Farewell note in a matchbox

Farewell note in a matchbox


    • Photos of a matchbox and letter, of family photographs and a locket - relating to George and Jean Cavan
    • My grandfather, George Cavan, was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. He lived with his family, his wife Jean and three daughters, in The Drill Hall in Carluke, Scotland. At the end of March 1918 George was away at training camp the orders came through to dispatch to France. The train he was on with his troops went through his home station but did not stop there. He threw out onto the station platform a matchbox containing a note to his family. On one side was the name of his wife and on the other the message to the family. (The poignant message, dated March 29, 1918: “Dear wife and bairns, Off to France - love to you all, Daddy.”) Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to Jean. George was killed in action on the 13th April 1918 at the Battle of Hazelbrouck just a few days after arriving at the front in France. He lies in an unmarked grave but is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial near Ypres. All that was sent back to his wife was a small tin box, containing a little leather money purse, his identification tags and an old Boy Scout or Boys Brigade medallion. Incredibly, Jean first heard George had died when a woman in the street said how sorry she was about it. Jean screamed that she was lying and ran home where his regiment confirmed the news. For the rest of her life Jean constantly wore a locket with a picture of George on one side, and on the other a picture of herself at the age (about 30) at which she lost him. Jean and her three daughters moved to Australia shortly after George died, thinking that they were going to live with her cousin. They ended up living in tents in the desert for some time, before returning to Scotland. [Editor's note: in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database Company Serjeant Major 7988 George Cavan, 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Bn. Highland Light Infantry, was killed in action 13th April 1918, is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial panel 9. The 9th Bn. formed part of the 33rd Division, heavily engaged on the 12th-15th April resisting the German 'Spring Offensive' of 1918, in what would become known as the battle of Hazebrouck (second phase of the Battle of the Lys).] The collection includes: George Cavan’s matchbox with the note he wrote; Sweet tin - this small box was all that was left of George. It was sent to Jean and contained a small money purse and a Boy’s Brigade medal, plus identification tags; the locket Jean always wore, with a picture of George (the other side of the locket with a photo of Jean aged about 30 years old - the age she was when George died); Corporal George Cavan; Jean and George on their wedding day in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland; Jean Cavan in her twenties; Jean Cavan with her three daughters about two years after George’s death.





  • Date:

    • 1918-04-13
    • 1918-03-29
  • Temporal:

    • 2012-04-26 11:44:28 UTC
  • Place/Time:

    • Western Front



  • Rights:

    • http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

References and relations


  • Location:

    • Carluke, Scotland
    • #55.7312612,-3.848914100000002
  • Place/Time:

    • Western Front
Longitude: "-3.8489141, -3.8489141, -3.8489141, -3.8489141, -3.8489141, and -3.8489141"
Latitude: "55.731262, 55.731262, 55.731262, 55.731262, 55.731262, and 55.731262"

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View at Europeana 1914-1918 .

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Free Re-use
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