To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, the Guardian is asking readers about their memorabilia from the conflict. This week, we talk to the daughter of a soldier in the conflict.

Ethel McGovern

Ethel McGovern

First published in News East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter - Epping Forest

Alec Davidson served in the Dragoon Guards in his 20s and was already in the regular army in 1914 at the outbreak of the war.

His daughter, Ethel McGovern, 91, from High Road, Loughton, still has her father’s cigarette tin which was issued to soldiers in the First World War at Christmas by Queen Mary in 1914.

Mrs McGovern said: “It is very important to remember because there are those younger than us who don’t even know it happened.

“The programmes on the First World War are good because people can see how things happened.”

Her father was forced from the army after being gassed in an attack by German forces in 1916.

Mrs McGovern added: “It wasn’t until I was older I realised what being gassed meant.

“He used to gasp for his breath as he climbed the two flights of stairs up to our flat.

“It really affected him for the rest of his life.”

She added: “He was one of so many soldiers so he didn’t get any special treatment or any higher standing in the community.

“I think people took what the soldiers did for granted at the time.

“My dad told me once he had said to his commanding officer he wasn’t able to go over the top again but the officer told him he had to, so he did.”

Her father’s cigarette tin was very nearly lost in a burglary suffered by the family in the 1950s in which three of her father’s medals were stolen.

She said: “It was dreadful to have the medals stolen and terribly sad.

“Luckily when they broke and took the medals they left the tin because they didn’t see any monetary value in it.”

Mrs McGovern is now planning on donating the tin to a museum specialising in military memorabilia.

Alec Davidson worked on the docks in London after leaving the army and died in 1931.

Mrs McGovern’s uncle, Alfred White, also served in the army during the conflict in the Essex Regiment.

He enlisted at the outbreak of war in 1914 but returned home months later after it was discovered he was only 14.

Mrs McGovern said: “He  was only over there for a short time and he got a wound to his arm.

“It wasn’t a serious wound but when the doctor saw him he asked him his age and he confessed he was only 14 so they sent him back to England.”

Alfred didn’t enlist again, and instead became a porter at Billingsgate fish market.

Comments (4)

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5:13pm Sun 24 Aug 14

Villagecranberry says...

That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.
That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -2

1:03pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Touchwood says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.
'Cornbeefur' your a prat!
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.[/p][/quote]'Cornbeefur' your a prat! Touchwood
  • Score: 2

10:49am Tue 26 Aug 14

Paul Skinner says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.
Going for a Song has been off air for over 13 years...
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.[/p][/quote]Going for a Song has been off air for over 13 years... Paul Skinner
  • Score: 1

4:18pm Tue 26 Aug 14

Villagecranberry says...

Paul Skinner wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.
Going for a Song has been off air for over 13 years...
Well whatever it is named now? Dickens on something.
[quote][p][bold]Paul Skinner[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: That tin could be worth a small fortune and it could get valued on the Attic Road Show or Going for a Song.[/p][/quote]Going for a Song has been off air for over 13 years...[/p][/quote]Well whatever it is named now? Dickens on something. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -1

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