, Cumbria (Cumberland as it was then) in 1881. Aged 20, he lists his occupation as a joiner. In 1906 he marries Elizabeth Jane Wilson and they start a family. In 1914 they move to Burton on Trent where John worked as a joiner at Sharp and Knights. They lived at Bearwood Hill Road and later Rolleston Road.
I can find no records of his war experience. I learned that a fire caused by an incendiary bomb at the War Office Record Store in 1940 destroyed almost two thirds of 6.5 million World War One records.
My Nana often told me stories about her childhood. Her mother worked in a munitions factory and the older girls, Edie and Christina, often looked after the younger ones. I can’t remember her saying much about her father, other than the story she told me about her reaction to their first meeting.
This is a photograph I have known all my life. But until this project I didn’t know its history.
So much about war is about loss, about absence. Lives are precious and fragile. So are our records and memories of them.
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