02 April 2017

The Henderson brothers

As a result of the Weekend Sunrise interview last Sunday I received many requests for assistance. I'm slowly filtering through the research and contacting families around Australia and across the world.
This particular search started after Richard sent me an email on Sunday requesting assistance finding the family of some medals that he had had for many years. Richard had done a fair amount of research but I soon found why he had hit a brick wall as I had the same difficulties.
The story starts with two brothers, Ronald and Hugh. Ronald was a Lieutenant with 18th Battalion and was awarded a Military Cross. Hugh was a private with 35th Battalion.
Ronald's MC citation states the following:
''For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed the greatest coolness and courage on two critical occasions, when his company had been caught in the open. He also worked at the consolidation of a position for three days under heavy shell fire, successfully completing the task. His personal reconnaissance reports from the front line were most valuable.''
The announcement of this award in late 1917 was probably the only high light for the Henderson family. On 9 April 1918 Ronald was killed in action. His father provided the following information:
"Sailed in 5th Reinforcements of 18th Battalion. Served in Egypt (1915-1916). Wounded near Borsjrouier on 6th July, 1916 - obtained Commission Balliol College, Oxford on 1st March, 1917. Engaged in Bullecourt. Selected as Intelligence Officer, May, 1917. Recommended for Military Cross for services in this capacity on 20th September, 1917 near Westhock Ridge - wounded second time on 9th October near Passchendaele, March, 1918. Instructor in Intelligence at Australian Corps School. Rejoined Battalion on 1st April, 1918. Killed on 9th April, 1918 by shell while extricating platoon from their quarters at Village of Gentelles."
This must have been a very difficult time for the Henderson's as just five days earlier, Hugh died of wounds.
The brothers are buried in adjoining graves at the Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux.
Identifying who Ronald and Hugh's parents were was relatively easy. They were Stephen and Helen but they had no other children. Stephen was the Australian representative of the Aberdeen Shipping Line and it was this that gave me the clue that led to the rest of the family. Stephen's death notice mentions his late father, Sir William Henderson of Aberdeen.
Sir William was successful Victorian merchant as also the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. He had a large family but the brutal impact of WWI on the males of this family meant that there are now very few descendants.
This is the story of each of Sir William's children:
  • Christiana went to live in or near the Blue Mountains in Australia.
  • James married Isabella Moir. Their son Gartly was killed in the 1914 - 1918 war. Boyd, with a first class honours degree, was a schoolmaster, served in tanks in the war and contracted TB after 'flu in 1919. Douglas served as a private in Mesopotamia and laer farmed near Glasgow. Fergus was a well-known radiologist in Glasgow with a deep interest in the Boys' Brigade. Isabel married James Craig, they had a son John Craig (b. 1925) amd a daughter Anne (b. 1922) who is a doctor married to Dr Gordon Napier and they live in Lincoln.
  • George married Katherine Hutton and ran the London office ot George Thompson and Co. Their family: William was killed in 1916, George was gassed in the war and died in 1929,. Margaret married Barclay Lyon. Maud married Hallidie Smith and had two daughters. Gertrude married James Wordie who was an oceanographer, Master of St John's College, Cambridge, and was knighted: they had a family of five.
  • Stephen married Helen Grahame; they lost both their sons in the 1914 1918 war. Stephen represented the Aberdeen Line in Australia.
  • Mary married the Rev. Denham Osborne, Presbyterian Minister in Dublin. Their daughters were Kathleen, Ruth (Millie) and Jean.
  • Agnes was a doctor and became a medical missionary in India where the tremendous work she did was acknowledged when she was decorated with the Kaiser-I-Hind medal.
  • Duff married Elizabeth Anderson and was in the London office of George Thompson and Co. Their only son Gordon was killed in 1918. Jean did not marry and Elsie married Roland Pelly and they had four redheaded children.
  • Albert was a doctor and married Mary Anderson and settled in Auckland, New Zealand. Their daughter Margaret married Mr Lowry and Betty did not marry. Their son Jim Henderson (b. 1911) married Hester Sutcliffe and they had five children in New Zealand - the only Henderson great-grandchildren of William and Jane and their large family - largely the effect of the 1914 - 1918 war.
  • Emily was a wonderful aunt to her nieces and nephews. She was a Policewoman in the 1914 - 1918 war.
  • Edith married Alec Wells and is written up elsewhere.
Credit - http://www.barbaragoss.com/family/henderson.html

As stated above, Albert and Mary emigrated to New Zealand and had a son Jim. This is the only line of Sir William that still bears the Henderson name. Jim's son is Johnathan and I located him and his phone number. I'm sure that my call came as real surprise.
The returned medal tally is now 2058.

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