A Mother’s Search…

In time for the 5th annual Bury Light Night on Friday 16th October – we are busily preparing our brand new display cases to feature selected records from our Archives. One case tells the poignant story of a mother’s search for her son, Captain John Summerscales Hutchinson (known by his family as Jack), who went missing in France during World War One. The story unfolds in a series of correspondence between family, well-wishers, agencies and bureaus.

Display Case containing a selection of correspondence

Display Case containing a selection of correspondence

The Hutchinson family papers were donated to Bury Archives in the 1970s by Geoffrey Hutchinson, Lord Ilford. Within this collection are many papers, deeds and documents from over four centuries which tell us a great deal about The Hutchinson’s family business in wool and cotton as well as glimpses into their social and personal life.

Captain John Summerscales Huchinson (Jack)

Captain John Summerscales Huchinson (Jack)

Born on the 2nd September 1882, John Summerscales Hutchinson was the eldest child of Henry Ormerod Hutchinson and Elizabeth Hutchinson nee Clegg. John’s father helped manage Daisyfield, a large cotton spinning mill on the banks of the Bury-Bolton canal. By the time that his father died, in 1912, we know that John had received a commission to 2nd Lieutenant in the Land Forces, The Prince of Wales Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment). And in 1909 John had married Marjorie Emma Wrigley.

John Summerscale Hutchinson's commission papers on display

John Summerscale Hutchinson’s commission papers on display

A report made in October 1914 informs us that John (now Captain John Summerscales Hutchinson) was officially reported missing on September 20th 1914. Chronologically, this report sets in motion the searches made on behalf of John’s mother, Elizabeth Hutchinson and John’s wife, Marjorie. The report itself is a detailed account of the difficulties experienced while searching for the Captain in various military hospitals throughout northern France. The writer of this document assures Mrs Hutchinson that he has ‘done all possible in the research work’ and concludes that ‘the Captain is certainly not in Paris wounded … [and] if alive and still in the Lines no information that this is so can possibly be sent by anyone’.

Letters in the hand of Marjorie, John's wife, written to John's mother, Mrs Hutchinson

Letters in the hand of Marjorie, John’s wife, written to John’s mother, Mrs Hutchinson

A letter sent to Mrs Hutchinson by Marjorie shares the news that, ‘at last I have heard from Jack, it was written on August 15th so it has taken some time to come, he seems quite well’.  There are several more un-dated letters written by Marjorie to her mother-in-law, some appear optimistic as she thanks Mrs Hutchinson for being kept up to date – she writes, ‘many thanks for your letter, I do wish something could come out of all the people you have seen’. Another letter expresses her despair as she states, ‘I know we can only hope and pray and I am doing that but it is too awful, I can’t write any more’.

Telegrams from Aschvanwych paid to search for the missing Captain

Telegrams from Aschvanwych paid to search for the missing Captain

Further correspondence in the form of telegrams and letters confirm that Mrs Hutchinson has assigned a gentleman named Aschvanwych to continue searching for her son – in one of these exchanges is the suggestion that John has been taken prisoner. An article in The Bury Times on the 11th November 1914 appears to corroborate this:

                Safety of Capt. Hutchinson
News, which is regarded by members of the family as
absolutely reliable, has been received of the safety
of Captain J. S. Hutchinson of the 2nd South Lancashire Regiment,
who had been missing since the 26th August. The news is that Captain
Hutchinson is a prisoner of war in Germany, but is well.

However, a letter from the War Office received by Mrs Hutchinson at a later date cannot confirm this:

The Military Secretary presents his compliments to Mrs Hutchinson and in reply to her letter regrets to say that no information whatever has been received concerning her son. Numerous lists of prisoners have been received from Germany, but in none of them does his name appear.
Letter from The War Office

Letter from The War Office

We know from the Pedigree (family tree) of The Hutchinson Family that Captain John Summerscales Hutchinson was killed in action on the 25th August 1914 at Solesmes, France – shortly after he had written his letter of the 15th August to his wife, Marjorie stating he was well. We have no documentation of how or when the family heard news of his death. What we do have however, is a letter from the Imperial War Graves Commission dated the 17th March 1921 explaining the necessity of relocating the grave of Captain Hutchinson:

In the process of exhumation the grave of J. S. Hutchinson was located in the vicinity of Romeries, and his remains have been re-interred in Romeries Communal Cemetery.
Elizabeth Hutchinson with her son, John Summerscales Hutchinson

Elizabeth Hutchinson with her son, John Summerscales Hutchinson

Within this series of correspondence concerning John Summerscales Hutchinson we have only one letter written in the hand of his mother, Elizabeth. Two days after Christmas day in 1914, she writes

Dearest Jack, Send me a letter. We are all quite well here …
no letter from you has arrived in England. Are you quite well?
Love from all
Your loving Mother

The letter is accompanied by a plain brown envelope addressed to Mrs Hutchinson from the ‘Returned letter Section’ of the G.P.O in London.

Envelope from the Returned Letter Section, GPO which contained Mrs Hutchinson's letter to her son

Envelope from the Returned Letter Section, GPO which contained Mrs Hutchinson’s letter to her son

For more information on the Hutchinson Family, their connection with Bury and cotton manufacturing please see our resources page and the project Cotton Threads.

Wendy

Wendy

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One Response to A Mother’s Search…

  1. Pingback: The Illuminated Archives | Centre for Cultural Collections

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