To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, staff at West Sussex Record Office have shared their stories of family members who were caught up in the conflict.
Edward Dare Evans, my great grandfather, was born on 21 February 1875. He was the fifth child of six, and his father William owned Belgrave Mill in Leicester. After leaving school at Bath College (where he won a tankard for rowing in a coxed four) in 1893, Edward joined the family firm. In January 1900 he signed up as a volunteer for a short service commission in the Leicestershire Regiment so he could go to South Africa and fight in the Boer War. He kept a diary of his experiences (including dysentery, and no mentions of any fighting), but the final entry in August 1900 reads ‘I am tired of the war.’ He returned home in mid-1901.
In January 1903 Edward married Alice Mabel de Legh, the sister of a friend he had made in the Leicestershire Regiment. Mary Isabella Legh Evans, my grandmother, was born in July 1904. The marriage was not successful, and the couple divorced in January 1912.
Awarded custody of their daughter, as was normal at that time, Edward decided to make a new life in New Zealand. He took Mary with him, and they left Britain in August 1912 on a six week journey. Edward kept a diary, including mentions of the concerts he took part in, playing his flute, and that he gave Mary daily lessons and started teaching her French. He continued to keep the diary after arriving in New Zealand, recording his search for employment. He ended up in Brightwater, near Nelson, in the north of South Island, running a fruit farm.
Over four months Edward built a wooden house – which still survives – and he created a garden. Not surprisingly, he found working and bringing up a daughter to be quite challenging. In December 1914 he left Mary in the care of a couple in Auckland, and joined up to fight in World War 1. He wrote to Mary (who had had her tenth birthday in 1914) about his training, and his sea voyage to Turkey.
Having landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, probably on 8 May, in the company of many other Anzac troops, Sergeant Evans was shot several times. He was taken by sea to hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, from where he sent a letter to Mary although he was unable to write it himself. He died on 30 May 1915, and is buried in Chatby Military and War Cemetery. His name appears on memorials in Bath Abbey and Brightwater church.
Mary stayed in New Zealand until 1920 when she returned to England by boat to finish her schooling.
Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant